The House of Garrard is the longest serving jeweller in the world. Its origins can be traced back to 1735, when master silversmith George Wicks opened a store on Panton Street in the heart of London’s West End. It was in this year that the firm received its first royal commission from Frederick, Prince of Wales.
His order marked the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with the British royal family, which reached its apogee in 1843 when Garrard was appointed the first official Crown Jeweller. The house has since had the honour of serving every subsequent British monarch, as well as many other royal families around the globe. Over these years, Garrard has handcrafted tiaras, necklaces, brooches and many more magnificent jewels that are still worn by the British royal family, including the Duchess of Cambridge’s sapphire cluster engagement ring.
Today Garrard calls London’s Mayfair its home. A visit to 24 Albemarle Street brings the opportunity not simply to browse its collections, but also to experience history at first hand. The building has witnessed many moments of note, including the creation of Queen Mary’s consort crown in 1911, and jewellery continues to be designed and crafted on site.
Every piece is developed to achieve a balance between tradition and design so as to bring out the natural beauty of the stones. The result is a quintessentially British hallmark of heritage, detail and craft.
Every Garrard design is handcrafted in the studio, from jewellery suites to tiaras, headdresses to brooches. Design, craftsmanship and the most beautiful of natural materials combine to capture a spirit that is uniquely British.
With the creation of a new collection comes the opportunity to revisit the firm’s archives for inspiration, and look further afield to emblems and motifs from Britain’s rich past.
Time is also given to considering how and when a necklace, brooch or ring will be worn, and the ways in which it might adapt to different occasions. This process ensures that every piece of jewellery in a collection is both eye-catching and wearable.
The studio is led by Sara Prentice, Creative Director at Garrard since 2012. Sara has spent over twenty years in the industry since graduating with a degree in jewellery design from the University of Creative Arts. She has worked closely with clients to make one-off, bespoke creations, as well as developing ranges that have achieved great commercial success.
When Garrard moved into 24 Albemarle Street, the studio moved too. This enabled designers and makers to work closely together, delivering jewellery of the finest quality in a style that is relevant for wearers today.
While today’s technologies bring ever greater precision to the creation of jewellery, many of the traditional skills, tools and techniques from Garrard’s past are still in use.
This connection between old and new sees its ultimate expression in the Garrard apprenticeship programme, which nurtures the talents of future master craftsmen and women.
Since the day George Wickes opened the doors to his workshop in 1735, Garrard has been called upon to create presentation pieces. These have marked significant moments in the lives of both individuals and the nation.
From sailing and horse racing, to cricket and football, Garrard has made trophies, cups and dishes to commemorate the winners of many competitions through the years. That includes the America’s Cup, the oldest perpetual trophy in the world, the Gold Cup for one of the Britain’s most esteemed horseracing events, Royal Ascot, and the Premier League trophy.
The firm has taken on private commissions too, to celebrate visits, achievements, awards and anniversaries. Each piece follows in the tradition established by George Wickes, achieving a balance of iconic design and impeccable execution.
For centuries it has been a British tradition to honour achievement and service with the gift of a medal, badge or decoration. Garrard has designed and issued many over the years, including those for Orders bestowed by the crown, such as the KBE, DSO and CBE.
More recently the firm was commissioned by HRH Prince Harry to create gold, silver, bronze and participant medals for the Invictus Games. The games enable ill or wounded armed service personnel and veterans to take part in a major sporting event. The medals use an embossed pattern, reminiscent of stitching, to represent the journey and rehabilitation that participants have been through.
A glimpse at the Garrard archives reveals the breadth of the relationship between the jewellers and the crown. Highlights are on view at 24 Albemarle Street, in the Queen Mary salon, a room that was renamed with her permission in the year of her coronation, when Garrard was commissioned to create her consort crown.
While a royal betrothal is celebrated by many, at its heart is the private understanding reached between future husband and wife. Since Prince Albert’s time, Garrard has been chosen to create a gift that captures the magnitude of that moment. For his bride, Queen Victoria, the prince commissioned a large sapphire brooch, surrounded by seven brilliant white diamonds: one of many remarkable jewels by the House to enter the royal collection.
When their son Edward, Prince of Wales came to marry, he returned to Garrard, choosing an even more lavish suite of jewels for his bride. In one of the earliest instances of wedding photography, Princess Alexandra is shown resplendent on her young husband’s arm wearing the diamond and pearl necklace, earrings and brooch. At the release of the camera’s shutter, the jewels have passed from personal gift to public declaration, and it is in this sense we see them worn today at official functions by The Queen.
On the occasion of her own wedding, Queen Elizabeth also wore a Garrard creation, this time from the family’s collection. The fringe tiara that kept her veil in place had been made for Queen Mary in 1919.
In 1911, King George V and Queen Mary travelled to the Delhi Durbar, where they were crowned Emperor and Empress of India before hundreds of thousands of people. The scale of the durbar was extraordinary, and the Queen required a suite of jewels that would capture all the pomp and majesty of the event.
The diamond and emerald necklace designed by Garrard features the seventh of nine numbered stones cut from the Cullinan Diamond, which can be detached and worn with the Cullinan VIII brooch. The accompanying tiara was also originally mounted with emeralds, and is a swirl of lyres, scrolls and festoons dotted with diamonds. It is still worn by members of the royal family today.
The occasion of Prince Charles’s engagement to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 saw the return of a classic Garrard combination: the sapphire and diamond cluster. When HRH the Prince of Wales was choosing a ring, it is believed that he had in mind the cluster brooch Prince Albert had given to Queen Victoria on their wedding.
More recently, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge presented the sapphire and diamond cluster ring to Catherine Middleton on their engagement. It features a Ceylon sapphire of singular beauty surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds.