Asprey International Limited formerly Asprey & Garrard Limited is a United Kingdom-based designer, manufacturer and retailer of jewellery, silverware, home goods, leather goods, timepieces, polo equipment, and a retailer of books.
Asprey's flagship retail store is located on New Bond Street in London, United Kingdom. Asprey has supplied crowns, coronets and sceptres for royal families around the world and as of 2013 held a Royal Warrant of appointment from the Prince of Wales.
Asprey was established in England in Mitcham, Surrey in 1781. Founded as a silk printing business by William Asprey, it soon became a luxury emporium. In 1841, William Asprey's elder son Charles went into partnership with a stationer located on London's Bond Street. In 1847 the family broke with this partner and moved into 167 New Bond Street, the premises Asprey occupies today. From its central London location Asprey advertised 'articles of exclusive design and high quality, whether for personal adornment or personal accompaniment and to endow with richness and beauty the table and homes of people of refinement and discernment.' An early speciality was dressing cases. Asprey crafted traditional cases and designs, mostly in leather, suitable for the new style of travel ushered in by railways. The main competitors at the time were H.J. Cave & Sons. Asprey was recognised for its expertise when it won a gold medal for its dressing cases at the International Exhibition of 1862 but lost out to its rivals, H.J. Cave & Sons in 1867.
The company consolidated its position through acquisitions. In 1859 Asprey absorbed Edwards, an award winning maker of dressing cases and holder of a Royal Warrant. The company also purchased the Alfred Club at 22 Albemarle Street, which backed on to the New Bond Street store and meant that Asprey now had entrances on two of London's most fashionable streets.
As the business grew, the company acquired manufacturing facilities and hired silversmiths, goldsmiths, jewellers and watchmakers including Ernest Betjeman, the father of the distinguished poet John Betjeman, one of the most highly regarded craftsman and designers of his day. In the twenties, commissions poured in from around the world, from American millionaire J. Pierpont Morgan to potentates such as the Maharaja of Patiala, who commissioned a huge teak travelling trunk for each of his wives in which each trunk was fitted with solid silver washing and bathing utensils with waterspouts of ornate tiger head and lined with blue velvet. Asprey cigarette cases became collectable amongst young sophisticates who delighted in its other modern products, including travel clocks, safety razors and automatic pencil sharpeners.
- 1781 Asprey begins trading as William Asprey in Mitcham, Surrey
- 1847 Asprey flagship store opens on New Bond Street, London
- 1851 At The Great Exhibition Asprey is awarded the gold medal by Queen Victoria
- 1862 First Royal Warrant granted by Queen Victoria
- 1889 Edward VII grants the second Royal Warrant to Asprey
- 1925 HM Queen Mary commissions necklace, later given to HRH Princess Margaret on the occasion of her 18th birthday
- 1930 Maharaja of Patiala commissions five trunks, one for each of his five wives
- 1973 Bespoke chess set is commissioned for Ringo Starr's birthday
- 1975 Asprey received the Queen's Award to Industry by Queen Elizabeth
- 1990 Asprey and Garrard merge
- 2002 Asprey and Garrard split
- 2004 Lord Foster of Thames Bank redesigns the flagship store in New Bond Street, London
- 2006 Asprey celebrates its 225th anniversary and is granted a coat of arms by the English College of Arms
- 2006 Sciens Capital Management and Plainfield Asset Management purchase the brand
- 2009 Asprey becomes the official jewellery sponsor of The Orange British Academy Film Awards
- 2011 Paddy Byng is announced as the managing director
- 2012 Katie Hillier creates new autumn/winter collection
- 2012 Shaun Leane creates jewellery collections for Asprey
- 2012 Asprey collaborates with light artist Chris Levine to create The Diamond Queen for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee
- 2012 May – New York based Luxury Institute ranks Asprey in the top two luxury brands for 2012
Asprey has a tradition of producing jewellery inspired by the blooms found in English gardens. Over the decades jewelled interpretations of flowers have evolved to include the Crown Daisy, Rose, Calla Lily and Lily Pad collections.
The Asprey cut
The master diamond cutter Gabi Tolkowsky created the Asprey cut. The cushion cut gave Tolkowsky options for incorporating the Asprey "A" inscription around the edges of the stone. The result was the 61-facet Asprey cut, maximising light refraction to brilliant effect. Carat weights of Asprey-cut diamonds range from 0.50 to 3. Asprey-cut diamonds are inscribed on one side of the cushion with the GIA certificate number and with four distinctive 'A's on the other. It is also the only diamond that has the letter "A" on the crown; the Asprey cut has a flower in the centre to create softness. The shape of the Asprey cut means that the cutting process can be done only by hand, unlike many other stones that involve machine cutting.
The women's collection of clutches and handbags, such as those featured in the 1781 collection, come from crocodile, python and ostrich. The men's collection includes wallets, cardholders and travel watch cases crafted from lido, calf or alligator. Other items include the briefcases and backgammon boards.
Asprey offers classic and whimsical contemporary silver pieces – such as the saltcellar fashioned to look like a cement mixer or the wheel barrow salt holder with accompanying shovel spoon. Asprey also produce children's gifts, including tooth boxes, picture frames and rattles.
Asprey have designed and manufactured sporting trophies, including the Race To Dubai trophy and the Dubai World Championship (DWC) trophy. In addition, Asprey is responsible for crafting the ICC cricket trophies, Wimbledon championship runner-up and winner's salvers as well as the FA cup trophy and medals.
The Asprey fine and rare book tradition evolved from the early 1900s when a small compendia of reference books were produced in stands. However, it was not until the Second World War, when raw materials were in such short supply, that Asprey began to offer second-hand and antiquarian books. Following the war, this practice was further developed to include a range of books, old and new, that were bound by Asprey, thus augmenting the company's tradition in leather goods. Today, Asprey offers a range of first and limited editions, many in their original bindings and some if appropriate, in leather bindings customised by Asprey.
Previously known as Argosy. Asprey Polo has developed products for player and pony. The range includes boots, saddles, bridles, helmets and mallets and is available from Asprey Polo. Asprey has a history in Polo, sponsoring teams and creating trophies for polo tournaments. It sponsored a 40-goal team in the Argentine Open in 1996, winning the Championship and reaching the final in 1997.
Bespoke and master craftsmanship
Asprey's workshops are above the store allowing repairs and alterations to be completed while a customer waits. Five floors above the showrooms of the New Bond Street store are workshops where classic skills are employed by silversmiths, goldsmiths, jewellers, leatherworkers, engravers and watchmakers.
Asprey will go to any length to meet a customer's requirements. The firm's craftsmen actually toasted three slices of bread in their workshop, fried the eggs, broiled the bacon, assembled the sandwich, made a mould and cast it. The silver gilt sandwich now sits on the desk of a Texan millionaire.
"The Diamond Queen"
To mark Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, Asprey partnered with light artist Chris Levine to create a new work based upon his 2004 portrait "Equanimity", commissioned by The Jersey Heritage Trust in 2004. This new work is entitled "The Diamond Queen".
Asprey re-created the Queen's diamond diadem, worn at the Coronation in 1953. One thousand white diamonds are being set in platinum by Asprey craftsmen and overlaid onto the original three-dimensional image of Her Majesty to create the luminescent installation.
In 1862, Asprey was granted a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria. The Prince of Wales, later to be crowned Edward VII, granted another Royal Warrant. At the time of Edward VII's funeral, an Asprey member of staff remembered, practically all the ruling heads of state were there, and many of them came to Asprey, you might have seen three or four of them at one time. In 1953, for the coronation of Elizabeth II, Asprey paid homage with the Asprey Coronation Year Gold Collection, which featured a dessert, coffee and liqueur service in 18-carat gold and weighed almost 27 pounds. In April 1953, it went on show in the New Bond Street store and subsequently toured the United States.
Asprey in film
- Match Point (2005)
- Notes on a Scandal (2006)
- Sherlock Holmes
- Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)
- The Ghost Writer
- Nanny McPhee: The Big Bang (2010)
- The Tourist
- The 2011 film My Week with Marilyn was filmed at Asprey, 167 New Bond Street
In 2009, Asprey became the official jewellery sponsor of The Orange British Academy Film Awards and continues this partnership today. Asprey collaborated with screen stars, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt to create the Asprey's Protector Collection of fine jewellery for both children and adults in 2009.
Asprey continues to trade as a luxury goods house, active in market such as the USA and Japan. According to a survey of US high-net-worth consumers polled for the Luxury Institute's 2012 Luxury Brand Status Index, Asprey was ranked among the top two of international fine jewellery brands, able to deliver true luxury. In March 2006, Sciens Capital Management, the US private equity firm, bought Asprey. "This is a historic luxury brand, and that is part of our reason for acquiring it," said chairman John Rigas, following the purchase from Lawrence Stroll, Silas Chou (of Sportswear Holdings Ltd) and Edgar Bronfman Jr.
Subsequently, Rigas has re-focused the business to concentrate on flagships and stand alone stores in key international locations. In 2009, Hermés, the French luxury fashion house, made a property investment purchasing the freehold of the New Bond Street shop that Asprey occupies. However, Asprey holds a 31-year lease on the premises and continues to remain in the space.
On 6 December 2013, Yvonne Lynam was appointed the managing director of Asprey in the US.