Press Centre

Inside Asprey: Luxury by Royal Appointment

  • Episode: 

    1 of 1

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Thu 03 Jul 2014
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    9.00pm - 10.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 27 2014 : Sat 28 Jun - Fri 04 Jul
  • Channel: 

  • Status: 

“The kind of client that we get here, I’m not sure that it’s product that people actually need. Sometimes, yes. A couple of Christmas’ ago, Paul McCartney came in and he needed a couple of dozen wine glasses, because it was Christmas. But generally, who would need a stag-head decanter? You don’t need one, but it’s beautiful, so why would you not want it? I don’t need one, but I want one.” Asprey Visual Merchandise Manager Martin
The most famous people I’ve made jewellery for include the Queen, Prince Charles, Elton John, the Beckhams. And yet nobody knows us, we’re hidden away.” Stuart, craftsman, Asprey.
Inside Asprey gains exclusive access into an extraordinary world where unique, luxury British goods have been made and sold to some of the world’s wealthiest people for more than two centuries.
Situated on one of London’s most prestigious streets and spread over five Georgian town houses, Asprey has been jewellers to the Royal family since Queen Victoria’s reign.  
For the first time Asprey shows cameras inside and beyond its immaculate shop floor, revealing just what it takes to attract the richest people on the planet. The programme follows the fortunes of the staff, the store and its customers as Asprey strives to keep a traditional business alive in the modern world. 
From a £55,000 ‘gorilla’ safe to a £2.4 million rare diamond ring, the items found on display in Asprey show a business far removed from the trend for mass production, which believes the super-rich will still pay for hand-fashioned British products.
The programme meets some of Asprey’s clientele, including Samuel L Jackson, whose desire for the finest quality along with a personalised service means that they are willing to pay an extremely high premium to buy into the brand.
As the programme shows, Asprey operates on more than one level. The programme captures the sharply contrasting upstairs/downstairs worlds of the people serving the super-elite at ground level, while, hidden above their heads, some of the country’s top craftspeople make the products, using skills they have honed over their working lives, but which are increasingly rare today. 
Asprey began as a maker of elaborate dressing cases, but today jewellery is the most important department in the shop with much of it made in the oldest and largest workshop of its kind on Bond Street, above the store.
Asprey’s unique offerings mean there is pressure to attract customers who can afford this rarefied level of luxury.
For the sales team, the challenge is to lure VIP customers to a ‘Private Handbag Sale’ featuring one-of-a–kind, jewel-encrusted bags with an average price of £33,000. As one of the staff tells the cameras, the commission they make on a few key sales can make the difference between a good month and a bad one.
Salesman Alex says: “I work on commission. So obviously, if I don’t sell, I don’t get any commission. There are definitely some months that are bread and water months. You learn pretty quickly when you have a small child, you don’t sit on your rear end and wait for it to happen. You go out there and do something about it, which is what I have to do.”
Meanwhile, upstairs, the craftsmen are challenged to bring to life an elaborate new design for a unique new necklace entitled ‘Chaos’. Made from tourmalines and diamonds sourced from five different countries, the programme tracks the creation of the necklace from initial designs to hitting the shop floor on schedule.
Tasked with creating the necklace, Stuart has spent his entire working life making jewellery, and has been with Asprey for the last 12 years. Stuart says, “Most of the time I’m thinking about paying the mortgage, like everyone else does.”
Some of Asprey’s customers are attracted to items which have a sense of British irreverence. Last year, Hollywood actor Samuel L Jackson bought a solid silver gorilla safe, costing £55,000.
Samuel says: “I love looking at that gorilla. It still catches my eye when I come in. Now at least I can see one at home. It’s very nice to walk in that closet and go ‘Ah, look at the gorilla.”
The programme follows Samuel as he looks at some of the timepieces Asprey has on offer. Samuel jokes about the quietness of one of the watches, saying: “It’s very quiet. Why’s it chiming if it’s going to be that quiet? I can’t hear it. If you pay that much for a watch, you want to be ostentatious, you want everyone to know your watch is chiming.”
The sales team have high hopes for their ‘Private Handbag Sale’, and believe they’ll be able to sell the entire collection within four weeks, including one handbag that costs £80,000. After a year in the planning, the sales of the handbags make a slow start, with only four of the 41 handbags having been sold by the end of the month.
Hopes for the collection are raised, however, when the team hear news that some middle-eastern clients may be interested, including Qatar’s leading fashion designer and a Saudi Arabian Princess.
Martin is asked whether it surprises him that people would be willing to spend that much on a handbag. He says: “What does baffle me is that people buy three, four or five at a time. In this day and age of austerity, there are still people that have that kind of money.”
After a month of hard work on the ‘Chaos’ necklace, the complexity of the design becomes apparent to craftsman Stuart and the deadline is looming. The pressure is on, and despite working on it full time, the piece falls a month behind schedule.
At the end of months of meticulous work, ‘Chaos’ finally makes it to the shop floor. Stuart says, “You forget all the frustrations and aggravation that was caused along the way. When it’s sitting on someone’s neck, looking beautiful it’s great, it’s worthwhile.”
The cameras follow Stuart, dressed in his craftsman’s jacket, make a rare visit to the shop floor to hand over the finished masterpiece to the Director of Sales. Stuart says: “It’s a privilege really. I’m a scruffy urchin, going down where all the smart people are. I feel out of place somehow.”