From an engagement ring fit for the Queen to, a world record-busting limited edition Patek Philippe watch, a breathtaking pear-shaped diamond collar or a show-stopping art deco bracelet, family-owned and run jeweller George Pragnell prides itself in a carefully curated selection of world-class offerings at its Stratford-upon-Avon store and appointment-only showroom in London's Mayfair.
Against the backdrop of a historic building originally constructed in the late 16th century by a close associate of William Shakespeare, rarefied timepieces from twelve leading Swiss houses sit alongside jewellery collections straight from the George Pragnell workshops, sumptuous leather goods, jewels from the 18th to the 20th centuries, and a dazzling assortment of Golconda diamonds, Kashmir sapphires, Burmese rubies and Columbian emeralds.
An international clientele includes royalty, actors, musicians, African tribal leaders, Middle Eastern Sheikhs and different generations from many English families choosing something wonderful to mark a special occasion. To this end, George Pragnell counts its staff as its most precious asset. Every sales consultant brings a particular area of specialism and much experience, as the majority have been with George Pragnell for well over a decade.
For its 50th anniversary in 2004, Jeremy Pragnell commissioned Patek Philippe to create a limited edition of five minute repeater (ref 5079J-010) watches, each one priced at £162,000. When one later went on the block at Christie's in Hong Kong it fetched a cool £390,000, a world record for that reference. In 2011 Charlie Pragnell, Jeremy's son, designed a breathtakingly intricate ring depicting a sapphire breasted humming bird hovering over a hot pink freesia, he scooped the coveted Goldsmiths Craft and Design Council Gold and Fine Jewellery Award in it's 100th year.
George Pragnell, the founder, began his career running jeweller to Queen Mary (the Queen's grandmother), Biggs of Maidenhead. In 1954, he and his wife Margaret opened the doors to a shop in the birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon, where it stands to this day. Today, his son Jeremy Pragnell is the company chairman and his grandson Charlie Pragnell, who runs the business is the managing director.
George Pragnell founded the company with the statement "Our knowledge is your safeguard". Since then, the family has gleaned further knowledge through the acquisition of other jewellers such as "George Tarratt" of Leicestershire (Est. 1913) and "Philip Antrobus" of Bond Street (Est 1815), who were commissioned by HRH Prince Philip to design and manufacture the Queen's engagement ring. Knowledge has also been acquired through the marriage of Jeremy, who was trained in Switzerland to his wife Jane of sixth generation Bond Street Jewellers "Waters and Blott", as well as the marriage of Charlie, who was trained in New York City, to Emily, a relative of the "Garrard" family.
"My family has been in the jewellery business for generations. It's the strength of our experience, the relationships with our customers, our passion for craftsmanship and nature's beauty that are the keys to our company's success," says managing director Charlie Pragnell.
George Pragnell trained as a gemmologist with Biggs of Maidenhead, Jeweller to Queen Mary. He worked his way up to run this prestigious jewellery business up until 1954, when he and his wife Margaret took over the small jewellers in Wood Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, changed the name and quickly established an excellent reputation in Warwickshire.
He and Margaret ran the business together until his retirement in 1983. At the age of five, Jeremy Pragnell remembers the family moving lock, stock and barrel from a house to rooms above the shop. The business has since expanded to include neighbouring Tudor buildings which have been sensitively restored to create a unique showroom.
It was inevitable that, living in the flat above the shop from an early age for the first few years after his parents started the business, Jeremy would become completely immersed in the jewellery trade. After leaving school, Jeremy entered the trade by working as a stone picker for a London based stone dealer and manufacturer of quality jewellery, where he gained his gemmology qualifications. He then spent a year in Germany and six months in Switzerland, working for prestigious retail jewellery companies, followed by two years working for Garrards, the Crown Jewellers, in London. In 1972 he joined the family firm in Stratford-upon-Avon and is now the company chairman.
Charlie Pragnell graduated in economics and politics and began his training in America studying gemmology and jewellery design at the Gemological Institute of America, based in Carlsbad, California. Charlie then worked in New York's renowned diamond district, before completing an apprenticeship with one of the world's most prominent antique and period jewellery dealers. Charlie's continued passion for the jewellery trade brought him back to England where he worked in London's West End before joining the family business in January 2005. Charlie is now the firm's managing director.
Tom Crookenden, a grandson of George Pragnell, joined the company in 2013. Prior to Tom joining the family business, he spent a year studying gemmology at the Gemological Institute of America in California, trained with a well respected family jewellers in Northern Ireland, and then worked in the heart of Switzerland within the watch industry. Tom is now the firm’s principle stone buyer.