Rock Star – The Impressionist Jewels of Andrew Grima
September 15, 2017
The largest private collection of Andrew Grima jewellery to appear at auction goes on sale at Bonhams, London this autumn. In this article, we take an admiring look at his work.
Andrew Grima is recognized as one of the great modernist jewellery designers of the 20th century, perhaps the most influential post-war British jeweller.
Such was his influence that Grima jewellery remains highly prized, attracting collectors such as Marc Jacobs and Miuccia Prada, design talents who themselves have defined their generations. In this, he is the designer’s designer - one of the 20th century’s most daring and imaginative.
Image 1: Opal Boulder Pendant
Image 2: Portrait of Andrew Grima
As a result, expect to see a wave of excitement in London this September as one of the largest private collections of jewels by this extraordinary designer ever to appear at auction goes under the hammer at Bonhams.
One of a handful of designers who revolutionized British jewellery in the early 1960s, Grima didn't learn his trade at art school, being entirely self-taught and never trained at the jeweller’s bench. He considered being a pure designer to be an advantage – his imaginative ideas were never confined by technicalities or ingrained concepts of what constituted fine jewellery.
Image 1: Amethyst Earrings
Image 2: Citrine Diamond Bracelet
Grima’s groundbreaking designs, which drew inspiration from art, sculpture and the natural world, injected desperately needed originality and glamour into what had become a stagnant jewellery scene in post-war Britain. He created bold and unusual jewels whose value lay in their aesthetic composition rather than just in the carat weight of expensive diamonds and precious gems.
His journey began, appropriately, with a large cache of natural Brazilian stones - aquamarines, citrines, tourmalines and rough amethysts – that became a trademark for the young designer. Scouring the natural world for textures – bark, shell, moss – he created abstract shapes with rough stones at a scale that was distinctly different even from that of Jean Schlumberger and Fulco de Vedura, both bold and radical designers in their day.
Image 1: Pearl Ring
Image 2: Pearl Earclips
He also perfected direct casts from nature in what became one of his most distinctive styles, famously capturing in gold some lichen for HM Princess Margaret, covering the results – and similar temporal fragments – with a scattering of diamonds.
The 1960s saw the charismatic Anglo-Italian emerge as the go-to society jeweller for royals, celebrities, socialites and artists and his earliest clients included HM The Queen, the Princess Margaret, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Bond Girl Ursula Andress. He won the De Beers Diamonds International Award (the Oscars of jewellery design) a record 12 times and, in 1969, was commissioned by Omega to create one of the most outrageous and daring watch collections ever made. In 1970 he was also granted a Royal Warrant from HM The Queen.
Image: Amethyst Ring
His interest in natural forms extended to a love of both opals and pearls, which featured regularly in his work. Each of the gems is defined by individual uniqueness in the way that they are formed – no one piece looks quite like another in terms of fire or, in the case of pearls, lustre and overtone.
The Bonhams sale features a gold, boulder opal and diamond pendant/necklace from 1972, alongside a selection of 55 pieces from his legendary collection for watchmaker Omega, and an additional 30 jewels, featuring his trademark palette of citrines, amethysts and aquamarines.
“Andrew Grima’s work is distinct in terms of its design, quality and originality,” says Emily Barber, Director of Bonhams Jewellery. “He was essentially an artist whose medium happened to be jewellery. His designs capture the spirit of each era in which he worked yet are still immensely wearable and contemporary today.”
Image 1: Pearl Oyster Necklace
Image 2: Pearl Earclips
The current owner of the collection, who wishes to remain anonymous, commented: “When you look at a piece of Grima jewellery you are moved by exquisite artistry in much the same way that you would be moved standing in front of a beautiful painting. In fact, for me, Andrew Grima is the great impressionist of jewellers.”
The Bonhams sale of Fine Jewellery, including a Private Collection of Jewels by Grima, will be held on 20th September 2017. Learn more about Andrew Grima, and the continuation of his work by his wife Jojo and daughter Francesca, here.