Sara Prentice is creative director of jeweller Garrard. Here, she tells us about her career and inspiration, and about leading an all-female design team.

Q: When did your passion for jewellery and design start?

A: When I was younger I applied to various colleges for fashion courses as I thought I wanted to pursue a career in fashion design. On my way to an interview at Kent Institute of Art and Design I got lost in the endless maze of corridors and stumbled across the jewellery and silversmith department. The tutor, Brian Hill, helped me with directions before asking me if he could see my portfolio. When showing him my work he was really enthused by it and asked if I had ever thought of jewellery design. To my surprise, the course outline really captured my interest as there was a practical element to it as well as design, which I really liked. So I ended up doing four years of design and manufacturing there and that’s where my passion for it really began.

Q: How long have you been the creative director at Garrard and can you tell me a bit about your career in the jewellery industry prior to joining the Garrard team?

A: When I was at college we were encouraged to enter the Goldsmiths’ Craftsmanship and Design Awards that still run today. So in my final year when I entered, Cartier happened to be looking for a new designer. They had gone along to the exhibition and had seen that Kent Institute of Art and Design had won prizes, so approached the college and asked them to put some of their top students up for interviews. I was lucky to be selected for the interview and got the job at Cartier when I was only 22, which was quite daunting but that’s where I grew to absolutely love design. After 12 great years at Cartier, I left to go and work at Graff diamonds and was there for six years before being approached by Fabergé to make its first high-jewellery egg since 1917. Then I was approached by Garrard and have been here 12 years, now as its creative director.

Q: What is your approach to the creative process of developing new pieces and collections?

A: At the heart of our creative approach for new collections is our heritage, whether that is a reinterpretation of an iconic design or based on a moment in time from Garrard’s 289-year history. For example, the focal point of the Albemarle collection is a diamond and round motif inspired by the pattern of diamonds encircling the base of one of Garrard’s most significant royal commissions, The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, crafted back in 1893. But even though it is very important that we use our heritage, I don’t want it to solely define us. We are a forward-thinking brand that creates innovative and bold designs, with the intention of making the Garrard woman feel confident and empowered. Also, we make sure our designs are comfortable – considering elements such as weight and adjustability, so they can be enjoyed and worn from day to night.

Q: One of Garrard’s central principles is “made by women for women”. What are the origins of this motto and has this always been central to the brand?

A: It has been central to the brand since I have been here with my all-female design team. In keeping with contemporary relevance, we consider the mindset of today’s woman and how each jewel can fit into her life, an approach that comes from a combination of creativity and exquisite craftsmanship.

Q: Garrard has a history of creating iconic pieces of jewellery for the royal family. Can you tell us about this relationship?

A: Its origins go all the way back to 1735, when Frederick, Prince of Wales, ordered an ebony handle to be made for his tea kettle. This commission marked the beginning of a long-standing relationship with the British royal family. From 1843, when Queen Victoria appointed the house as the first official Crown Jeweller it has served every monarch since. Countless iconic pieces have been created for the royal family, from Princess Diana’s sapphire cluster engagement ring to the King’s Imperial State Crown.

Q: What’s your favourite piece from Garrard?

A: At the moment my favourite has to be our Wings Rising collection. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of our Wings collection we have moved into a new era for the Wings – the boldest representation of the Wings motif to date. This collection is very special as it moves in a new direction of female empowerment. After discovering that a high percentage of Garrard women are self-purchasers, the Wings take on a new symbolism representing the values of a modern woman: strength, independence and freedom. We also wanted to introduce unique hardstones into the Wings collections, such as apple malachite, golden mother of pearl and meteorite. The new jewels are bolder; the silhouettes are cleaner and stronger; and faceting the hardstones gives the pieces power, volume and a real point of difference.

Q: Tell us about the exciting projects coming up this year.

A: We are delighted to announce the opening of our new store this June in the Peninsula London hotel on Hyde Park Corner. It will be really exciting to see the new circulation of people between our flagship store on Albemarle Street and there. Also, we have recently changed our brand colour back to the original royal blue. In 1843 all our packaging was royal blue, so we are connecting back to our roots and relaunching the blue packaging in a month or so.

Q: This being Women’s History Month, what advice would you give to aspiring women jewellery designers?

A: If you have a passion for something, keep going! Don’t give up on your dreams, and talk to people in the industry to try to make those connections.

House of Garrard, 24 Albemarle Street W1S 4HT;

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