History of the Firm
Wartski is a family business specialising in works of art by Carl Fabergé, antique jewellery, silver and objets de vertu. It was founded by Morris Wartski in 1865, its first known premises located in Bangor, North Wales.
By 1907, two shops had been established in Mostyn Street in the fashionable seaside town of Llandudno. Wartski thrived under the patronage of King Edward VII and a colourful clientele including the 5th Marquess of Anglesey, also known as the ‘Dancing Marquess,’ who was famous for playing tennis wearing large emerald dress studs.
In 1911 Emanuel Snowman, Morris Wartski’s son in law, opened a third branch in London. It was then that the firm began its long association with the work of Carl Fabergé. Snowman was one of a pioneering few who made purchases from the Soviet Government department, known as the Antiquariat, between 1927 until 1933. These included a variety of precious objects including the gold chalice given by Catherine the Great to the Cathedral of St. Aleksandr Nevskii Lavra (now in the Hillwood Museum in Washington DC). Amongst these transactions were numerous masterpieces by Carl Fabergé, including several of the famous Imperial Easter Eggs.
Kenneth Snowman (1919-2002), Emanuel’s son, built upon his father’s work, adding an academic dimension to the business through his pioneering research and exhibitions.
His first book, ‘The Art of Carl Fabergé’, was published in 1953; in its preface, Carl’s son Eugène recorded his gratitude to the author for the painstaking research he had undertaken in compiling such a fitting tribute to his late father’s work. His second, published in 1966, was ‘Eighteenth Century Gold Boxes’, which he updated as the definitive work on the subject in 1990. Further publications included ‘Carl Fabergé, Goldsmith to the Imperial Court of Russia’ in 1979 and ‘Fabergé Lost and Found’ in 1993. Kenneth Snowman was immortalized by Ian Fleming, a Wartski customer, in the James Bond novella ‘Property of a Lady’, which described him in Wartski’s premises, then in Regent Street. As a tribute to his extensive research in the Russian goldsmith’s work, he was asked to curate an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum devoted to Carl Fabergé’s work in 1977, to coincide with H.M. The Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
Kenneth’s son Nicholas Snowman (1944-2023) succeeded him as Chairman in 2002. A distinguished figure in the British and European musical arts and champion of young composers and performers, he co-founded two celebrated contemporary music ensembles, the London Sinfonietta and the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris. He was appointed Artistic Director then Chief Executive of the Southbank Centre, and General Director of two opera companies, Glyndebourne and l’Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg. Nicholas Snowman’s support of the arts was wide-ranging. He served as Trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum Foundation and the New Berlioz Edition, and Hon.Trustee of the Royal Academy of Music. He was a Trustee of the Monteverdi Chorus and Orchestra and until 2022 served as Trustee of the Aurora Orchestra.
His son Hector Snowman became Chairman in 2023, after Nicholas Snowman’s sudden and tragic passing in 2023. Like his late father, Hector Snowman continues to support the firm’s ademic projects and the individual areas of expertise of its specialists. Katherine Purcell and Kieran McCarthy are the joint managing directors of Wartski today. They are joined on the board by fellow director Thomas Holman.
Katherine Purcell is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and Chairman of the Society of Jewellery Historians. She specialises in French nineteenth century jewellery and works of art. She has written a number of articles for The Antique Collector, Apollo and The Magazine Antiques on subjects including the Parisian firm of jewellers Falize, the master of Art Nouveau René Lalique, and on the influence of Japanese art on Western jewellery and goldsmiths’ work. She has contributed to ‘Master Jewellers’ (1990), the ‘Dictionnaire International du Bijou’ (1998) and ‘Bejewelled by Tiffany, 1837-1989’, focusing on Tiffany and Paris. Her definitive study ‘Falize: A Dynasty of Jewellers’ was published in 1999 by Thames and Hudson and her translation of Henri Vever’s three-volume ‘French Jewellery of the Nineteenth Century’ printed in 2001. Amongst the exhibitions Katherine has curated for Wartski are ‘French Jewellery of the Nineteenth Century’ (2001), Fabergé and the Russian Jewellers’ (2006), ‘Japonisme from Falize to Fabergé’ (2011) and ‘Fabergé – A Private Collection’ (2012).
Kieran McCarthy is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths’ and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Gemmological Association. He is a member of the advisory board of the Fabergé Museum in St. Petersburg and has widely published and lectured on the Imperial Russian Goldsmith’s work. In 2010, he curated the exhibition ‘The Last Flowering of Court Art’, a private collection of Fabergé. Kieran was also instrumental in the republication of Dame Joan-Evans, English Posies and Posy Rings by Wartski in 2012. In 2014, he revealed the existence of the lost Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg and exhibited it for the first time in 112 years. In 2017 he authored Fabergé in London, an in-depth study of Fabergé’s London branch and its customers. This led to his appointment as guest curator of the hugely successful exhibition devoted to the same subject entitled ‘Fabergé, from Romance to Revolution’, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum from November 2021 until April 2022, and coinciding the H.M. The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Thomas Holman, is a specialist in engraved gems and 19th and early 20th Century jewellery design. He curated the firm’s most recent exhibition entitled ‘Multum in Parvo: A Collection of Engraved Gems’ and wrote the accompanying catalogue. He lectures about the history of jewellery and lapidary work widely, recently speaking at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Chatsworth House and The Jewellery Historians Society.
Geoffrey Munn, was the firm’s managing director until 2018. He wrote ‘Castellani and Giuliano, Revivalist Jewellers of the Nineteenth Century’. Further areas of research resulted in ‘Artists Jewellery, Pre-Raphaelite to Arts and Crafts’, and ‘The Triumph of Love’. The work of Castellani and Giuliano and the ethos of jewellery as an art form, continues to be represented at Wartski.
In 2011, Wartski made the ring for the wedding of H.R.H Prince William and H.R.H Princess Catherine, now Their Royal Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Wales. The ring was fashioned from a piece of Welsh gold given to Prince William by Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In 2005, Wartski made the wedding rings for H.R.H The Prince of Wales and H.R.H The Duchess of Cornwall, now Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla.