In a treasure-laden flat overlooking the Danube sits a man in spectacles. He’s an English transplant to Hungary’s capital city, and his professional career has included time in the film industry. But even more spectacular than that is his personal hobby: with semi-precious stones, jewellery and fabrics purchased round the globe, Mark Rimmell makes crowns.

It all began in Budapest. “I came here 14 years ago,” explains Mark, sitting in a small armchair surrounded by fabric samples, jewels and carved wooden masks. Here he started experimenting in jewellery-making, renting a stall at the newly-established Gozsdu Market to sell his pieces.

“And then one day a call came from a man who runs an event called the World Top Model. He had heard about me and my jewellery, and he asked, ‘Would I like to make the crown for that year’s competition?’” 

Mark smiles at the memory: “I’d never made a crown before!” It was the beginning of a great love affair.

A whole wall of Mark’s apartment is now devoted to his crowns, which shimmer and glitter, displaying ruby red stones, jutting crystals, antique beads and other incredible details which demand several minutes of study to fully appreciate. “I call myself the Crown Maker of Budapest,” he says. He points to one piece, a beauty in lavender and gold, with scarab beetles and honey-bee broaches in opal, turquoise, yellow and gold over textured cloth studded with jewels. With a twinkle in his eye, Mark holds a cake mould up to it, his inspiration for the shape.

“The ideas come from anywhere,” he says, cake mould the prime example. “Sometimes I’m walking along a street and suddenly I see a shape or a something-or-other, and that gives me ideas.”

Currently Mark is working on a crown as part of a secret treasure trove for an upcoming film. “I can’t tell you any more than that,” he says playfully.

The film industry found Mark back in the ’80s. It was never a conscious decision of his to work in the movies, but he has made quite a name for himself as a set decorator, rubbing elbows with giants in the industry. Credits include Eragon, Hellboy II and Love in the Time of Cholera. He was nominated by MTV for Best Art Director for working on Simple Minds' Don't You Forget About Me, and "My trip to Radio City for the award ceremony," he reminisces, "where I linked arms at the finale with Tina Turner as Joan Baez, and all the nominees and artists sang together on the stage..."

It was Eragon which brought him to Budapest for the first time. “We were here for five months shooting the movie,” he recalls. “I had sold my flat in London, and as it turns out, my assistant’s mother was an estate agent. She found four places. Where we’re sitting now was the fourth.” He was then 72. His balcony overlooks the river, with the Elizabeth Bridge to the right, the Chain Bridge to the left, Parliament across the water, and a view of Buda Castle from his kitchen. “It was magical,” he says. 

Not all was sunshine and roses in the beginning, though – the first few days, alone in a new city, were hard. “But you only need to make one friend to make two friends,” he quips – a prophetically true statement.

Mark’s art experience stretches back to his time as young man in London, where he ran the Rimmell Gallery. Paul McCartney was a recurrent visitor, stopping in to chat from time to time. A friend of Mark’s contacted him in 1967 to work on “a commission” for his boss, the bust of a woman. The boss turned out to be Charlie Chaplin. That weekend he was escorted onto the Pinewood Studios where he met the ageing film star, alongside Marlon Brando, and the details of the commission were finalised. Portraits of the finished bust – of actress Sophia Loren – hang in the artist’s flat.

Mark’s apartment in Budapest is a menagerie of memories, props, gems and jewellery. "Creative chaos would be an apt description," says Mark. A stack of papers sits slumped on a chair, unassuming in character. But when he leafs through them, he reveals that they are original, 1920s Parisian fashion design drawings, with letters of authenticity from the Duchess of Cambridge. 

A drawer of bracelets is another eye-catcher: beautiful vintage fabric selections covered in an enamel glaze with a glossy finish.

The bracelets are a collaboration with a woman from Havana, a place he used to frequent. He picks one up, which features embroidered peacock feathers. Its fabric ties in with another incredible story. “I decided to go to India,” says Mark. “On holiday. I was in the market in Delhi and these Gypsy ladies were selling their wares, and I saw this big roll of what turned out to be the border of a sari. I asked how much and she said, elusively, ‘It’s not for sale, but I know where you can find more.’”

According to the Gypsy woman, when the last Maharaja of Jaipur stepped down, following the abolition of royal titles in the ’70s, the king instructed the female courtiers to cut off their elaborate sari borders, as it was an unnecessary display of wealth before the common Indian people. Mark was escorted to the Pink Palace in Jaipur, where several chests were opened to reveal the very sari ends cut from the royal garb. “There were 90 in a chest,” says Mark, “and they measured 7.5 metres each. And, long story short, I bought all of them.”

Mark surveys some of the pieces displayed in his flat/workspace.
“I didn’t expect to buy something like that,” he admits. “It was a surprise. And surprises went on and on, all through my life, really,” he says. The sari borders have been worked into Mark’s crowns, jewellery and other projects.

When not making crowns, Mark spends his time running around the city with Sophie, his chihuahua and companion, and inviting those with a sense of curiosity to visit his workspace for themselves. “Anyone can come!” says the Crown Maker. “Have a wine or a pálinka with me and Sophie. You can buy something or just have a look around.”

If you would like to see the Crown Maker of Budapest, and his lavish collection of eclectic goodies, call him on +36 20 467 4158 or send an email to