A go-to royal jeweler for 170 years, Hancocks has enjoyed a prestigious place in history.
Charles Hancock & Company
The founder of the firm, C.F. Hancock, was born in Birmingham, England, in 1809. He was a partner with Storr & Mortimor, a prominent London jeweler, until 1849 when he opened his shop at 39 Bruton Street. Hancock built a reputation for dealing in the most exquisite jewelry and silver.
Success came quickly to Charles Hancock & Company, and within a year, its first Royal Warrant was granted by Queen Victoria. Just two years following this triumph, Hancock made an appearence at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London. And in 1856, Hancock had what was, perhaps, the most famous coup in their history: they designed the Victoria Cross, a military award still given out by the British Army to this day.
Following the first Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria, others followed: in 1861 (also issued by Victoria), 1863 (The Princess of Wales, later queen to Edward VII); 1911 (King George V) and 1962 (Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother).
A Novel Characterization
With success came notoriety of a different kind. In 1870, Benjamin Disraeli published a novel entitled Lothair. In it, Disraeli created a character named “Mr. Ruby,” who bore a striking resemblance to C.F. Hancock. The author was distressed at the extravagant purchases Mrs. Disraeli was “coerced” into making from the jeweler. The book did little to hinder business, however, and Charles Hancock & Company continued to flourish, thanks in large part to the patronage of Europe’s Royal Families.
The prestige of being granted a Royal Warrant naturally led to an increase in commissions. One such was the 1856 commission from the Duke of Devonshire for a suite of jewels to be worn by his nephew’s wife. Countess Granville was going to the coronation of Tsar Alexander II and needed something extraordinary to wear. Attending a Russian coronation would require multiple pieces for the month-long celebration. Hancock obliged by creating The Devonshire Parure, a collection that included seven pieces designed and crafted around 88 engraved gemstones in a variety of sizes and colors from the Duke’s collection. The gemstones were set within a decorative enamel openwork frame, further fashioned with diamonds to add brilliance to the pieces. The collection was displayed at the International Exhibition of 1862.
The Devonshire Parure was an example of Holbeinism, which was all the rage during this period. Hancock was at the forefront of the trend, which was a revival of Tudor-style jewels created by Hans Holbein that featured cameos, delicate enamelwork, and an infusion of gemstones.
The early 1870s saw significant changes for Hancock’s firm. Charles retired from the business, entrusting it to his two sons and his business partners, Horatio Stewart and Henri Dore. The business changed names, becoming Hancocks & Company. It was Dore and his progeny who would lead Hancock into the next century. Charles Hancock passed away in 1891.
The Victoria Cross
First awarded in 1856 during the Crimean War at the behest of Queen Victoria, the Victoria Cross is the highest honor bestowed for gallantry in service to members of the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces.
The design features a Maltese cross formed from the cannon captured from the Russians during the Crimean War. Hancock submitted many designs for approval before Queen Victoria was satisfied.
Countless valuable pieces have passed through the doors of Hancocks over the years. Notably, a ruby and diamond and ruby necklace from the French crown jewels. The ruby and emerald ensemble was a part of the Seringapatam jewels (designed using emeralds given as a reward for victory in a battle in India), and a Cartier diamond rose brooch Princess Margaret wore to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
- 1851: The Great Exhibition at The Crystal Palace in London
- 1867: The French Exposition Universelle
- 1873: Vienna World’s Fair
S.J. Rood, themselves Royal Warrant recipients, were acquired by Hancocks in 1998, thus enhancing the presence of the esteemed jeweler. With this acquisition, the company moved into Rood’s premises in the Burlington Arcade in London. To date, Hancocks boasts a total of four Royal Warrants. Hancocks embodies the same principles that made the company successful, offering the most beautiful jewels, taking in bespoke commissions and exhibiting at prestigious events worldwide.