A Jewellery Revolution
For British jewellers, the postwar decade of the 1950’s was a dark time for designers. The general public didn’t have the resources to spend on fine jewels and the materials needed to create these jewels were still rationed. During this time, newspapers would report, “Britain was trailing sadly behind in the field of international jewellery” and that most of the pieces put out were “repeated variations of classical themes.”
By the end of the decade, Britain had recovered economically and the country had entered anew era of optimism and hedonism. – the Swinging Sixties!
Goldsmiths’ Hall 1961
Photo: Edgar Hyman
Courtesy of Goldsmiths’ Hall
In 1961, ‘The International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery 1890-1961’ was held at Goldsmiths Hall to celebrate past designs and the work of new artists. Goldsmiths Hall asked that new designs be “both experimental and beautiful, frankly belonging to 1961, which would not have been made at any other time; as uninhibited as modern sculpture, or fashion; individual, imaginative and smart.”
One of the new artists featured was Andrew Grima. After joining his father-in-law’s jewellery manufacturing business, H.J. Company, in 1946, he began producing new and innovative designs alongside new techniques. After his father-in-law’s death in 1951, Grima sold the company under the provision that he could stay on as a designer.
His major career breakthrough began at the 1961 Exhibition, with his pioneering and audacious jewels being discovered and admired by a wider and more captive audience. The popularity of his cutting edge pieces immediately caused his reputation to skyrocket, earning acclaim from the press, with articles stating he was “our most flamboyant jeweller and our most energetic exporter,” describing his salon as “the most fabulous shop in the world.” This cemented his reputation as “undoubtably at the forefront of the world’s jewellery designers.”
Grima’s new pieces created during this time captures the exciting and infectious energy of the era. Gone were the old jewels crafted from traditionally cut diamonds and gems. A new bold look had taken over with pieces featuring large amounts of yellow gold and unusual stones as citrine, tourmaline, and opal. The focal point of the pieces were usually these striking stones and Grima later explained that with diamonds, “usually I prefer them to highlight the design. It may need just one stone, like a dewdrop, to give it a new dimension.” From Grima’s main debut at the 1961 Exhibition, a revolution took over the world of British jewellery design with papers of the day commenting “the young designers have made a definite chink in the armour of tradition”.
Grima’s unique use of materials and design quickly made him the leading designer of the day and would later earn him the title “The Father of Modern Jewellery”. He pushed the boundaries of creativity creating pieces out of unusual objects such as gold casted pencil shavings or gold casted lichen. His work became internationally renown and won him the Duke of Edinburgh’s Prize for Elegant Design, The Queen’s Award to Industry, and the De Beers Diamonds International Award a record-breaking 11 times. Later he would receive a Royal Warrant from The Queen.
A Royal Collection
When Prince Philip presented Andrew Grima with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Prize for Elegant Design (the only jeweller to receive the award) he was so taken with the pieces that he purchased a ruby brooch from the collection as a personal gift for Her Majesty The Queen.
Later, he would purchase gifts for his daughter Princess Anne.
Grima also struck up a personal friendship with another member of the Royal Family, Princess Margaret’s husband Lord Snowdon. Snowdon had previously given a speech declaring most jewellery designs to be unadventurous and traditional. Grima immediately sent him an invitation to tour his workshop, captivating Snowdon with his designs and creating a long-lasting friendship between the two men. Other illustrious clientele include Jacquelline Kennedy Onassis, Bond Girl Ursula Andress, and Marc Jacobs.
The Post-Andrew Era
Andrew Grima died in 2007, but his work has been carried on by his wife Jojo and daughter Francesca who continue his creative vision, creating bold and original pieces for modern day collectors. Today, the styles of the 1960’s and 1970’s are back in vogue with a new generation showing an appreciation for the work which perfectly captured the free spirit of the Swinging Sixties.