Giving new meaning to “crown jewels”
If you’ve ever wondered how a designer develops a signature style, consider the origins of Ray Griffiths’ trademark crownwork motif—which are actually quite technical. “While in Australia, I trained as a restoration specialist in a classical jewelry workshop,” says the Australian-born New York City transplant. “Crownwork is a product of my extensive and consistent training.” While honing his impressive technical skills, he was also making a name for himself with elegant gold jewels and a royally cool style sensibility.
18k gold and ruby crownwork earrings
Number of years in the biz: 40
Number of employees you oversee: 3 including myself.
Family and pets: Giant family, all in Australia.
Describe your personal style: Classic with a modern twist. Taking pride in your appearance never hurt anyone. Almost never in jeans and don’t own an iron!
Ray and Mom
First piece you ever designed: My brothers and I saved up to make our mother a pair of diamond earrings for her 50th birthday (she just turned 90 last year). I designed and made them for her.
The single piece of jewelry you’re most proud of:
A good friend in Sydney had a huge birthday that I unfortunately had to miss. His late father passed on a ring to him and it started to fall apart. I took the diamond from that and surprised him with a crownwork rendition of his father’s ring. I’m always proud if I get the person’s personality into the piece. He loved it. He wasn’t so mad I missed his party anymore.
Concave ladies’ ring with golden sapphire
Best piece of advice you ever received: A colleague advised me to keep my collection comprehensive, yet distinguishable from all other lines. He told me it’s imperative to be original! How do you think I’ve done, JCK???
Worst piece of advice: “Don’t move to NYC.” Worst advice ever!
First job: I was a gardener for an elderly woman down the street from my parents’ house. I got paid 25 cents an hour. My service fee has inflated since then!
18k gold small oval crownwork necklace
How did you get started designing jewelry? My father was a shoemaker, so I grew up creating shoes. This infused creativity in me from a very young age.
If you weren’t designing jewelry, what would you be doing? I would be an architect. I spend endless hours strolling the city, watching buildings being erected.
Jewelry you’re wearing right now: A big coin crownwork ring and black diamond pendant on an oxidized silver and gold chain.
Five items on your desk right now: A new wax model I’m working on, my loupe, a necklace I’m trying to get laid out in the right order, some bills to pay, and my phone.
Pink sapphire 18k gold crownwork signet ring
Five songs on your playlist: “The Makings of You,” Renee Geyer; “Happy,” Pharrell Williams; “Ghetto Child,” Curtis Mayfield; “The Heart Remains a Child,” Everything But the Girl; “Come On-a My House,” Della Reese.
Exercise regimen: On those “easy Sunday mornings,” I do yoga. If the weather permits, I go for a run and work out in the neighborhood park. I also love riding my bike in the warm months and hitting the gym.
What did you have for breakfast? Coffee and a piece of fresh fruit.
Guilty pleasure: New shoes! I just love them, but they have to be the finest. An ode to my father—thanks, Dad!
Drink (daytime/evening): I love my wine with dinner, and you can’t beat a good martini.
Scent: Odin 07.
What you miss most about Australia: My family, friends, and authentic Aussie fish and chips!
What you love most about New York City: Everything! Shopping, walking, sightseeing, theater, music…
Book you’re reading: In Australia, I lived in the red-light district called Kings Cross in Sydney. I shared my block with prostitutes, drug addicts, and hippies. A good friend sent me this book Kings Cross by Louis Nowra. I’m waiting to see if my name comes up…fingers crossed!
Book you’ve been meaning to get to: Gübelin’s Photoatlas of Inclusions in Gemstones: The photos are quite amazing. I’ve been putting it off for 10 years. Check back next year! I’m determined to read it.
Favorite movie of all time? Thelma & Louise
© MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection
Who would play you in your life story? I’m playing the role at the moment. After I’m gone, anyone is welcome to have a go.