The Story of the Iconic British Jeweler Behind Queen's Elizabeth's Favorite Gold and Ruby Brooch
The late Andrew Grima was appointed royal jeweler in the 1970s, and the new book Andrew Grima: The Father of Modern Jewellery honors the career of the iconic British jeweler, whose designs were once worn by celebrities and royals from Jackie Onassis to Princess Margaret.
His bold and flamboyant designs, which were unusual in the post-war period, earned him the nickname "King of Bling" and he became a celebrity in his own right, appearing on talk shows and mingling with the stars of the time. He won a record 11 De Beers Diamonds International Awards (the “Oscars" of the jewelry world).
While the royals probably have the largest collection of historical jewelry in the world, both Margaret and her sister, Queen Elizabeth, were fond of the Italian-born designer's innovative contemporary pieces. Margaret had several of his brooches, which she wore often throughout her life. In 1967, she commissioned him to make a brooch from a piece of lichen she found at Balmoral and wore it in a family portrait that year.
In fact, one of the Queen’s most-worn brooches is a gold and ruby piece by Grima. The "Ruby Venus" brooch set in yellow gold features rubies and diamonds and was given to her by husband Prince Philip in 1966. Wearing it for several of her annual Christmas day broadcasts and for an official picture to mark her 70th wedding anniversary, the monarch wore it again just last week, pinned to a pale pink coat to attend an engagement with Prince William in Salisbury.
The book, published by ACC Art Books and published October 30, includes many never-seen-before images from the Grima archives and charts the designer’s life and extraordinary career. Entirely self-taught, he joined his father-in-law’s small jewelry firm in 1946, starting out in their accounts team before he set about changing the designs to be more abstract, often using textured, organic metal and uncut gemstones.
In his later years, Grima moved to Gstaad, Switzerland. Suffering from dementia and following a fall, he was taken to the hospital, where he died on Boxing Day in 2007 at the age of 86.
“Several friends telephoned from England that day – not to offer condolences (they had not yet heard the news) but instead to report that the Queen had worn her Andrew Grima brooch for her Christmas Day broadcast,” the book details.
Since Grima’s death, his wife JoJo and daughter Francesca continue the family business, offering a limited collection and bespoke designs.