Extreme Luxury And Boredom At Asprey

December 30, 2014

Asprey is a British–I dunno, brand? maker? house?–with a rich history of supplying the super wealthy with beautiful, often small and finely wrought things. It has held several royal warrants, and sells jewelry, silver goods, and other luxury items; they also make the Premier League championship trophy. Asprey goods occasionally turn up in our (also finely wrought) eBay roundups.

An ITV documentary on a season at Asprey’s flagship location on Bond Street, where it’s been headquartered since 1847, aired in the UK over the summer and is now on the schedule of American public television (I caught it over the weekend on my local affiliate in DC). It’s worth watching not for any men’s style points in particular (the central “plot” is the Asprey sales team trying to market a line of handbags that cost more than most cars), but for its unsentimental view of the business of luxury goods.

One of the stories the documentary tells is of a new necklace made upstairs in Asprey’s shrinking workshop, where you see a little of the physical labor involved in making a platinum setting from a stubborn bar of metal. Asprey craftsman Stuart works on the necklace daily for months. No soulful artisan, he says he mostly thinks of paying the bills while he’s at work and wouldn’t recommend the job. Growing up, he’d wanted to be a pilot. Another former silversmith at Asprey is now a caretaker at the building (that’s British for janitor)–there’s not enough silversmith work to go around. Finally, the man in charge of Asprey’s archives speaks jokingly that 19th century gilding processes led to early deaths for most jewelers.

Meanwhile, in the shop, Asprey sales associates somewhat desperately try to move product to customers who casually drop thousands, and sometimes millions of dollars at the store. The piece seems glad to supplant any potential suspense with footage of wealthy customers seeming out of touch, and sales associates trying gamely to lure rich patrons in with Laduree macarons. With voiceover narration by Jim Carter, Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson, who viewers might expect at any moment to start lecturing the SAs or customers on their crassness.

Inside Asprey: Luxury by Royal Appointment