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A detail of the tiara that Griegst created for Queen Margrethe II of Denmark in 1976.

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Discover the Fantastical Creations of Jewelry Designer Arje Griegst

His departure from the prevalent mid-century style cultivated a loyal following—and continues to inspire today.

June 30, 2024

At a time when mid-century Danish designers followed the functionalist Scandinavian movement like religion, Arje Griegst forged an entirely different path. The Lithuanian-born goldsmith (1938-2016), who learned the trade from his father and apprenticed with masters like Georg Jensen before establishing his eponymous brand in Copenhagen in 1963, forged lavish gold and gemstone jewelry infused with references to Greek and Roman mythology, the cosmos, surrealism, and emotion.

The artist studies his sculpture Tivoli made for Kurashiki Tivoli Park in Japan.

NOAM GRIEGST

Griegst can’t easily be catalogued in a specific style; his wildly creative oeuvre, which spanned more than 60 years, explored a range of themes and mediums. He created a massive bronze Conch fountain for the Tivoli Garden in Copenhagen, porcelain tableware for Royal Copenhagen, and a tiara for Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II that turned tradition on its head: The dreamy headpiece portrayed a field of ethereal 22-karat gold poppy flowers, each adorned with crystal spiders, black opal beetles, and moonstone dewdrops, arranged in a freeform composition.

  • The Rossini Ring, 1988, in 20-karat yellow gold and pearl with diamonds.

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  • Untitled (Mask Pendant), 1981, in 18-karat yellow gold, with opal, emerald, moon-stone, and pearls.

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He approached jewelry like a sculptor, using his own version of the ancient lost wax process to tell stories. His groundbreaking 1960s “Spiral” design expressed fluid lines of 18-karat gold winding around rings, earrings, and necklaces; the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990 inspired the “Cosmos” series, whose raw diamonds and pearls appear like asteroids landing on the moon’s surface.

  • Cosmos Ring, 1991-1995, in 20-karat yellow gold with raw diamond and cabochon cut emerald.

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  • Face of the Night Pendant, 1966, in 20-karat yellow gold with opals, colored pearls, and diamonds.

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To this day, Griegst’s jewelry still commands top dollar when (on rare occasion) it appears at auction. That enduring interest inspired his wife Irene, also an accomplished goldsmith who passed away earlier this year, and son Noam, a photographer, to reopen the Griegst showroom in Copenhagen in 2018. Every year, Noam selects a handful of designs from the vast archives of jewelry molds to reproduce in limited editions; each is made and finished by local craftsmen.

“When the craft is so good, you can’t put a date on it,” he says of his father’s work. “It resonates today and will still resonate one thousand years from now.”


THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN VOLUME 12 OF FREDERIC MAGAZINE. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!