House of Garrard is the oldest jeweller in the world. A jewellery house that has been closely linked to Royal family members worldwide for centuries, its first commission came in 1735 from Frederick, Prince of Wales, marking the start of an enduring relationship with the British royal family.
House of Garrard was appointed as the first-ever Crown Jeweller by Queen Victoria in 1843, and in the centuries since, the jewellery maker has gone on to become one of the most recognised luxury jewellery houses, both in the United Kingdom and worldwide. In recent years, House of Garrard has created some of the most iconic pieces worn by the British Royal family including the sapphire cluster engagement ring given to the Duchess of Cambridge on her engagement to Prince William, as well as the tiara worn by Meghan Markle on her wedding day. The house also designs silverware and recently created the medals for the Invictus Games, as well as the Royal Ascot Gold Cup and even the Dubai World Cup.
These iconic creations weave throughout the bespoke jewellery and the mainline collections which are very much inspired by the rich history and creativity the brand has had over the last three centuries. Leading the brand’s creative force is Creative Director Sara Prentice who brings 20 years of experience in the luxury jewellery industry to House of Garrard. As well as designing bespoke pieces for clients, Prentice has developed a number of collections since joining in 2012.
She has a renewed focus on the heritage and fine craftsmanship of the brand, celebrating this priceless history through new designs and signature motifs. On a recent visit to Dubai, during which the brand showcased some of its most recent pieces to prospective clients, we met with Sara Prentice to discover what it takes to continue the legacy of a brand that’s three hundred years old.
What can you tell us about the pieces you are showcasing in Dubai?
We have a large selection here in Dubai but we’re mainly focusing on the Wings Embrace collection. We launched this collection last year to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Wings collection. We decided, due to its popularity, that we would add some colour to the new pieces. So we’ve used pink gold and pink sapphires, yellow gold and yellow sapphires and white gold with aquamarine. The pieces are inspired by iridescent light shining through an angel’s wings. All of our Wings collections represent peace, purity and protection. It’s a nice positive symbol and it has worked really well so far.
We also have many high jewellery pieces with us as well as The Jewelled Vault. This is something that we introduced around two years ago and it consists of pieces featuring very special, unique stones. It’s slightly different from our other collections in that we find the stones first. So it’s a different design concept. Each stone has a uniqueness and we look for the best of the best. All the pieces are one of a kind, there are no two stones that are the same, so it’s quite a special collection.
What do you look for in stones when you’re sourcing them for pieces such as these?
It can be all sorts of things – the clarity, the colour, the cut – all of these things together can make a stone special. It could be one of the smallest rubies for example, but it can be so beautifully cut and the purity so great, that actually the size doesn’t matter. We have a great team of gemmologists that do the work of sourcing the stones and then my responsibility is to bring them to life within the pieces. What pressures do you feel when working for a brand that has such a long history?
There is quite a lot of pressure, we’re three hundred years old so I wouldn’t want to be the one to mess it up! In all seriousness, I am very aware that I need to be very respectful of the brand’s heritage. For me, it’s about using that heritage and turning it on its head to make it modern for today. We’re an all-female design team and I think this is a positive when it comes to understanding how the jewellery will be worn and whether it’s comfortable to wear. Women like to have choices so that’s why many of our pieces are adjustable or transformable. A lot of our rings stack together as well. For me, it’s all about giving the woman the choice to decide how she wants to wear her pieces.
What would you say has been your biggest achievement at House of Garrard so far?
Thinking about this question really puts things into perspective and makes me realise how much I have done. If I had to choose one particular thing I would say introducing The Jewelled Vault. Before this, we had our primary collections and we had high jewellery pieces but I felt there was a gap in the collections and that’s why I created The Jewelled Vault. Some of the pieces are really absolutely stunning.
What would you still like to achieve that you haven’t done yet?
I absolutely love meeting clients. I’ve never been to the UAE before, so for me, this is actually a really exciting trip. Having the chance to meet the women I’m designing for and see how they wear the products, that’s what it’s all about. I love making bespoke items, I love interreacting with the clients so I would like to do more of that. That interaction feeds my imagination and helps to inspire my designs.
What would you say is the biggest challenge you face with House of Garrard?
The more internationally we spread, the harder it is for me to actually go and be with the clients. That is something that is hard for me because I love to interact with them it’s something really important, particularly when we’re creating bespoke pieces. A positive is that in the last few years with technology moving on, it has become easier to interact with the clients without physically being in the room with them. So it is becoming less of a challenge.
Who would you say is the woman that you design for?
She has very wonderful taste. She’s a confident woman who knows her own mind. She appreciates the finest things in life and she likes good quality. She is also very interested in our history. I wouldn’t say this is the primary focus of why she’s buying jewellery, but the stories that come with the pieces are very interesting and I think our customers really appreciate that.
Since you joined you have had a strong focus on the history of the brand – why did you decide to go in this direction?
Honestly, it was a no brainer! I joined seven years ago and at that point, there were only two collections, so I thought ‘OK this is a fantastic situation for me’. So I got creative and was able to have a lot of freedom to create new collections. I had all this history so I didn’t have to make up stories around the pieces, that part was already done. I actually had the reverse problem that there was so much history and such a diverse back catalogue that there was too much to go through. I work very closely with my head of design and she has an immense interest in the history and has now kind of taken on the role as our heritage expert! It’s absolutely amazing, she’ll go down to the vault and come back up having found the most incredible things. It gets very exciting in our office sometimes! One thing I do want to mention is that I was very aware that I didn’t want the new collections to be a copy of the past, it had to be something modern.
How does House of Garrard balance creating for its long term customers while ensuring it appeals to the younger generations?
I think there is a natural progression because the jewellery that we are creating is modern but still classic at the same time. We have very classic styling but in a modern way. There are over ten collections now and I do think there is something for everyone within those. We have everything from classic drop earrings to studs to a more modern ear cuff. And the versatility of our products also helps with appealing to customers.
House of Garrard also creates corporate silverware, how does this differ from jewellery making?
I actually studied silverware so I do have a bit of background knowledge on this. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t physically make something now, but I have the knowledge of how it’s done. In terms of design, jewellery and silverware aren’t that different when it comes to balance and proportions etc. but in terms of the manufacturing; they are very different and it requires a very different skill set to the jewellery. We have the most amazing skilled craftsmen who can do both, so my work is brought to life with very trustworthy hands.
I was lucky enough to work on the medals for the Invictus Games which was a very cool thing to do. I worked with Prince Harry and one of the injured servicemen. Harry had a very focused idea of what he wanted and he was very involved in the process. It was an amazing experience.
What is House of Garrard doing to support sustainability?
We are very proud to have received the Positive Luxury Award which took about two years for us to research and get up to the standards it required. It covers all areas and looks at the ways we are being sustainable through our processes which were examined over a two year period. The sourcing of our stones and diamonds, everything. We are very strong believers in it.
How do you feel when you see someone such as The Duchess of Cambridge wearing your designs?
On a personal level, it makes me very proud when I see it. Of course, we never disclose the pieces we have made and we never know when they are going to wear them but it’s interesting to see. The reaction when someone wears one of our pieces is incredible.
What was the first piece of jewellery you owned?
It was a bracelet that was given to me by my mother and it had belonged to her grandmother. It was a diamond and sapphire yellow gold bracelet and I still have it today.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt through your career in jewellery?
Everything is possible. I’m a big believer in that we can do anything. Sometimes I’ll draw a design and the team will say ‘no we can’t do this’ and I always tell them ‘it can happen’. Sometimes there can be a bit of compromise on the way, but for me, anything can happen.
Do you have a favourite stone to work with?
Yes. It does change, but at the moment I’m loving Padparadschas. They are part of the sapphire family and they come in many different tones ad they are usually a mix between orange or pink. They’re absolutely beautiful and look great with rose gold.
How would you describe House of Garrard in three words?
Classic, confident and contemporary.