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NEWS | Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Maltese descendant who adorned royalty with jewels

Andrew Grima, who died aged 86 in Gstaad in Switzerland on 26 December 2007, was the son of an embroidery designer from Malta, and an Italian mother. He was born in Rome in 1921, moved to London with his parents aged 5, and he came to jewellery design in 1946, after nearly five years as an engineer with the 7th Indian Division in Burma.
Few would seem to know that this Maltese son was awarded the royal warrant, the Queen’s Award for Industry, and the Duke of Edinburgh’s prize for elegant design, as well as designing jewellery for Hollywood royalty itself.
After demob he found work as an accounts clerk at H J Company, the small jewellery workshop owned by his father-in-law. One day they received a visit from two salesmen bearing suitcases full of Brazilian jewels including vast quantities of aquamarines, amethysts and citrine. Inspired, Grima persuaded his father-in-law to buy the lot, and promptly used them to design his first collection.
The highly original results were given a showcase in a landmark show of modern art, sculpture and jewellery organised in 1961 by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. Vogue photographer Lee Miller had brought in art by Picasso, while sculptures were specially commissioned from fashionable postwar sculptors including Kenneth Armitage and Elisabeth Frink. Grima was asked to transform their designs into wearable jewels, and eventually he submitted his original designs too.
One of those who took an interest early on in Grima’s work was Lord Snowdon, then married to Britain’s Princess Margaret. Snowdon chose presents for Princess Margaret when Grima made a crucial connection by inviting Lord Snowdon to tour his workshop.
The Snowdon connection as well as numerous prizes Grima received for his work during the 1960s earned him a coveted royal warrant as a supplier of jewellery to the British royal family. Among the pieces he made was a ruby, diamond and gold brooch given to Queen Elizabeth II by her husband Prince Philip in 1966 and worn during her televised Christmas Day speech this year, a day before Grima’s death.
Other customers included former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Onassis, actress Ursula Andress and sculptor Barbara Hepworth.
He instantly became the ‘It’ jeweller of Sixties London, one of the most innovative jewellery designers of his generation, who gave large stones a flamboyant and revolutionary touch. To this day, Grima’s designs continue to influence contemporary British jewellery makers.
Today, his second wife Jojo and daughter Francesca design and sell bespoke pieces from their shop in Gstaad and bi-annual exhibitions in London. He is survived by three daughters from his first marriage.


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