"A few of my favourite things" by Michel Roux Jr.
"The late master jeweller Andrew Grima, who was a great family friend, made my beloved Le Gavroche cufflinks. Of the six pairs that were created, three are owned by members of the Roux family (me, my father and my uncle) and they bear our restaurant's logo, which features the street urchin Gavroche from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables."
"What would I buy if money was no object? A Christopher Kane rope-embroidered dress, an Hermes Constance bag in green croc, a Fendi fur coat and lots of vintage Grima jewellery."
- Claudia Croft
THE RAKE /
James Sherwood, THE RAKE's historian-at-large casts an appreciative eye over a design dynasty inaugurated by Andrew Grima in the sixties and given new life today by his widow, Jojo, and daughter Francesca.
THE ERA & NOW
"Jewellery is getting its 1970s groove on as designs become infused with the decade's rebellious spirit."
- Vivienne Becker
"Conceived by a new generation of designer-jewellers searching for an entirely fresh expression, the movement's leader was Andrew Grima, whose radical space-agey ideas attracted the international jet set to his Jermyn Street boutique. He teamed bark-like textured gold with massive, craggy gem crystals or coloured stones that were unusual for the time, such as tourmalines cut into unexpeced ways.
Grima's widow Jojo and daughter Francesca have carried on the business, developing his distinctive style through new jewels imbued with the essence of Grima's philosophy.
Jojo explains that she couldn't resist revisiting the lei necklace (price on request) of textured, fragmented gold scattered with diamonds, even though it took "two years on the bench" to handcraft. Her update is wider in front and has larger diamonds. And the hallmark huge rings, standing high on the finger, have evolved too. Some, designed by Francesca, are more abstract and architectural, and others more in the Grima mould. Of a new emerald ring (pictured), Jojo says, "I wanted something bold and reminiscent of Andrew, but new and different. He never made a ring like thiss. He hated claws, so the marquise diamonds surrounding the central emerald are held in deep, boat-like settings. I think Andrew would have approved." Meanwhile the brand's updated statement brooches - 1970s badges of status and style - work well on this season's tailored jackets. A fan shape uses Grima's original textured gold wire, but in an entirely new design."
ROCKS AROUND THE CLOCK
'It's often said, rightly or wrongly, that a watch is one of the few pieces of jewellery that an ordinary guy can get away with wearing. But the equation runs slightly differently where women are concerned. Somehow a watch has to work harder as a jewellery to qualify as a "jewellery watch". Happily for female lovers of seriously gem-enhanced haute horlogerie, there is an increasing amount of it about these days.'
- VIVIENNE BECKER
NEW GOLD DREAM
IN 1961, A MAJOR EXHIBITION DRAGGED THE BRITISH JEWELLERY INDUSTRY OUT OF THE POSTWAR SHADOWS AND PUT IT BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT
WORDS: Joanna Hardy
PHOTOGRAPHS: John Spinks
"At the beginning of the Sixties in the jewellery world, one big question loomed: how could the British jewellery industry turn a corner? Nothing new, exciting or original had been made since the start of the Second World War – all raw materials, platinum, gold, diamonds, not to mention manpower, had been used for the war effort. Rationing had been in place until the mid-1950s and industry was focused on rebuilding the country. With tax on luxury goods at an astonishing 125 per cent, no one was designing and making innovative jewellery, let alone buying it.
In 1959 Carol Hogben, the assistant keeper of the trendsetting Circulation Department at the Victoria & Albert Museum, conceived the idea for an exhibition – what would become the International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery 1890 – 1961, a showcase of all that was new and exciting in jewellery design from the turn of the century to the modern day.
In order to get a new perspective, Hogben came up with an ingenious idea. He sent a group of artists from other disciplines, including sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, and the painter Terry Frost five pieces of wax with which to sculpt items of jewellery that would then be made up by goldsmiths in the UK. The finished pieces would then sit in the exhibition alongside the work of established craftsmen such as John Donald, Georg Jensen, Mario Pinton, Faberge and Sir Alfred Gilbert, and pieces from major jewellery houses such as Garrard, Chaumet, Cartier and Boucheron.
However, with preparations well underway, in February 1961, just eight months before the exhibition was due to open, the V&A suddenly pulled out, citing rising costs and logistical difficulties. In desperation, Hogben, and his senior research assistant Shirley Bury, turned to Graham Hughes, the art director of Goldsmiths’ Hall, for help.
For nearly 700 years, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths had concerned itself with the quality control of precious metals and had instigated the hallmarking system but, while an avid supporter of gold and silversmiths, it had never paid much attention to their jewellery. Incredibly Hughes agreed to take the project on, and under the guidance of the V&A created what would become the most important jewellery exhibition of the 20th century. Hughes described it as ‘an art exhibition of high order, intended to raise the standing of jewellery so that it becomes a valid interest both for discerning patrons and, as during the renaissance, for leading artists of all sorts.’
With finished wax models coming in from artists including Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Bernard Meadows, F.E. McWilliam, and Elisabeth Frink (Hepworth made several attempts, but was eventually so dissatisfied with her results, she gave up, as did Henry Moore), Hughes’s next challenge was to find new talent to participate in the show. First, he visited the Royal College of Art where he met David Thomas – one of the few students who had previous training in making jewellery – whom Hughes enlisted to help cast the artists’ wax models in various metals such as gold, silver, and bronze, with financial support from Goldsmiths’ Hall. It was a good choice. Thomas, an absolute perfectionist, is still considered one of Britain’s finest goldsmiths.
Next he asked De Beers, which had started its prestigious Diamonds International Awards in 1953, to sponsor a national jewellery design competition. De Beers put up £10,000 – a fortune at the time – some of which would be used as prize money, and some to make the winning designs. As time was short, the competition was only open to British entrants, but it attracted a wide range of talent, including sculptors and painters venturing into jewellery for the first time. Across the four categories, there were 315 entries consisting of drawings, models or finished pieces completed in 1961.
Meanwhile, the architect Alan Irvine was hard at work designing the exhibition itself. Using his years of experience in spatial dynamics he conceived a series of 32 small glass tetrahedron stands and 17 glass wall cases – simple showcases that would work well with the lavish 19th-century gilt mirrors and crystal chandeliers of Goldsmiths’ Hall.
A total of 33 countries took part in the exhibition, showcasing 901 jewels with a value of £3 million. The space was divided into three parts: 1890-1914, which included 27 pieces by Rene Lalique; 1919-1939, featuring jewels by the notable French houses such as Cartier and Boucheron; and 1945 to the present day, which accounted for more than half of the exhibits, and from which a new generation of artist-craftsmen emerged. These included Fulco di Verdura and Jean Schlumberger, who, despite being skilled draughtsmen, were not trained jewellery craftsmen.
The exhibition was an unprecedented success, with 26,000 visitors (though it also had its detractors, one journalist describing the gold bracelets designed by F.E. Mcwilliam as ‘heavy as prisoners’ manacles’). But more importantly it kick-started a new wave of jewellery making and gave craftsmen the permission to explore and develop invigorating designs that breathed lifeback into the dying industry.
It also signalled a renaissance for The Goldsmiths’ Company itself. Between 1961 and 1975, it held 40 one-man retrospectives of designers including Wendy Ramshaw, Louis Osman, David Thomas and Andrew Grima. Hughes asked the visionary Grima, a master of ‘lost-wax’ casting (a very new technical skill at the time) to help make up the designs from the De Beers competition for the 1961 exhibition, from his H J Company workshop. Creatively, Grima was ahead of the game in working with rough-cut, semi-precious stones and organic forms, and would go on to dominate the jewellery world for the next three decades, winning the prestigious De Beers Diamond International Awards 12 times – more than any other jeweller.
In 1975, The Goldsmiths’ Company also instigated a series of annual selling exhibitions called Loot, as it was still felt that it was near-impossible for young designer-craftsmen to find outlets for their work. Loot was replaced with an event called The Goldsmiths’ Fair, held over one week at Goldsmiths’ Hall, at which craftsmen could sell their work direct to the public. This has since grown to two weeks and provides a fantastic opportunity for the public to discover some of the best contemporary jewelers and silversmiths in the country.
The exhibition also sparked an interest in finding novel ways to support and promote the industry. Under the guidance of Hughes, who passed away in 2010, The Goldsmiths’ Company started a collection of modern jewellery, which now comprises about 1,000 pieces, including work by influential modern jewelers such as Gerda Floeckinger, John Donald, Wendy Ramshaw, Jacqueline Mina, Leo de Vroomen, Kevin Coates, David Watkins, Fred Rich, Tom McEwan, and Catherine Martin. Since 1981, the collection, some of which is displayed at Goldsmiths’ Hall, has been curated by Rosemary Ransome Wallis with assistance from a Modern Collection Committee who meet four times a year to select work for inclusion in the collection. The latest jeweller to be commissioned is Charlotte De Syllas, a designer and stone-cutter whose entire degree show at the Hornsey College of Art was bought by Hughes in 1966.
If anything shows that the 1961 exhibition must not become a memorial to the creativity of the 20th century, it is this. The 1961 exhibition should be a reminder of what can be achieved when independence of thought is encouraged and expressed. Britain has an enormous wealth of talented jewellery designers and craftsmen who need continued encouragement and support to achieve excellence. And this will only be realized if the buying public continues to search out beautifully handcrafted individual and bespoke jewels so that the skills of the goldsmith are kept alive and not lost forever."
"The future, as LP Hartley never said, is a different country. And, once upon a time, the future, at least the future of jewellery and goldsmithing, used to be found at 80 Jermyn Street in St James's, London. Here, behind a facade of slate, lurked one of the grooviest of Sixties shops: Grima.
Sadly that wonderful shop is long gone, but now, after a long exile in Gstaad, Grima is back in the capital. Andrew Grima, jeweller by appointment to the elite of swinging London, was one of the most influential talents of the late 20th century. He died in 2007, but for the last years of his life his daughter Francesca worked alongside him and has succeeded in pulling off that impressive trick of designing in the idiom of her father without merely mimicking his work.
Grima's output was not great in quantity, yet it was seismic in impact. He more or less invented modern jewellery, at least in Britain. His work was revolutionary: he dared to use semiprecious stones such as tourmalines, topazes, opals, to create the sort of jewellery that no one had ever dared to dream of making.
Always faultlessly dressed , there was a touch of James Bond about this suave, dapper-suited man who counted Lord Snowdon and Princess Margaret among his many high-profile clients. The Queen summoned him to Buckingham Palace to come up with designs for gifts to the wives of heads of state (lucky them). When he took to the road to sell his designs around Europe, he did so in an Aston Martin.
His daughter has inherited that sense of glamour and it helps that she is very easy on the eye. However it is really her grasp of her father's distinctive style that is most impressive: the bold use of rough-cut stones, and the gold that wraps itself around them in coral-like fronds. It is the sense of texture that Grima prized, and where the more conventional jewellers of his day opted for mirror-polished surfaces or unobtrusive settings, Grima was unafraid to drench a large stone, of geological interest rather than monetary value, in rivers of seemingly molten gold. Marc Jacobs is a fan - he has been seen wearing a Grima pendant and cufflinks.
He did watches, too. Omega turned to him to sex up their timepieces in 1969 and the result was a seven-year collaboration that produced some of the most extreme watches of that or any other period. Even the least fanciful, the handmade Teak model, still produced in small numbers today, has a raw, mineral presence. This rock'n'roll on the wrist is just as stunning 40 years on, bringing with it an unabashed touch of early-Seventies bling that is simultaneously both period and contemporary.
It it also fair to say that he also did much to establish the male-jeweller-as-rockstar thing that we have today: whether the enigmatic Parisian JAR; the Marc Bolan-alike Stephen Webster or the super-smooth Fawaz Gruosi of de Grisogono...all of which, by the way, were facets of Grima the man and are embodied in the pieces that continue to be made under his name today."
- Nick Foulkes
"GRIMA wanted to recreate a classic with its Lei necklace, modelled after the winner of the De Beers Diamonds International Awards in 1965 and the Duke of Edinburgh Prize for Elegant Design in 1966. This necklace was made by the very same master, in yellow gold and textured wire, and set with 16.84ct brilliant-cut diamonds. POA, Grima"