Grima, Jeweler to Royals, Celebrities, 86

Andrew Grima, whose jewelry adorned royalty and celebrities, died Dec. 26, The Associated Press reports. He was 86.

Grima died at a hospital in the Swiss mountain resort of Gstaad after contracting pneumonia following a fall earlier this month, his family told AP.

Born to a Maltese father and an Italian mother in Rome in 1921, Grima came to prominence in the 1960s with a flowery and organic style that captured the mood of a new generation of postwar fashion designers.

“When he started, jewelry was a very different thing;” small, precious stuff,” his second wife, Jojo Grima, told The Associated Press. “He went straight the other way.”

“At that time everything was pretty representative,” she said. “There were bows, there were bees, there were little dogs. Andrew used a lot of rough stones and he made large pieces. It was a completely different philosophy.”

One of those who took an interest early on in Grima’s work was Lord Snowdon, then married to Britain’s Princess Margaret.

“Lord Snowdon had written an article in the paper saying that there was nothing exciting in jewelry,” Grima’s wife reportedly said. “My husband called and said, ‘Would you like to come and see my workshop,’ and they became good friends.”

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 jewelry 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 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.

Grima, who never formally trained as a jeweler, joined H.J. Company, owned by his first wife’s father, after the war, during which he had spent five years in Burma and India with the Royal Engineers.

He first worked as an administrator, but one day persuaded his then father-in-law to buy a suitcase full of semiprecious stones from a pair of Brazilian dealers so that he could try his hand at designing a new kind of jewelry.

“He basically was always an artist, but because he had never been formally trained he was able to change the look of jewelry in a way that others couldn’t,” his wife said.

Bonhams, which held a special auction of some of his work in 2006, described Grima as a designer who revolutionized his craft and “changed the way jewelry was looked at and worn by the public.”

Among the items most sought-after by collectors are 80 unique watches created in 1969 for Omega, and several solid gold LED—or digital—watches that were commissioned by Pulsar.

Grima moved with his family to Switzerland in 1986 following the sale of his flagship store on London’s prestigious Jermyn Street.

Besides his wife, Grima is also survived by a daughter, Francesca, as well as his first wife, Helene Haller, and three children from that marriage, Madeleine, Carole and Philip.

His funeral was held Thursday in Gstaad. A memorial service in London is planned at the end of May, his wife said.