was established in England in 1781 and 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.
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. 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.
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.
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 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. 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.
Asprey Leather - 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 Silver - 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.
Other Asprey products include books, trophies and Asprey Polo.
Roberts & Belk History
The firm was established as Furniss, Poles & Turner. The first hallmark was entered in Sheffield Assay Office as "plate worker, Furnival Street, Sheffield" on December 20, 1810.
From c.1822 to 1945 the firm traded as William Briggs (hallmark entered as Plate Worker, Button Lane on August 14, 1822).
Later William Briggs entered in partnership with Samuel Roberts and Joseph Slater. In 1845 the firm, trading as Roberts & Slater, silver and electroplate manufacturers, entered its hallmark in Sheffield Assay Office (September 1, 1845. Address: Furnival Street).
After the retirement of Joseph Slater (1858) the activity was continued until 1863 under the style Roberts & Briggs (hallmark entered on September 1, 1859).
In 1863, after the retirement of William Briggs, the firm changed to Roberts & Belk (the new partner was Charles Belk). Its first hallmarks were entered in Sheffield Assay Office on February 1, 1864.
In 1879, after the retirement of Samuel Roberts, the activity was continued solely by Charles Belk maintaining the style Roberts & Belk.
Besides the Sheffield factory, the firms were active also in London, with showrooms at 28 Ely Place, Holborn (1858) and later at Gresham House, 24 Holborn Viaduct (1883).
In 1901 the firm became Roberts & Belk Ltd and in 1961 was bought by C.J. Vander Ltd.