There is something immediate about jeweller Andrew Grima’s work. His designs frequently used raw, uncut semi-precious stones, scattered with tiny diamonds and fronds of gold that frame the irregular surface of an opal or tourmaline. I first saw his work at a Bonham’s fine jewellery sale earlier this year, and was fascinated by the impact of his designs, which dominated the cases in which they were displayed. Last week I had the pleasure of viewing a private collection of fifty five pieces of Grima jewellery, again at Bonham’s, and saw the scope of his design ideas from the 1960s-1990s.
Trained as an engineer, Grima was intrigued by gemstones as intricate structures. In many examples he retains the original stone’s integrity to create organic forms supported and celebrated by innovative settings. His most famous designs comprise gold wires, expertly articulated to move with the body and studded with diamonds, and the sale included an incredible necklace demonstrating this technique.
One of the most dramatic pieces was a 1973 pendant of spiky green dioptase that sparkled as light hit its contours. Grima framed this with tiny squares of gold, carefully graduated in size, and angled to fit this irregular form perfectly. A few square diamonds added to this already theatrical necklace, to create a piece of art that is typical of his quest to reinvigorate post-war British jewellery design.
Alongside this, were vibrantly coloured rings, pendants and brooches that glimmered like sea anemones, edged with clusters of diamonds, all carefully chosen according to their original shape to fit the requisite area of the body. Rings with huge tourmalines unapologetically proclaimed the allure of gems and minerals mined in Australia and Brazil – their relatively low cost allowing Grima to experiment with bold architectural settings.
His fascination with the stones themselves is graphically demonstrated in his collaboration with Omega watches, each of which use a gemstone, rather than glass, as the watch face, with time slowly ticking by underneath a shell pink or duck egg blue tourmaline – his witty reminder of the stones’ longevity, and a little memento mori for the wearer.
I was intrigued by Grima’s work – which needs to be viewed in relation to London’s art, craft and fashion evolution in the 60s and 70s. And perhaps my favourite discovery, aside from the glorious jewels themselves, was the incredible photographs of his Jermyn Street boutique. Designed by his brothers with sculptors Geoffrey Clarke and Brian Kneale, its frontage was decorated with slabs of slate – their dull, textured surfaces framing the gleaming jewels within.
Thank you so much to Emily Barber, Head of Fine Jewellery at Bonham’s, for introducing me to Andrew Grima’s work and so generously sharing her amazing knowledge of jewellery with me.
Watch this 1966 clip of Grima’s boutique and jewellery: