Founded in 1963, the Danish fine artist Arje Griegst’s aesthetic vision and technical finesse germinated luxurious jewels, candelabra, sculptures and objets d’art alive with distinctive silhouettes, precious gemstones and quasi-psychedelic, eternal chic. Inspired by Greek, Roman and Norse mythology and their classical elements of earth, water, fire, air, light, darkness and spirit, pieces from the house of Griegst are spiraling, chiseled, incised or embedded with a diverse array of gems and inimitable artistic signatures. Painstakingly sculpted in wax, then cast with the lost wax method, Griegst’s 18-karat gold jewels were designed to live comfortably on the human body. His sterling silver trays, bronze candelabra and chandeliers, also made with proprietary lost wax methods, have long been prized by collectors for their naturalistic, sculptural grace and unforgettable presence.
Born in 1927, Griegst passed away in 2016. His jewelry, lighting, tableware and other designs are now back in production thanks to his son, Noam, a noted photographer and filmmaker. While the renaissance of Griegst is also powered by the artist’s widow Irene, who is a master goldsmith in her own right, some of the same jewelers who began their careers fabricating for Griegst have reunited in the atelier to further the house’s heritage under Noam’s direction. To round out the resurrection, Noam and his wife Amalie recently opened a Griegst boutique/showroom in Copenhagen, directly across the street from the Royal Danish Ballet theatre in the Kongens Nytorv neighborhood.
Private viewings can be arranged via the contact form on the Griegst website. While the gallery-like space showcases and sells a range of jewelry, candelabra, trays and other pieces, Griegst’s boutique/showroom is also where collectors, stylists and private jewelry buyers come to place bespoke orders. Illuminated by fantastically sculpted chandeliers and inhabited by other marvels of his maximalist imagination, Griegst’s oeuvre includes bronze candlesticks that embody half-human, half oak tree figures; 18-karat Wave rings shaped like golden sea swells topped with Tahitian pearls, and liquid-looking, sterling silver trays that unfurl like ocean waves. Then there are the artist’s super-blooming flowers: golden and pearl-petaled pendants are centered with opals that are hand-carved with human faces that appear to be in dream-like slumber— or are they in ecstasy?
As the son of Lithuanian-born master jeweler Barukh Shlomo Griegst, Arje Griegst grew up steeped in the classical European traditions of studying fine art and apprenticing with master artisans. (Barukh’s Art Nouveau-influenced sterling silver menorah resides in the permanent collection of New York’s Jewish Museum.) After leaving Lithuania’s civil unrest and pogroms, Barukh Griegst lived in Paris, Berlin, and Dresden before emigrating to Denmark in 1902 and settling in Copenhagen. “When my father was a child,” Noam Griegst relates, “the Germans invaded Denmark in 1940. He and his family escaped by boat to neutral Sweden. The rough sea journey instilled in him a lifelong dislike of the ocean, and yet he portrays the movement of water so perfectly in his Wave rings and his Wave silver water jug, which although it lacks a handle, features concave, wavy-like surfaces that allow for a perfect grip.” (In 2000, 62-year-old Griegst won the Copenhagen Goldsmiths’ Guild’s anonymous ‘Silver on the Edge’ competition for this sculptural and highly functional design. Established in 1429, the Copenhagen Goldsmith’s Guild is one of the world’s oldest documented guilds.)
Since 1973, the Spiral collection of Griegst bracelets, rings, earrings and necklaces has flowed into various 18-karat gold, beyond baroque shapes drawn from Nature. When it debuted, this sensuously sculpted, gender-fluid jewelry far out-paced the cultural curve: men as well as women wore these as bohemian badges of honor. “Throughout his life, my father was obsessed with the power of natural elements and the mysteries of the cosmos. Spiral symbols were favorite motifs for expressing that obsession,” Noam Griegst explained in a What’s App video call, as he offered his gleaming Spiral bracelet for examination.
This writer ventured that the Spiral jewels are poetic reminders that since our planet is situated inside a spiral galaxy, and gold came to Earth via massive meteor bombardments, the Spiral collection tells an elemental story. Griegst then said with a laugh that the gold pieces in the diamond-studded Cosmic collection feature ruggedly cratered textures of meteorites that blasted through space. “My father was awestruck by the materials and movements of cosmic life forms and events.” Spectacular meteor showers, and comets, which are frozen leftovers from the formation of the solar system composed of dust, rock and ices— these are some of the inspirations behind Griegst’s designs.
Before he relaunched the house founded by his father in 1963, Noam Griegst took some bench jewelry courses to sharpen his skills. “I took classes in wax carving,” he recalled, “and I developed my technique with the goal of being able to complete some of my father’s prototypes that were left unfinished. I also created some designs of my own that are produced in extremely limited editions.” Examples of these include swirling Spiral napkin rings in sterling silver. True to Arje’s design ethos, these jewels for the dining room table look like swirling sculptures from a mythological realm. The intrinsic design, material, artisanal and heritage value of these Spiral napkin rings, which can also serve as objets d’art when off-duty from dining, makes them collectible. These can also be handed down as heirlooms across generations and are priced at approximately US$800 per napkin ring.
Some other pieces that Noam created include diamond-studded earrings from the chicly cratered Cosmic collection. Replete with graceful arcs and negative space, this earring design complements the Cosmic rings created by his father decades ago. Although he has yet to design a flower-festooned golden tiara as his father did in 1976 for HRH Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, “I look forward to designing tiaras for weddings or other celebration,” Noam says. (The Queen’s Poppy Tiara consists of eight detachable golden poppies, inside of each blossom there are diamonds and pearls representing the stamens and pistils.)
Although Arje Griegst was still a young man when Scandinavian mid-century modernist style reigned and he produced some pieces that embodied those design values, “You can see in his jewelry from the 1950s that he was already driven to manifest his imagination and create his own design language,” Noam said. “In that sense he was both a fine artist and an applied artist, bridging both of those worlds.” In the final analysis, labeling Arje Griegst is less important than experiencing and appreciating his singularly sensual jewels and other creations. Whether you’re wearing Griegst 18-karat gold bijoux, illuminating your space with his bronze candelabras, adorning your table with his sterling trays, or dining with his dinnerware and silverware, you are affirming the power of Griegst’s artistic vision and its beautiful, intrinsically valuable manifestations.