Mar. 16th, 2015

Behind-the-Scenes of Asprey: London's Finest Jeweler and Luxury Goods House

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Asprey London
Photo Credit: Asprey

Established back in 1781, London-based Asprey has gone from being a silk printing manufacturer to the luxury goods powerhouse it is today, with eight retail locations in the UK, USA, Switzerland, and Japan. They may be best known for their incredibly famous jewelry pieces, but they also offer a polo line, home goods, pens, timepieces, incredibly rare books, and leather items. Asprey has such an amazing history that it can be easy to get lost in their timeline (it reaches back to the 18th century, after all), so we dug into their history to find the coolest behind-the-scenes details that solidify the brand as one of the most iconic and loved British names.  

asprey london
Photo Credit: Asprey

167 New Bond Street

Though Asprey was launched in 1781, it first began in Mitcham, Surrey, and it wasn’t until 1847 that its flagship store at 167 New Bond Street was opened. To this day, Asprey's London location remains in the same exact spot—that’s over 200 years. Once the company was ready to expand, they bought The Alfred Club at 22 Albermarle Street in 1859, a space which backed the store. Upon renovation, the new addition allowed Asprey two entrances: one on each street. They continued expanding and in 1930, bought 169 New Bond Street, creating the existing space you see today. 

asprey london
Photo Credit: Asprey

The Royal Connections

In the late 1860s, Asprey was given patronage and their first Royal Warrant (for dressing cases, traveling bags, and writing cases) by Queen Victoria, who then passed it on to her son King Edward VII. Since then, Asprey has received a Royal Warrant from every British monarch. Royals have also been known to stop by the store for some shopping. Queen Mary apparently used to buy many of her Christmas gifts at the store in the 1920s, including a five-strand pearl necklace she commissioned in 1925, which was then given to HRH Princess Margaret for her 18th birthday in 1948.

Not only beloved by English royals, a former employee of the company once recounted an experience in 1930 when the Maharajah of Patiala commissioned Asprey to create five massive teak trunks (one for each of his wives). Each trunk came with solid silver bathing utensils, including bowls, basins, soap boxes, soap dishes, and toothbrush holders. They even included bottles for pouring warm water over one’s head, designed with tigers on the spouts. No big deal.  

asprey london
Photo Credit: Asprey

The Diamond Queen

We would be remiss to mention Asprey’s relationship with the British royal family and not mention The Diamond Queen. To celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, Asprey collaborated with artist Chris Levine to craft a jeweled diadem based on Levine’s famed portrait of the Queen. The unique crown was crafted from a single sheet of platinum, featuring 25 freshwater pearls and 1,000 diamonds of 15 different carat sizes. 

asprey london
Photo Credit: Asprey

Asprey in Hollywood

Asprey’s relationship with the film industry has been growing steadily for years. In 2004 they made actress Keira Knightley the face of their brand, and in 2009 they became the Official Jewelry Partner of the BAFTA Awards (meaning that they host the Nominee’s Party and provide stars with jewelry to wear to the show). Since 2008, they have also been the designer and crafters of the National Movie Awards trophies. But even cooler, their pieces and stores have appeared in several Hollywood films. 

asprey london, titanic
Photo Credit: Paramount

Remember Titanic? The 1997 Leonardo DiCaprio film that sent millions into cardiac arrest? Well, Asprey actually designed the blue diamond Heart of the Ocean necklace that was so integral to the story. In the film, it’s told that Louis XVI wore the rare 56-carat diamond in his crown and had it cut into a heart after the French Revolution. Though similar to the real Hope Diamond, the priceless Heart of the Ocean was actually a Hollywood construct. Asprey was tapped by Paramount to create the necklace seen in the film, made in blue quartz.

Their design was so effective, the jewelers were then commissioned to create the real thing. The finished necklace stars a platinum-set, heart-shaped 170-carat sapphire that was then surrounded by 65 diamonds totalling 30 carats. The pendant was sold at auction for $2.2 million to an anonymous buyer, with the proceeds going to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Funds and Southern California’s Aid for AIDS. Fittingly, Celine Dion actually got to wear the necklace later for her 1998 Oscar performance of Titanic’s theme song.

asprey london
Photo Credit: Asprey

The Workshop

Spanning five floors above the flagship store is the Asprey workshop, which is one of the defining characteristics continuing to set the company apart from its competitors. It is here where one will find designers, silversmiths, jewelers, engraves, leatherworkers, and watchmakers. 

Willing to go above and beyond to meet any request, rumor has it that an anonymous millionaire once asked the craftsmen to create a silver sandwich set for him. The team apparently cooked bacon, fried eggs, toasted bread, and assembled the sandwich so they could make a perfect mold for casting. Now that's dedication.