e w o n d e r f u l w o r l d
silver & enamel pendant, c. 1973-74
Norman Grant was born in 1943 in Forres, Scotland. At 18 he went to train
at Grays School of Art in Aberdeen, initially studying graphic design and later
moving into silversmithing - a process which he felt combined the opportunity to
use the inspiration of graphics in a 3d process. Having grown up in a
coastal landscape, Grant was much influenced by the forms he saw around him, and
inevitably these shapes and forms were the first to creep into his early jewels.
In many of Grants pieces can be seen microscopic plant cell structures, as both
under a microscope and with the naked eye; single and multiple flower motifs,
flower stamens, trees, worm eaten driftwood, algal growth patterns seen in rock
pools, shells. Seaweed, anemone like forms, seed heads bursting into life and
later fish, wave and cloud motifs.
silver & enamel bracelet
In 1967 he began, in a small way, to produce pieces of jewelry by himself in his
own tiny garden shed. His favorite medium was translucent enamel, which he
combined with Sterling silver, the low cost of which meant that he could be
experimental with this work, while keeping costs to the customer relatively low.
Realising that if he was to be successful, he had to sell his work, Norman
visited local Scottish jewelers, and was astounded when all the pieces that he
took with him sold in one morning. Immediately Grant found himself working full
time to fulfill orders and within a year his work's popularity was clear; with
its colorful psychedelic colours and Pop art patterns, it personified, in
personal ornament, the fashion and art ethic of the period.
silver & enamel cufflinks
In London, shops in the prodigious Burlington Arcade sought Grant's work, as
well as the well established Cameo Corner, Liberty of London, and Harrods while
in the USA both Bonwit Teller and Marshall Field stocked pieces. Grant realized
that his success at the time was both lucky and unusual, as fashion boutiques
commonly only stocked plastic jewelry and department stores and jewelers had
only previously dealt with jewels in precious stones and gold -
unwittingly he had broken new ground with jewels that were inexpensive without
being gimmicky and cheap, and importantly, well made and imaginative.
silver & enamel rings
silver & enamel bubble earrings
Norman Grant's work quickly became synonymous with the psychedelic "Art
Nouveau" floral revival style of the early 1970s, and its luminescent
flowers and candy colour shapes provided ideal accessories for the popular
clothes of the moment from designers such as Biba and Mary Quant. In fact his
work became so trend setting that it quickly became a "must-have"
accessory that was worn by many celebrities including Sandy Shaw and Mick Jagger,
and later Billy Connelly and Elton John.
silver & enamel ring c. 1972
silver & enamel cufflinks, c. 1972
By 1974 Normans company - "Dust" Jewellery - was based in
its own workshops in Lundin Links on the Scottish Fife coast, employing a small
cohort of staff to keep up with the constantly outstripped rate of production.
In addition he ran a summer school each July at the workshop, where
students came from around the world to learn from him. Each student would
be supplied with silver blanks which they could then enamel in their choice of
colour- this practice goes partway to explaining the myriad colourways often
present in the same pendant, rings, earring and bracelet styles. By
this time, Grant also offered a mail order service where each piece could be
ordered in a customers choice of colour and shipped anywhere around the world.
The style of Grants work meant that it was as easily suited to use for rings and
cufflinks as well as pendants and brooches, and designs in multiple colors meant
that customers could mix and match their jewellery with their outfits often
ordering the same piece in several colours. Each year several pieces that
had not been bestsellers were withdrawn and other new ones introduced.
Unfortunately Norman has never kept extensive archive records and so it is
impossible to say how many different designs in different colourways were ever
silver & enamel "bubble"
brooches, c. 1971
By the mid 1970's Norman felt that the original jewelry designs were becoming
dated and in tandem with the existing range, moved toward new materials,
introducing a range of art nouveau inspired work in Titanium and silver. This
range of work however enjoyed a limited success and the firm found that the
original enamel and silver range still enjoyed a higher sales return. With
increasing production pressures, the firm however had to make sacrifices. By
1978, the well established jewelry school became a victim of its own success,
its annual occurrence caused major disruption to production and eventually this
disruption had become too severe to contend with, leading to the school being
Gradually Dust's titanium range began to enjoy more success and the colourful,
organic and pop art designs of the 1970s were discontinued. Finally however
Grant decided that his years of experience in the jewelry trade ought to afford
him a more lucrative career, and in the early 1980s he moved on to work as a
consultant with The De Beers Group, in London.
Today Norman is based in North London with his Wife Jess, and his work is a
world away from the days of Lundin Links. Dealing almost exclusively with
precious stones, gold and platinum, he has left behind him an extensive and
enduring legacy of colour and imagination, which is once again finding the
welcome audience it deserves.
Norman Grant monogram &
Edinburg Assy Marks with
date letter for 1973-74
Norman Grants work always carries the "NG" Monogram in a square,
together with the Edinburgh Assay Marks. Later titanium pieces are often
unmarked and can only be identified by style.
Frisbee lives in Nottinghamshire and deals in Vintage jewelry as
well as being a studio jeweler in her own right. Her specialty
is British Jewelry from 1945 onwards. Email Vanessa at
Her new website is
to the top
Photographs courtesy of Terrance O'Halloran, Patrick Kapty,
Vanessa Frisbee, and Marbeth Schon
Web design by Marbeth Schon
Copyright © Modern Silver magazine 2001
Your comments are invited.