If you are an avid Lillicoco fan, you have probably noticed that we have started selling antique jewellery boxes as well as beautiful antique treasures.
Many of these beautiful boxes are collector’s items in of themselves, with all the decadence, pomp and circumstance that jewellery has. From champagne hued velvet interior to navy blue leather exterior, these alluring boxes not only cemented the sale at the time, but also helped to preserve the jewellery’s integrity.
These jewellery boxes also illuminate the amazing and vast landscape of the British jewellery and silversmithing industry. Many of these jewellery boxes have the name “by royal appointment” which suggests that they were jewellers of the Queen Victoria!
But who were the different royal jewellers of this time? Let’s find out.
Garrard & Co - Formerly Asprey
One of the most famous and long-standing crown jewellers, Garrard & Co has made a multiplicity of twinkling jewels for the royal family for hundreds of years. Many of these pieces are recognisable today and are still worn by members of the royal family.
In fact, Garrard & Co was the first official crown jeweller, and was appointed between 1843 to 2007!
Garrard & Co was actually first established in 1722 by George Wickes. As can be expected, Wickes himself was a talented Silversmith that is historically known for his distinct rococo style, which was the fashions of the 18th century. But in fact, the name Garrard comes from Robert Garrard who became a partner in the company in 1792.
As they were the appointed Crown jewellers early on in Queen Victoria I’s reign, it is incredibly likely that their hands have touched some of the world’s most famous and well-known designs.
For instance Garrard & Co made the Crown of Queen Elizabeth for her coronation in 1937, the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, and of course, the most famous engagement ring in the world, Princess Diana’s Sapphire and Diamond cluster ring.
Queen Mary's Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, c.1893, Source - The Royal Collection
In fact the latter’s design have become a staple within the company, with many of their modern jewellery creations inspired by their archive. This includes the Sovereign motif (inspired by the Cullinan Diamond in the Royal Sceptre), and what Windsor motif (a romantic “fan” shape, taken from the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara).
In 2007, it was famously announced that Garrard & Co are no longer the official crown jewellers, simply because the Royal Family felt that it was time for a change. They still hold the prestigious royal warrant.
Rundell & Bridge
But before Garrard & Co, there was Rundell & Bridge! Although they didn’t have the official Crown jeweller status, they may as well have!
Rundell & Bridge Trade Card, c.1790s, Source - The British Museum
Rundell & Bridge was the baby business of Phillipp Rundell (1746-1827) and John Bridge (1755-1834). They were appointed as Jeweller’s to the King in 1797, creating many gorgeous Georgian antique jewellery designs as well as banqueting plate. Jewellery historians humorously comment on the fact that Phillipp Rundell and John Bridge were completely different from one another. Phillipp Rundell was known to be easily angered and eccentric, but he was the most famous and talented gemologist in London. John Bridge, on the other hand, was known for his gentlemanly courteous ways, easily securing appointments with the most prestigious in society.
Rundell & Bridge Gem and Cameo encrusted Tankard, c.1823-4, Source - The Royal Collection
Perhaps their most famous creation is the Diamond Diadem, which was originally worn by George VI during his coronation at Westminster Abbey. This Diadem has since been worn by many Queen consorts and Queens of England, including HRH Queen Elizabeth II. This Diamond Diadem has become emblematic of England and is featured on numerous stamps and coins. In fact, we could go as far to say that it is one of Queen Elizabeth’s most recognisable tiaras. It is very interesting that this typically feminine piece of jewellery was actually crafted for a King! The Diadem is set with 1,333 Diamonds, including floral sprays, cross pattee’s and has beautiful canary yellow Diamonds nestled in the centre.
Rundell & Bridge Diamond Diadem, c.1820, Source - The Royal Collection
Another famous creation was the Irish crown jewels in the early 1800s-1830s. The Irish crown jewels were to be worn by the regent and Lord lieutenant of Ireland upon visiting the country. These jewels were at the centre of world-wide scandal in 1907 when the jewels were stolen, and to this day they have never been found!
Illustration of the Order of St Patrick Irish Crown Jewels, Source - Wikipedia Commons
Independent of their royal creations, Rundell & Bridge were known to be at the helm of the Gothic revival movement, with historicist and naturalistic styles prevalent in their work.
Bentley & Skinner
A frontrunner in the fine antique jewellery market, antique aficionados may already be aware of Bentley & Skinner. But these jewellers actually originated as separate businesses, combining in 1998.
Skinner and Co was first established in 1880, whereas Bentley & Co were established in 1934. Skinner & Co were issued with a royal warrant and invited to make jewellery for Queen Victoria during the end of her reign, cementing them a major British institution in jewellery history. Bentley and Co actually had Russian jeweller origins, with Leon Schlounde, once analytical chemist and lover of Marie Curie, became a metallurgist and worked in the Lena Gold fields in Siberia.
Bentley & Skinner Jewellery, Source - Wikimedia Commons
After the First World War, Skinner & Co blossomed even more, even during the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Leon’s son’ John changed his name to John Sheldon and started working as a wholesale jeweller, alongside working as metallurgist. In the 1930s, his interests expanded to Russian jewellery, works of art and enamelling, as per his heritage. With Leon’s encouragement, John switched from metallurgy to working in the retail trade, and purchased Bentley & Co, a small jewellers for £500.
Perhaps it is this link to the past that makes them so beguiling and at the forefront of the antique jewellery industry.
Hamilton & Inches
Hamilton & Inches is Scotland’s premier royal jeweller, holding the royal warrant for the British crown for more than 120 years.
Created in 1866, Hamilton & Inches was founded by Robert Kirk inches and his uncle James Hamilton. Merely just 30 years later, they had obtained the Royal Warrant in 1893, at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign.
Hamilton & Inches aren’t just recognisable for being Scotland’s leading jeweller, but they were instrumental in the establishment of Scotland’s jewellery industry. In 1903, at the cusp of the Edwardian era, Robert Inches founded the Edinburgh Association of Goldsmiths, Silversmiths and Watchmakers to help protect both Goldsmiths and consumer interests. Infact, Robert Inches was such an instrumental figure in Scottish society that he was knighted in 1915.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the company was passed down to his son Edward James Inches and then further down to his future sons. Hamilton & Inches have also nurtured the talent of Scotland’s newest jewellery designers, and were instrumental in the development of the Edinburgh College of Art. Its this commitment to society that have made them instrumental in their success today, especially in 2020 philanthropic efforts are judged above all else.
Today, they are one of the jewellers in the world to create a collection from rare Scottish Gold, mined in the Cononish mine in the the Scottish highlands. Scottish Gold was first discovered in the 1800s creating a huge Gold rush in the United Kingdom.
Mappin & Webb
We recently acquired two prestigious Mappin & Webb jewellery boxes (now sadly sold!), which made us incredibly interested in the historic royal jewellers of the Victorian period.
Mappin & Webb was first established in the 1860s, however their jewellery origins can be traced back to 1775, where Johnathon Mappin opened a Silver workshop in Sheffield. In fact, in its earliest origins Mappin & Webb had created pieces for Queen Marie Antoinette of France!
Mappin & Webb Storefront, Source - Wikimedia Commons
By the 1890s, Mappin & Webb was a trailblazer, securing a royal warrant for both the British Royal Family and the Russian Imperial family and establishing their first overseas shops in Johannesburg after the discovery of Gold in Witswatersand. From the Edwardian era to the end of the Art Deco period, Mappin & Webb had stores in Buenos Aires, Paris, Lausanne, Nice, Vichy, Rome, Cairo, Shanghai, Biarritz, Hong Kong and Mumbai.
Mappin & Webb opened their first shop on Oxford Street with candelabras, fine silver-ware and vanity products. Today, Mappin & Webb is the perfect example of an English heritage brand, staying true to their founding principles whilst being flexible with the times. In 1977, they opened in Selfridges, and in 2012, they overtook Garrard & Co in being the official Crown Jeweller.
Antique Mappin & Webb Ring Box, Source - Lillicoco Sold
One of the reasons as to why all of these jewellers are so successful is because they have stayed authentic to their true selves, not creating a manufactured identity and brand. What’s more, another integral reason as to why they were so successful is because they are often passed down through the generations, keeping their historic talent in the family.
So, for any keen British antique collectors, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for these names when browsing auctions, stalls or online!
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