Walking up London’s Bond Street just past Asprey and then left down Grafton Street, one sees a sign that never fails to delight knowing passersby: WARTSKI OF LLANDUDNO. The Welsh coastal resort town may not have quite the same ring as, say, Monte Carlo or Portofino, but in the early 1900s it was the white-hot center of a peculiarly British form of decadence. Morris Wartski made a name for himself as the jeweler to Llandudno’s fast set, a group led by a flamboyant English nobleman, the Marquess of Anglesey.
Anglesey was always rushing into Wartski’s shop for a new bauble with which to amuse himself. When playing table tennis he would don his Ping-Pong shirt, pavé-set down the front with Wartski emeralds. Guests at his family’s parties would find themselves occasionally pelted with pieces from the Fabergé egg collection, also courtesy of Wartski.
The store opened on Regent Street in 1911; author Ian Fleming was a regular. Students of the Bond oeuvre recognize Wartski from the 1967 short story The Property of a Lady, in which 007 visits it to brush up on imperial Russian gems. "The window," writes Fleming, "with a restrained show of modern and antique jewelry, gave no hint that these were the greatest Fabergé dealers in the world." Wartski moved to Grafton Street in 1973, but the feel—traditional, discreet, very British—remains unchanged.
And it is still the place to go for a green enamel Fabergé compact circa 1913 or that hard-to-find 19th-century diamond tiara. Jewels of royal provenance have a habit of making an appearance here, as do royals themselves. Viscount David Linley, furniture designer and son of Princess Margaret, first came to Wartski as a lad with his mum to see an exhibition of gold boxes and has been a devoted client ever since. He is especially proud of his Giuliano-designed pendant in the Renaissance style with alternating rows of diamonds and pearls. (Giuliano was the 19th-century jeweler, the favorite of Pre-Raphaelites and the royal family alike.) And when it came time to marry his longtime love Camilla, Prince Charles headed straight to Wartski for the ring. At 14 Grafton St.; 44-207/493-1141; wartski.com.