Stories of Craftsmanship: House of Garrard

Abigail Hayhoe, Head of Marketing and Communications for the world’s longest serving jeweller, shares the story of Garrard's devotion to craft.

What’s unique about the House of Garrard? Would you describe the brand as a beautiful business, both on the outside and inside?

Where do I start? In terms of its unique qualities, the House of Garrard is the longest serving jeweller in the world, with a royal heritage that is truly second to none. It’s an honour to work for a brand with such an incredible legacy – to see first-hand the ledger containing the handwritten entry for our very first royal commission back in 1735 and to work in the building that was constructed especially for the brand in 1911, the year that Garrard made Queen Mary’s consort crown. Pieces are still handmade in the same workshop in the building to this day.

We’re also quite rare to have an entirely female design team. Headed up by our Creative Director, Sara Prentice, these women never cease to amaze me in their ability to produce designs that draw upon our incredible heritage whilst also showing sensitivity to the needs of a modern woman, in the versatility and wearability of every piece.

To describe the brand as beautiful would be an understatement! From the natural beauty of the precious stones, to the designs inspired by royal love stories from Garrard’s past, to the passion of the craftsmen and women, and ultimately to the women who are empowered to feel beautiful wearing Garrard pieces at any moment of the day; for me, the sincere and authentic nature of all of these elements combined is the ultimate embodiment of a beautiful business.

How has Garrard’s brand offering and identity changed since it was founded over 280 years ago?

Despite the centuries of heritage behind it, Garrard’s brand offering has remained remarkably similar, comprising the finest jewellery, silverware and trophies. In the early years, the brand received a lot of bespoke commissions – one of the first, back in 1735, was in fact from Frederick, Prince of Wales for an ebony handle for a silver tea kettle! The brand has been fortunate to continue to work with the British royal family in various capacities ever since.

Whilst styles naturally change over time, so many of Garrard’s pieces are timeless and have transcended the whims of fashion. As a reflection of this, many have been passed down through the generations and continue to be worn today. Just one of numerous examples is the sapphire and white diamond cluster engagement ring worn by the Duchess of Cambridge. This originally belonged to Lady Diana Spencer and is said to be inspired by the sapphire and white diamond cluster brooch that was commissioned by Prince Albert as a wedding gift for Queen Victoria in 1840. The Queen is frequently seen wearing the brooch today.

Bespoke commissions continue to be a key part of the business, with Garrard’s designers transforming clients’ ideas and inspiration into unique creations to expression their vision, today as they did back in the 16th century. The collections also retain a link to the past, taking inspiration from the brand’s history, yet designed for the modern woman.

And finally, I would say that the brand’s values continue to reflect those of its founding year. At Garrard, we are craftsman devoted to our craft, acting with calm, care and attention to design the perfect piece for that perfect client.

What role does craftsmanship play within the Garrard brand? How does it set you apart from your competition?

A big one! Today’s customer is much more discerning and demands authenticity, particularly from luxury brands. At Garrard, we don’t need to employ clever marketing techniques or spin a story, which is a luxury in itself for someone in my role. With our legacy of commissions dating back to 1735 and a vault brimming with treasures from our archives that testify to this uncompromising dedication to the finest craftsmanship over the centuries, I feel like a kid in a candy store! I don’t think we’ll ever be short of inspiration to feed our marketing messages.

Craftsmanship is at the core of every part of the business – from our collection pieces, to the journey of a bespoke design, to our silverware and trophy offering. This year Her Majesty The Queen once again approved the Garrard designs for the iconic cups at Royal Ascot, continuing a legacy that dates back to the creation of the very first Gold Cup back in 1842.

I don’t think there’s anyone else that can lay claim to all of this in quite the way that Garrard can.

Garrard is renowned for creating handcrafted traditional British jewellery. How does a brand with such a strong heritage adapt its offering to reflect changes in consumer demand?

As I alluded to earlier, Sara and her design team work wonders on this front, balancing heritage, wearability and timeless design. The inspiration for new designs almost always comes from the brand’s history – whether a moment in time or a particular royal commission – continuing the legacy, whilst ensuring all pieces are suitable for the modern woman.

A key ingredient in this success is their understanding of modern women’s lives and the desire to create pieces that are worn and loved. Versatility plays a pivotal role in this; for example, our new Princess Tiaras are lightweight and comfortable so are the perfect crowning glory for a formal occasion, yet they also include removable centrepieces that can be worn as pendants on less formal occasions.

As one of the world’s leading jewellers, how much value does Garrard place on brand aesthetics?

Brand aesthetics are crucial. Garrard has a presence in international markets and it is essential to maintain an authentic and consistent identity in each one, both on the ground and across all our digital channels. From the colours to the lighting to the words we use at each touchpoint, everything is carefully chosen and considered, in order to reflect our brand values: British, luxury, thoughtful, refined.

Do you think craftsmanship is an essential quality within every luxury brand?

I wouldn’t say it is essential, as not all luxury brands are rooted in a craft, per se. However, for those that are, yes, I do think it’s pretty crucial. Luxury consumers are in search of authenticity and uniqueness in today’s crowded market place, and craftsmanship and provenance are increasingly important in their purchasing choice. Moreover, today’s consumer is increasingly savvy and generally isn’t willing to pay a luxury price tag without the associated artistry and quality.

Do you think more brands need to harness the power of craftsmanship to earn customer adoration?

Consumers will always respond to brands in different ways but I do find people generally have a greater affinity with the ones they trust. Craftsmanship is a key way to build such trust. A brand rooted in fine craftsmanship has a story to tell, it has authenticity, and it has a human touch that I don’t personally believe any amount of technological advancement can ever truly compete with.

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