Jeweller Charlie Pragnell
PUBLISHED: 12:23 23 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:25 20 February 2013
George Pragnell has been a fixture of the Stratford-upon-Avon retail scene since 1954. Jane Sullivan meets Charlie Pragnell, grandson of the founder...
I defy anyone to walk past the George Pragnell shop on Wood Street without casting a covetous look through the tastefully decorated windows. Every piece screams to be closely examined: the South Sea black pearls, the bright white diamonds with more sparkle than a Bonfire Night rocket, leather Smythson diaries that demand to be taken home and lovingly caressed, Mont Blanc pens that could write a best-selling novel all on their own. And did I mention the watches? Omega, Rolex, Breitling, Tag Heuer note to all rap artists visiting Stratford: there is some serious bling on the premises.
Charlie Pragnell came into the company in 2005. As third generation in the business he has quite a responsibility to maintain, and build on, the good name of Pragnells as he is the first to admit: I have been very lucky but there is a certain amount of pressure when coming into a family business of the standard that has been set by previous generations. My grandfather made this the best jewellers in Warwickshire and my father made it the best jewellers outside London.
Thats quite a claim so what does he mean by best? Its a jeweller that provides a full service from watch and clock repairs to jewellery to silver pieces for the home. For instance, if youre in London and you have a strand of pearls that needs restringing and a silver coffee pot that needs restoring or a watch or clock that you need repairing, youd end up going to five different shops. Our customers can bring everything to us that, to me, is the definition of a complete jeweller.
Someone could come into our shop with an antique barometer that needs a new needle or a Victorian diamond necklace that needs an insurance valuation, and we will be able to help them, says Charlie.
Talking of diamonds lets have a look at some. Now, at this point I have to err on the side of caution. For while Charlie was very happy to show me some of the most beautiful jewellery I have ever seen I have been bound not to talk prices. So telling you how much the gorgeous Victorian 15ct gold diamond necklace, which bewitched me with its fireand sparkle, actually costs isverboten.
I can tell you about the equally bewitching hummingbird ring, designed by Charlie himself. Its a truly stunning piece. A hummingbird made of blue sapphires, green tzavorites and aquamarines, with two black onyx Cabouchon eyes set in 18ct white gold, hovers over a flower of rubies, pink sapphires and diamonds set in 18ct rose gold. Thats just the petals. The centre ofthe flower contains 22 brilliant cut diamonds and right in the middle is an oval brilliant natural fancy intense yellow diamond. The stem is enamelled platinum set with diamonds. Its a whopper of a ring. A confection of stones from Burma, Kenya, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Brazil, that will, one day, adorn the hand of a very lucky lady. But I cant tell you how much this amazing work would set you back.
The ring is an ostentatious piece and reminds me of stories of wealthy celebrities shunning their bling, leaving the Rolexes at home, to make them at one with the common man during these recessionary times. Charlie has noticed a change in tastes which he terms recession fashion. People dont want to be seen as flash. But great jewellery has been made during recessions think of Art Deco which came about after economic downturn people with money still want to give their wives a lovely present for anniversaries.
As we wander around the shop noting the Jacobean ceiling uncovered during a recent renovation and the 58,000 candelabra (Im allowed to mention this price because its got a price tag on it) solid silver with a single stem and 12 candle holders perfect for the centre of the dining table because you can still see the people on the opposite side of the table, says Charlie, it becomes clear that jewellery is in the Pragnell genes.
Both sides of my family were jewellers, he says. My mothers side was Blott Jewellers of Bond Street. George and Margaret, my grandparents, came from Surrey and moved here in 1954 when my father was five. They lived above the shop.
Charlie started in the business at the age of seven, wrapping presents in the shop. He attended Bilton Grange School near Rugby and was then sent to board at Radley. His entrepreneurial skills surfaced at Bristol University where, in between reading politics and economics, he ran an events business which he sold when he moved to London. Eventually the attractions of coming into the family business lured him back to Stratford via New York and California where he trained in gemmology and period jewellery.
Today, he lives on the Warwickshire-Oxfordshire border with his wife, Emily, and their children, Poppy, three, and Harry, aged nine months. Will the children go into the business too? Emilys mother is related to Garrards the Royal family jewellers so my children have no chance! Theyre bound to be jewellers, says Charlie.
As we take our leave Im struck by a large silver vase which turns out to have a Warwickshire history. Its an Edwardian replica of the Warwick Vase which was discovered at Hadrians Villa in Tivoli in 1769. The vase was restored by Sir William Hamilton, British envoy to Naples, who offered it for sale to the British Museum. The museum declined to buy it and Hamilton sent it to George Greville, 2nd Earl of Warwick, where it sat on a lawn at Warwick Castle, until a specially-commissioned greenhouse was built for it to protect it from the English weather. The original vase is now in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow but several silver replicas were made and one of them can be purchased from Pragnells for the sum of sorry, my lips are sealed.