"Some jewellers have a signature so bold that you can read it from across a room. I do not mean that their logo is of WAG-approved dimensions - rather, the character of each piece is so striking, the execution so personal, that it could only be the work of one hand.
And there are few jewellers whose handwriting is as bold as Andrew Grima's. Grima jewellery was le dernier cri in the 1960s and 1970s, and I am just about old enough to remember his avant-garde shop on Jermyn Street in St James's. The exterior looked as though a building-sized magnet had come into contact with a scrap-metal yard and attracted a carapace of old iron, in which tiny vitrines showcased sparkling gems. I never went inside, but I wish I had. I am told it was like one of Ken Adam's sets for a James Bond villain's lair: dramatic lighting, clear acrylic spiral staircase, the lot. The Bond theme continues: like any self-respecting man about Swinging London, Grima drove an Aston Martin, and he counted the first Bond girl, Ursula Andress, among his customers. Even if the jewellery had been mediocre I would have liked that man, but his work is extraordinary.
What sets Grima's jewels apart is a sense of texture that goes well beyond conventional brushing or satinating, instead mimicking, say, the bark of a tree, the surface of a pebble, or even a pencil shaving. There is priceless newsreel footage of Grima driving his Aston out to the countryside, stopping to pick up a bit of vegetable matter, then taking it back to his workshops and giving it to one of his craftsmen. The resulting pieces have a haphazard, organic quality that respects the materials from which they are made. Settings seem to sprout around large tourmalines and aquamarines; cabochon rubies and emeralds are scattered like droplets of brightly coloured water across a bracelet made of sections of gold that look as jagged as stalactites and yet feel silken against the skin.
In Grima's hands gems and semi-precious stones clustered together almost as if they were a natural geological occurrence rather than the painstaking work of a master. This creative nonchalance means the value of his pieces lies in the workmanship rather than the carat weight. Grima is not about the vulgar display of high-value mineral deposits but about shape, finish, colour and presence. And yet Grima was a rock star. He appeared in a campaign to advertise Canada Dry ginger ale, and he was wooed by the watch giant Omega to make a series of timepieces with smoky quartz 'glass' covering the dial, which were the definition of 1970s watch design: bold, futuristic, unique. Grima's own watch design was the Teak, of which only a handful were made, one of them worn today by Miuccia Prada. Marc Jacobs also collects Grima pieces. What is even more remarkable is that as well as appealing to the 'beautiful people' of the days when the jet set was the jet set, Grima was also the darling jeweller of the Royal family, making pieces for the Queen, Princess Anne, Princess Margaret and her husband, Lord Snowdon, for whom he created a miniature sculpture in yellow gold mounted on a slab of agate, of the Snowdon aviary at London Zoo.
The Queen even commissioned brooches from Grima as state gifts. But, as with many great creators, his influence was greater than his financial means, and despite having shops in Zurich, Tokyo and Sydney, the Grima brand never took off as it would have done today. Still, things did not turn out too badly. He went into semi-retirement in Gstaad, where he died in 2007, and where there was a Grima shop until 2012. The reason the shop closed was that his widow and daughter have brought Grima back to where it belongs, in the heart of London. Using many of the same craftsmen, some of whom have worked for Grima for 40 years, his daughter continues to design modern pieces in the great man's idiom, often for the children of first-generation customers, who, like her, have grown up with the brand.
Grima's pieces transcend fashion, yet you can easily identify the period in which they were made. I have a theory that this is because his impact was so great that it shaped the wider aesthetic of the time, promoting a sort of high-value psychedelia that chimed perfectly with the era in which it was created and yet remains both startling and pleasing half a century later."
- Nick Foulkes