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The luxury jewellery house with a regal history

‘It’s always better to have more to work with,’ says Sara Prentice, creative director at the House of Garrard. She’s referring to the ideas which start each collection. The House has a rich heritage, although as Claire Scott, Garrard’s head of design explains, that doesn’t mean “redesigning the past”.

In the house’s latest collection, Jewelled Vault, the duo have created a series on one off pieces, each designed around the stones they have sourced. The concept, inspired by the increasing demand for bespoke jewellery, also pays homage to the history of the brand. Here they talk to us about royal warrants, the nature of bespoke and Garrard’s rich archive.

camera Sara Prentice, creative director at House of Garrard

When Garrard launched, was the business entirely bespoke?

Claire: When Garrard started in 1735, it was a silversmith workshop. But they quickly started to create jewellery as well.  They wouldn’t have had collections as we define them today, more one off pieces for stock. We were very lucky to have royal patrons from the beginning. The year we opened, our first commission was from Frederick, Prince of Wales. We always worked for the Royal family. Queen Victoria loved jewellery and would commission lots of things from Garrard. The pieces they made for stock were heavily influenced by her taste; she set the fashion trends of the day.

Was Garrard a family run business?

Claire: Yes, it was started by George Wickes. It wasn’t known as Garrard until a few years later when he took on a partner. It was a family run business until WWII, when the male side of the line died. The wife of the last remaining Garrard inherited the business and sold it to someone who worked in the company.

What made them venture into fine jewellery?

Sarah: The trades went hand in hand – silversmiths and jewellers. There was a huge demand for silversmithing back then, if you were of a certain class, everything in your home would have been from silversmiths – cutlery, tea services. We were made crown jeweller in 1843. During Queen Victoria’s reign – jewellery became a much more important part of the business.

Did crown jeweller, did that mean that the royal family wouldn’t go anywhere else?

Claire: No, that is a common misconception. The ‘crown jeweller’ refers to one individual jeweller at the bench who is responsible for the upkeep and care of the crown jewels. During a coronation there’s a bigger job – remaking or resizing – making sure everything’s right for the new monarch. A series of our jewellers were given that title. Garrard was favoured by the crown, but they didn’t have to exclusively come to us.

camera Claire Scott, head of design at House of Garrard

Is there a moment in Garrard’s history that stands out to you?

Claire: For Queen Elizabeth the 2nd’s wedding she chose to wear the Fringe tiara made by Garrard for her grandmother Queen Mary. It was very old, the framework was fragile and the Queen’s hairdresser snapped it as he was putting it into her hair. The Queen Mother offered her any other tiara from the Royal collection, but Elizabeth had her heart set on that one. The broken tiara was sent with a police escort to Garrard, where it was fixed. Within two hours it was back on the Queen’s head, in time for the wedding.

Who is the Garrard client today?

Claire: It’s a mix of people. We are lucky to still be working with the British royals and we hold the royal warrant for the Prince of Wales. And we work with Royal families from across the world. We have a global audience who are attracted to our heritage with the Royal family. But they are also interested in Garrard for the design and beautiful pieces we create.

camera Ring with detachable wings from Enchanted Palace collection

Why do you think bespoke is becoming more and more popular?

Sarah: People want to have something that is personal to them – it’s all very well having the latest handbag, but you are one of many. People today are trying to stand out and express their individuality. 

Claire: Bespoke means that they can not only include physical things (such as stones from an heirloom), but ideas and memories can also be incorporated into the design. It’s important that jewellery is worn. If you have a family heirloom that isn’t your style, we recommend clients make it into something else.

What is the process behind a bespoke piece?

Claire: Where possible, Sarah or I will meet the client. We talk through ideas – show them other bespoke pieces we have created to get an idea of their style. We ask them to share images of things they like – not necessarily jewellery. Deep down everyone has an idea of what they want, our job is to draw it out of them. Each design that goes to the workshop is drawn to scale and has a full set of technical details. We are very involved throughout the whole product development, it’s a big part of our role. And, once the designs are finalised, we paint them up for our records. 

camera One-of-a- kind sapphire earrings from Garrard's Jewelled Vault collection

What was the inspiration behind the Jewelled Vault?

Claire: The house’s heritage – Garrard has always been known for taking coloured stones and making unique pieces from them, we wanted to revive this. When Maria Alexandrovna, the Grand Duchess of Russia married Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, they became the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. She had the most magnificent jewellery collection which she added to when she came over to Britain, and she worked with Garrard as one of her jewellers. She reportedly had this incredible jewel room built at Clarence House — a treasure trove of colour-coordinated jewel collections.

camera 18ct white gold earrings from the Enchanted Palace collection

camera 18ct white gold pendant from the TwentyFour collection

What role does the archive play in designing a new collection?

One of our strengths as designers is not thinking of ourselves as individuals. We are responsible for continuing the house’s legacy whilst keeping ideas fresh. TwentyFour collection is based around a tiara that we made for Queen Mary – we took motifs from the design and developed them into modern, wearable pieces. Often, like with Enchanted Palace, our inspiration comes from an idea or a moment from Garrard’s history – we had heard stories that Queen Victoria had commissioned tiny fly brooches from Garrard, but we couldn’t find any images of them. So we looked at pieces from that era and came up with something relevant to today.

To learn more about Garrard’s bespoke service head to their website.