, the distinguished family business specialising in works of art by Carl Fabergé, antique jewellery, silver and objets de vertu, announced the opening of its new showroom on Monday 24th September 2018.
Founded by Morris Wartski in 1865, the firm's first known premises were located in Bangor, North Wales. By 1907, two shops had been established in the fashionable seaside resort of Llandudno. Four years later Emanuel Snowman, Morris Wartskis son-in-law, opened another branch in London. He was among the first to negotiate with the government of the Soviet Union in the 1920s, purchasing treasures that had been confiscated after the revolution of 1917. For more than a decade he acquired many important works of art, including a gold chalice commissioned by Catherine the Great (now in the Hillwood Museum).
Kenneth Snowman, Emanuels son, built upon his fathers work by adding an academic dimension to the business. A number of books and exhibitions resulted from his pioneering research including The Art of Carl Fabergé (1953), Eighteenth Century Gold Boxes (published in 1966 and updated in 1990), Carl Fabergé, Goldsmith to the Imperial Court of Russia (1979) and Fabergé Lost and Found (1993). Kenneth Snowman was immortalised by Ian Fleming, a Wartski customer, in the James Bond novella Property of a Lady, which described him in Wartskis Regent Street premises. As a tribute to his extensive research in the Russian goldsmiths work, he was asked to curate an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum devoted to Carl Fabergés work in 1977, to coincide with H.M. The Queens Silver Jubilee.
Geoffrey Munn, the firms managing director for 37 years until his departure in early 2018, focused on the work of revivalist jewellers Castellani and Giuliano, writing the first book devoted to their jewellery entitled Castellani and Giuliano, Revivalist Jewellers of the Nineteenth Century (1984). Other areas of research culminated in Artists Jewellery, Pre-Raphaelite to Arts and Crafts (1989), and The Triumph of Love (1993). Further to the publication of Tiaras, A History of Splendour (2001), Geoffrey Munn was asked by the Victoria and Albert Museum to curate an exhibition on the subject. Tiaras in 2002 was, like the Fabergé exhibition in 1977, an enormous critical and public success. The work of Castellani and Giuliano as well as artists jewellery and tiaras continue to be represented at Wartski.
The firms new premises at 60 St. Jamess Street, opening over 100 years after the Royal Warrant holder first established a London presence, will reflect Wartskis noble heritage as well as its forward-looking character. Designed by architects and interior designers Waldo Works, the project has been overseen by directors Katherine Purcell and Kieran McCarthy.
The Neo-Classical façade harmonises with the historic buildings of St Jamess Street, its large timber window sitting the full width of the bay and centred with a large vitrine bordered with Wartskis green and gilt signage. With this move, Wartski becomes the first jeweller to establish itself amongst fellow Warrant holders in St. Jamess, as well as Londons oldest clubs. Brookss sits immediately to the right while Boodles is located directly opposite. Neighbouring long established businesses include hatters Lock & Co (1676), wine merchants Berry Brothers (1698),and bootmakers James J. Lobb (1866).
Upon entering Wartskis new premises, visitors will find that the wood panelling suddenly gives way to a surprisingly avant-garde interior. The gallery itself is divided into three main areas: the front gallery, the arcade gallery, and the private sales room. The walls are clad in ribbed concrete containing slate from the Cwt-y-Bugail quarries of North Wales, a homage to Wartskis origins. The main gallery houses five showcases containing works by Carl Fabergé on the left, while a jewellery counter and two cases housing silver and enamelled works of art are located on the right.
Through a portal, the walls begin to angle backwards and forwards, punctured by the glow of further showcases, while above them the walls are projected and merge with an extraordinary coffered ceiling. The space culminates in a full height angled showcase dedicated to the firms rarest works of art.
It is in the furthest depths of the gallery that an octagonal private sales room is located, velvet-lined and of a more intimate character and proportion. Within hangs a portrait of Queen Alexandra painted by Isaac Snowman, great uncle of Nicholas Snowman, Chairman of Wartski, and kinsman of Morris Wartski, the founder of the firm. Upon request, further wonders can be revealed behind the secret panels concealed by sliding wall mirrors.
Whilst it is goodbye to Grafton Street, the new location marks the next chapter in Wartskis long and illustrious history. The survival of this unique business rests on a rare combination of scholarship and an infectious personal enthusiasm.