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|Industry||Jewellers and silversmiths|
14 Grafton Street, W1S 4DELondon, England
|Key people||Emanuel Snowman, Nicholas Snowman
Geoffrey Munn, Katherine Purcell, Kieran McCarthy
Wartski is a family firm of antique dealers specialising in Russian works of art; particularly those by Carl Fabergé, fine jewellery and silver. Founded in North Wales in 1865, the business is now located at 14 Grafton Street in Mayfair, London. The company holds royal appointments as Jewellers to the Queen and the Prince of Wales
The firm was founded in Bangor, North Wales by Morris Wartski in 1865, a refugee from the Tsarist pogroms, who had established, first, a jewellery business on Bangor's High Street, and then a drapery store. His son, Isidore, went on to develop the drapery business and to create a large, fashionable, store. He also developed the Castle Inn on High Street in Bangor, into the high-class Castle Hotel. He was a popular mayor of the city and a patron of local sports and charities. Wartski Fields were bequeathed to the city and people of Bangor by his widow, Winifred Marie, in memory of Isidore Wartski.
Another of Morris's sons went on to develop the jewellery part of the business into an international player. Morris Wartski's two sons, Harry and Charles, went into the business but when Charles was injured in a cycling accident, the business was moved in 1907 to the seaside town of Llandudno for the sake of his health. The Marquess of Anglesey was the best customer and David Lloyd George was engaged as the firm's lawyer. When Charles died in 1914, Harry ran the business with his father Morris and two brothers-in-law S. M. Benjamin and Emanuel Snowman. After the death of Morris Wartski and Benjamin, Harry was joined in the business in Llandudno by his son, Charles Wartski, and a nephew, Cecil Manson. A second jewellery and antique establishment was opened in Mostyn street, Llandudno. So fond of Llandudno was Harry Wartski that when the firm opened a branch in London's New Bond Street in 1911, it was given the name of Wartski of Llandudno. The firm moved via premises in the Quarant Arcade Regent Street and 139 Regent Street to its current location at 14 Grafton Street, Mayfair. The firm's distinctive shop-front on Grafton Street, designed by John Bruckland in 1974, was grade II listed by English Heritage in 2012.
With the Russian revolution, many of the aristocracy took with them large quantities of jewellery made by Carl Faberge, jeweller to the Tsar. The pieces found their way into shops all over Europe. Harry Wartski painstakingly tracked them down and bought them for his shop. He and Snowman also bought some pieces from the Soviet government, which collection attracted Royal patronage to the firm. Emanuel Snowman travelled at the behest of Harry Wartski to the USSR from 1925 to negotiate the purchase of former Romanoff jewels and objets d'art from the Antiquariat set up to attract essential foreign currency. When King Farouk was deposed, Charles Wartski, and nephew Kenneth Snowman (Emmanuel Snowman's son) went to Cairo to buy up some of the Egyptian crown jewels which also included many Faberge pieces.
(Abraham) Kenneth Snowman (1919–2002), ran the London shop and wrote standard works, The Art of Carl Fabergé (1953), followed by Carl Fabergé: Goldsmith to the Imperial Court of Russia and Eighteenth Century Gold Boxes of Europe (1966), written at the urging of Sacheverell Sitwell. As a curator, Snowman organised the exhibitions of Fabergé at the Victoria and Albert Museum (1977) and at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, New York (1983). He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1994 and appointed CBE for his services to the arts and to charitable institutions in 1997.
Wartski is owned by Nicholas Snowman, son of Kenneth and great grandson of Morris Wartski. Geoffrey Munn is the present managing director of Wartski and is a well-known face on the BBC Antiques Roadshow; He is the author of several books on jewellery and is a Fellow of both The Society of Antiquaries and the Linnean Society. As curator he organised the exhibition "Tiaras" at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2002. Munn was appointed OBE in 2013 for services to charity. Katherine Purcell and Kieran McCarthy are additional directors of the company.
Wartski made the ring for the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge which took place on 29 April 2011. The ring of the bride was fashioned from a piece of Welsh gold given to Prince William by Queen Elizabeth II.
References and sources
- "Shop Front to Wartski, 14 Grafton Street, London, W1S 4DE". English Heritage. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
- "Royal wedding: Anglesey leads celebrations across Wales". BBC News. 29 April 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
- Obituary Harry Wartski, North Wales Weekly News, 23 September 1958
- Obituary of Kenneth Snowman The Independent, 12 August 2002
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