Garrard has long been the first choice for those looking to wear the most exquisite jewelry on earth. From Queen Mary’s consort crown to the Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring, Garrard has represented the very best of British design and craftsmanship for almost 300 years.
Founded in London in 1735 by master silversmith George Wicks, Garrard pioneered the modern concept of jewelry. Appointed the first official Crown Jeweler in 1843, the company has played its part in British history ever since, capturing imaginations throughout the world with unique, beautifully crafted designs that inspire and empower.
Sara Prentice is Creative Director of the House of Garrard. She joined in September 2012, bringing 20 years’ experience of luxury brands and high jewelry design to the House. Under her direction, Garrard has seen a renewed focus on its heritage and fine craftsmanship, now celebrated in beautiful new designs and signature motifs.
Sara’s career had an auspicious start when she was snapped up by Cartier on the conclusion of her studies. Six months’ intensive training with leading designers in Paris gave her an in-depth knowledge of high jewelry techniques — skills she still uses today to ensure Garrard designs are both distinctive and wearable. Positions at Cartier, Graff, Fabergé and now Garrard have seen her lead teams, develop collections and work with clients to create unique bespoke jewels. In 2015 her achievements were recognized when she won the Professional Jeweller’s Hot 100. Recent highlights include working with HRH Prince Harry on medals for the Invictus Games and creating the 118.88 carat Jubilee sapphire brooch, marking Queen Elizabeth II’s 65th anniversary on the throne.
“When you have such a rich heritage to look back on, there are many ways you can continue to bring it to life. Every Garrard jewel is a balance of tradition, versatility and timeless design. The result is that quintessentially British hallmark of custom, detail and craft.” — Sara says.
Tanja Beljanski: Can you tell us more about Garrard’s long-standing relationship with the British Royal Family?
Sara Prentice: Garrard’s long connection with the British Royal Family has seen stones and styles gain meaning and resonance as jewels have been passed down through generations. From the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara to Princess Diana’s sapphire engagement ring, Garrard has made some of the most famous jewels in history.
TB: What has changed the most since you began designing?
SP: The possibilities are endless when it comes to jewelry design. I feel one thing that has not necessarily changed but developed is the ability to explore color, bold design and fresh interpretations. Now more than ever, jewelry houses are committing to responsible sourcing and moving forward, are implementing even greater sustainable targets. At Garrard we believe that sustainability makes our business stronger. It underpins everything we do.
TB: How would you describe your passion and relationship with jewelry? What made you decide to become a jewelry designer?
SP: I have always loved the process of jewelry design. From working with our female-led team of expert designers, it is magical to see a jewelry design be transformed into a living, breathing creation, as a result of blending traditional craftsmanship and forward-thinking innovation. We get to start at the very beginning of the jewelry making process — delving into the material’s origins. This is always a ‘pinch me moment’; it is unbelievable how these natural precious materials derive from the earth and are then used to adorn in the most magical way.
TB: What is the starting point in your design? Please tell us more about your creative process for the ideation and development of new pieces.
SP: Part of the creative process is to take our renowned heritage and pioneer new ways of reimagining pieces in exciting and fresh ways. Our designs often consist of a Garrard motif, which holds inspiration from royal jewels that have been created by Garrard. This means that every piece is a nod to our history.
“It is unbelievable how these natural precious
materials derive from the earth
and are then used to adorn in the
most magical way.”
TB: Is there a particular era or historical piece that you admire?
SP: I’d have to say it all comes down to arguably the world’s most famous engagement ring — Princess Diana’s blue sapphire Ceylon engagement ring, which she picked herself; now worn by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
TB: Your favorite color? Your favorite stone?
SP: Definitely blue sapphire! This holds gravitas for Garrard. Sapphires have played a starring role in our history and the cluster ring design has become synonymous with Garrard, inspiring the creation of many bespoke engagement ring designs for the royal family and other clients.
TB: Garrard prides itself on an ethos of “made by women for women”. When you design for Garrard, who is the woman that you have in mind?
SP: For us, we want the wearer to feel empowered — own her style and be confident while she does it.
TB: Which trends are dominating this year in the high jewelry collections?
SP: We’ve seen some fabulously disruptive trends on the red carpet, where it’s all about having something new and statement. We are working on our next upcoming high jewelry collection, so stay tuned for what’s to come at Garrard!
TB: What is the one piece of jewelry that every woman should invest in?
SP: Completely up to you! Find a piece that can be worn with jeans and white shirt, and transformed to an utterly glamorous evening look. At Garrard, we design pieces that are created for today, and for forever. It’s important that whatever the piece is, you find yourself reaching for it in years to come!
TB: What is the signature style of the brand?
SP: There are design signatures that are woven into our DNA at Garrard. Our elegant motifs weave their way through our jewelry designs and continue to inspire our designers today. For example, our Sovereign motif, seen in collections such as Aloria, draws on the historic setting of the most precious stone in history. In 1910, Garrard crafted an ornate enamel and gold setting to hold the 530.20-carat Cullinan I, the largest cut and colorless diamond in the world, positioning it atop the Sovereign’s Scepter. Another example is the Windsor motif, which is seen in our Albemarle and Fanfare collections. This was inspired by the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara. Crafted by Garrard in 1893 as a wedding gift for Queen Mary and presented to her by her ladies in waiting, this was in turn given by Queen Mary to Princess Elizabeth — now Her Majesty The Queen — for her wedding in 1947.
TB: Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry you’ve ever designed?
SP: It is impossible to have a favorite — they’re all so different! I would have to say however, that designing our latest collection, Blaze, was incredibly exciting. Blaze’s story presents a unique connection to Princess Diana — whose famous engagement ring was the inspiration behind Garrard’s 1735 collection. Garrard’s classical cluster motif has been masterfully inverted. A compilation of faceted and cabochon gemstones are combined to produce an electrifying synergy of color and texture.
TB: What does your daily jewelry consist of?
SP: They consist of my favorite sentimental pieces such as my wedding band, a Garrard signature diamond pendant and earrings, and of course a pick of any of our collections! All perfectly wearable and versatile.
TB: Luxury is such a subjective term and means different things to everyone. What is your own interpretation?
SP: Luxury is building an emotional connection to a piece. It’s both exquisite beauty and your own unique meaning. More so, it is about materials of the highest quality and craftsmanship.
TB: What is your vision today for the brand?
SP: The vision today is to continue creating both the iconic and the unexpected. We are also growing globally and are loving introducing the next generation of Garrard-lovers to the house.
TB: Any words of advice for a youngster wanting to carve a career in this sector?
SP: It’s always good to define what it is about the industry you love and to further explore what sector you like, from creating and crafting, to working closely with clients and giving them that special customer experience that jewelers pride themselves on!
* This interview by Tanja Beljanski first appeared in the November 2022 issue of L'Officiel Arabia.