Trailblazing jewels in design and technique

Grima jewels speak as loudly today as they did when first created, perhaps even louder. With textured gold, rugged stones and diamond-set shards of platinum, these jewels appeal to the senses, whether worn, held or covetously viewed. Once styled as the ‘Father of Modern Jewellery’, this is a reputation Andrew Grima (1921-2007) maintained throughout his career.

Completely self-taught in design, Grima moved from the Army straight to his soon-to-be father-in-law’s manufacturing jewellery workshop, H.J. & Company, in 1946. Plunged into the world of craftsmanship, Grima learnt what could be done with metal, and, more importantly, what was not being done with metal – he transformed their jewels from traditional to abstract

He took over the company in 1952 and began to design under his own name. Through his designs, Grima pushed his craftspeople to stretch their knowledge of what their hands could achieve. Grima jewels were bold but intricate, drawn quite literally from nature. Grima based collections solely around seashells and rocks, through which he allowed nature to do the talking; he only added to nature’s creations with gold and sparse arrangements of diamonds, rather than altering the stones or shells themselves. Princess Margaret, an early supporter of Grima, commissioned him to make a brooch for her to encapsulate a piece of lichen she brought back from Balmoral.

His royal success continued with a winning collection of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Prize for Elegant Design, the only jeweller to have won the prize. The carved ruby and textured gold brooch selected from the collection by the Duke of Edinburgh for the Queen was the jewel she wore for her Christmas broadcast in 2007, aired the day before Grima passed away.

Renowned for his attention-stealing jewels, his shops did not disappoint either. Conceived of by his two architect brothers, his Jermyn Street shop met visitors with a façade of slate slabs on a steel frame by Bryan Kneale RA and a cast aluminium door by Geoffrey Clarke RA, whilst the Zurich shop was encased in the hull of an old clipper ship.

Winning jewellery’s most coveted award, the De Beers Diamond International Award, a record 11 times, Grima’s iconic jewels demanded attention – and they got it.