The roots of one of Britain’s best-known luxury brands go back to 1781, to Mitcham in Surrey, when William Asprey founded a silk printing business. But with a long lineage of blacksmiths and ironmongers, working with metal came naturally to Asprey – which by the time of its move to 167 Bond Street in 1847, had began crafting more precious metals like platinum, gold, silver, fashioning precious jewels and objets.
From its central London location, Asprey began to advertise ‘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.’ A particular speciality was the creation of ‘dressing cases’: the beautifully-crafted travelling cases, filled with silver-topped bottles and silver-backed brushes, which were becoming so popular thanks to train travel. (Oh, those were the days…) Asprey created these for Queen Victoria, among other elite customers, earning a Royal Warrant in 1862. And that same year, Asprey won a gold medal for its dressing cases at the International Exhibition.
This was shopping at its most elegant. By Edwardian times, according to an interview with historian Bevis Hillier in the 1950s, Asprey‘s customers ‘arrived in carriages – broughams, phaetons and dog-carts – and invariably had their footmen. During one day, I would see customers in here in three different modes of dress: morning, afternoon and evening. Some customers would call in on their way to a party and buy gifts. Of course, all men wore silk hats, which they doffed as they came in the door.’ (And despite a very glamorous makeover by renowned architect Norman Foster just a few years ago, that’s the same door you step through today…)
When the 20s Charleston-ed in, Asprey was ready – swift to embrace the new Art Deco style, then known as ‘Jazz modern’, and introduced at Paris’s Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in 1925. It was the age of the cocktail – and so began a time of great Asprey creativity, with the creation of everything from silver cocktail shakers to swizzle sticks via decorative glassware. (And let’s not forget the monogrammed cigarette case and holder, of course…)
During the War, many of Asprey‘s craftsmen were allowed to stay behind at the company’s workshops on Euston Road – deployed to make parts for the Admiralty, and other government departments.
And so Asprey has developed over generations – attracting clients from around the world seeking the ultimate in luxury goods. (Think: a chess set for Beatle Ringo Starr – and a picnic trailer which opened up to produce a dining table for 16…) Those royal links have been maintained, too: a necklace for Queen Mary (later given to HRH Princess Margaret for her 18th birthday), five trunks for the Maharaja of Patiala – one for each of his five wives. And if you noticed the pen used for Edward VIII‘s abdication signature, in the film ‘The King’s Speech’? Another Asprey creation. (Apparently, the jeweller will go to almost any lengths to satisfy a client’s demands: word is that to create a silver ‘sandwich set’ as a gift for a Texan millionaire, the firm’s craftsmen toasted three slices of bread in the workshop, fried the eggs and bacon, assembled the sandwich – and then cast a mould from it…)
So throughout its 250 years of history, Asprey‘s skilfully trodden the line between heritage and modernity, classic design and style: always ‘of the moment’ – yet creating tomorrow’s heirlooms: jewellery, watches, clocks, china, crystal and silver.
But in 2014, Asprey distilled luxury into liquid – with the launch of Purple Water, a beautifully ‘shareable’ fragrance – in a stunning bottle by design guru Fabien Baron, featuring a cap that can be pushed to spray or twisted to splash, according to preference. (Why ‘purple’? It’s Asprey‘s signature colour – used for its jewellery boxes, and for the flags which sway in the Bond Street breeze…)
In Purple Water‘s top notes, find refreshing elements of lemon, mandarin and (unusually) jacaranda, giving way to a heart of orange blossom, white ginger and basil, warmed by base notes of pepper, vetiver and musk. Refreshing at first – but long-lasting, on the skin.
And an ideal way for those of who aren’t Texan billionaires, pop stars or Maharajahs to experience the sheer luxury of Asprey, in our lives…