Closing Grimball Jewelers: A letter from Berkeley Grimball

Grimball Jewelers closed on December 28, 2017.

Thank you for a marvelous 33 years!


Dear Friends of Grimball Jewelers,

“How did you get into the jewelry business” I am often asked. “Did your father start this business?"

No, it's all because my college roommate Pablo Lancella went to Amsterdam one summer and learned to make simple wire jewelry, and with Cuban entrepreneurial zeal decided we could make a business of it. And we did. And it worked and I thought, “Wow, I’m making money and meeting girls at the same time, what could be better than this?"

Forty-seven years later, I have still never found anything better. I love everything about the jewelry business (except the amount of time spent on all fours looking for some tiny thing). Creating and providing objects of intense and lasting beauty to people at joyous moments in their lives requires a unique set of skills and abilities encompassing art, science, and an understanding of the human spirit. It has never ceased to be fascinating and gratifying.

So I was sad and disappointed when I learned last spring that after thirty-three years in business and eighteen years in our current location, our landlord was not going to renew our lease and I would need to move, or close, Grimball Jewelers. It has been the most difficult decision of my life, each option with huge upsides and downsides. I would go to bed having decided on one and wake up in the middle of the night deciding on the other, often paralyzed with fear and anxiety over making the wrong decision.

But I have decided to close. The universe, Fate, my guardian angels, or whomever it is that sometimes seems to pull the invisible strings of our lives, has conspired to convince me to leap into the void, scary as it is, and see what kind of next chapter I can create with what vitality and mobility remains to me.

It will certainly involve playing a lot more music.

I will miss so much -- the joy on the face of someone the first time they see their completed custom piece, a new client saying “everyone says we should come to you”, the opportunity to fix someone's little problem and not charge them, and, not least, the fact that my name is on the building -- twice!

I do not have the words to express the gratitude I feel for everyone who has made this an incredible run. I never imagined when I opened in Carr Mill Mall in 1985 in 350 square feet with two small cases of jewelry I had made that we would come as far as we have.

Thank you to all my wonderful employees who have given so much of themselves and taught me so many lessons.

Thank you to this marvelous community, full of smart and caring people who have supported us and let us be your personal jeweler.

Upward and onward...

The rarest, if not fairest, of them all: opal pineapples

Another opal rarity, perhaps the rarest, if not fairest, of them all: the opal pineapple.

opal pineapple.jpg

Opal is an amorphous mineral, meaning it has no crystal struture. Opal pineapples are pseudomorphs. Pseudomorphs occur when one mineral replaces another -- making a cast of the original mineral. In the opal "pineapples," opal has replaced the original mineral - thought to be ikaite.

These oddities have only been found on the opal fields of White Cliffs in New South Wales, and usually range in size from 50 to 200 mm across. They are quite rare and it’s estimated that fewer than 200 have been discovered. Many of the early specimens were cut up into stones because it was more profitable to sell several gemmy opals that one rare opal pineapple.


Color is jade’s most important value factor. The finest-quality jade — almost transparent with a vibrant emerald-green color — is known as “Imperial Jade.” The royal court of China once had a standing order for all available material of this kind, and it’s one of the world’s most expensive gems.

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On jewelry worn by the Vikings

Ever find yourself wondering about Viking jewelry?
Me too!!

The Viking were the seafaring peoples of Scandinavia in the early medieval period. They were skilled metalworkers and attached a high importance to precious metals. Gold jewelry showed status and success as a trader and a raider -- and was worn by both men and women. They often used their jewelry as currency.

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Estate jewelry: The 60s and 70s

The 60s and 70s miniskirts and hot pants signaled the rebellious mood of the time and the use of unconventional materials. Color contrasts and bright opaque materials like turquoise and coral echoed fashion, while jagged contours, such as marquise-cut diamonds and prominent claw settings, challenged the flow of traditional lines. Uncut crystals appeared in jewels in organic sprawling forms.

In the 1970s attention turned East. Designs of the major houses had a distinct Indian flavor. Gold was very popular, particularly in the intricate designs of Buccellati.

Estate jewelry: The Retro era

Much of the jewelry from the Retro era was made of gold or sterling silver. For the first time in the 20th century, yellow (also rose and green) gold overtook production of white gold and platinum in the fine jewelry industry. It wasn’t because society fell out of love with white precious metals. The war effort superseded the public’s craving for them. Platinum and the alloys used to create white gold (nickel, copper, and zinc) were needed to make weapons

Retro jewelry was large and futuristic. In some ways, Retro pieces resembled the geometric jewelry of 1920’s Art Deco era. But Retro pieces were three-dimensional, not flat. Also, due to wartime scarcity, they weren’t adorned from top to bottom with glittering jewels like Deco jewelry. These bold, modern pieces went well with the masculine wartime fashions of famous designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.