A citrine and diamond-set bangle by Andrew Grima is among the items to be auctioned by Bonhams this month.
LONDON — In the 1960s Andrew Grima re-energized the British jewelry scene with flamboyant modern designs that vibrated with textured gold and colorful semiprecious gemstones in all their rough-cut glory.
Postwar London of the ’50s had been a dreary place of rationing, bomb sites and “peasouper” fogs. Its jewelry was similarly dull. In an industry stifled by a high purchase tax that would not be lessened until 1960, design was dominated by ladylike and literal diamond-encrusted flowers and animals.
“Grima considered everything that was being made at the time to be conservative and stereotyped,” said Emily Barber, director of Bonhams’s jewelry department in London. In contrast, the Anglo-Italian jeweler put the emphasis on original design rather than on the value of a piece’s glittering parts. And as a result, his work was worn by everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to Ursula Andress, the first Bond girl.
Today, almost 10 years after Mr. Grima’s death, his work is regaining popularity; Marc Jacobs and Miuccia Prada are among his best-known collectors. And on Sept. 20, Bonhams has scheduled a sale of what it says is the largest private collection of his work ever to come to auction.
While it helps that the 1960s and 1970s style of his heyday is back in vogue, “his jewels are so timeless; people are realizing they are never going to go out of fashion,” said Francesca Grima, the jeweler’s daughter from his second marriage, who continues to run Grima today with her mother, Jojo.
As Ms. Barber showed a visitor a towering stack of trays bursting with Mr. Grima’s jewels, as well as watches from his groundbreaking 1970 About Time collection for Omega, she noted that wearability and modernity were key to his aesthetic. She displayed a 1973 Grima pendant set with a large green dioptase crystal, which has a presales estimate of 12,000 pounds to 18,000 pounds ($15,500 to $23,325). The crystal is surrounded by gold squares that seem random but would have been painstakingly soldered, one by one, in his London workshop.
Jewelry specialists consider Mr. Grima’s technical skills all the more surprising given his lack of formal training. He had been an army engineer in Burma during War War II and, after returning to London, was working in the accounts department of his father-in-law’s small jewelry manufacturing business when he had his light bulb moment.
A pair of gem dealers came in, bringing “a suitcase of large Brazilian stones — aquamarines, citrines, tourmalines and rough amethysts in quantities I had never seen before,” Mr. Grima once said, a quotation that has appeared in several articles about him. “I persuaded my father-in-law to buy the entire collection and I set to work designing.”
In 1961 he was invited to display his work at a special exhibition sponsored by the Goldsmiths’ Company of London, an event that led to public recognition and sales.
Mr. Grima was a charismatic figure and natural salesman with a particular genius for attracting both the Establishment and the fashionable young movie and pop stars of his day, said Jean Ghika, director of the jewelry department in Europe at Bonhams. “It must have been a tricky thing to bridge that gap in those days,” she added.
Mr. Grima’s shop on Jermyn Street epitomized that balancing act. In the heart of the fusty St. James’ neighborhood, home to gentlemen’s clubs, tailors and cigar merchants, it featured a frontage of steel and slate slabs through which poked windows displaying his jewelry. The interior was similarly groovy, featuring what was said to be the world’s first acrylic staircase.
Several members of the British royal family own his designs. In 1966 Prince Philip gave the queen a brooch set with old carved Indian rubies, which had been part of Mr. Grima’s winning entry in an annual design competition now called the Prince Philip Designers’ Prize. In 1970, Mr. Grima received a royal warrant to make gifts for visiting dignitaries.
He built his business as far afield as Japan, the United States and Australia, and became a celebrity in his own right. A 1970s clip from Joan Rivers’s first talk show, “That Show,’’ had Mr. Grima offering sartorial advice to the comedian, who wondered whether it was still fashionable to wear a matching set of necklace, earrings and a ring.
To demonstrate, she presented one such set, the star of which was a necklace featuring a vibrant pair of pink tourmalines surrounded by emeralds, diamonds and a sunburst of textured gold. Both the ring and the necklace, the latter on a different chain, are scheduled for the Bonhams auction, with presales estimates of £3,000 to £5,000 and £12,000 to £18,000.
Mr. Grima told Ms. Rivers that the appropriateness of the set would be determined by the type of dinner party.
“If dinner’s chopped liver, you’re not going to wear a necklace like that,” Ms. Rivers retorted. “If they call it pâte, then perhaps.”