By Manon Crespi
The start of each New Year, for me, brings the excitement of discovery. Every February the Centurion jewelry trade show, one of the United States’ most coveted shows for jewelry designers, kicks off the chain of jewelry show events that will follow throughout the rest of the year. It’s a gold mine for finding rare and beautiful jewelry. It’s also the place where I get to meet the extraordinary people behind the jewelry.
These are the folks who feel the spark of inspiration that puts them on a journey of new ideas, taking risks, and ultimately imparting the intangible into something tangible. They fan the flames of an ember, conveying a sense of their identity into a full-fledged piece of jewelry that will eventually become a prized possession.
Case in point: Ray Griffiths. One perusal through the press page of Ray Griffiths Jewelry website will testify to the popularity of his magnificent craftsmanship, his use of exquisite gemstones, and his dedication to the foundation of when his jewelry life began in Australia at the tender age of 15 years: crownwork. The fact that Griffiths even knows what crownwork is, much less how to translate it into his fine jewelry pieces, speaks of the interesting experiences he’s had over the course of his 40 year career; experiences that to this day continue to guide him and the jewelry he creates for his avid fans.
Shoemaker’s son with a royal encounter. When speaking with Ray Griffiths it is abundantly clear the influence of working as a young teen with his shoemaker father in Melbourne, Australia, played a huge roll in his strong work ethic and attention to detail. He developed his signature crownwork proficiency at the age of 15 years when he went on to apprentice with a master jeweler in Melbourne, who taught him how to repair and restore antique jewelry, tiaras and crowns. Crownwork, a specific cutout technique, was employed by master metal smiths of the 18th and 19th centuries to lessen the weight of royal headpieces. Perhaps this is where his love for history began.
The history enthusiast. Honestly? He had me at the Regency ring. Let’s face it, there are a lot of Jane Austen closet cases out there, and I guess until this article I was one of them. But even if you’re not, Griffiths will definitely have you hooked with his Regency ring! The Regency era, the Spanish Moors, and Roman Greco are all historical references that can be seen throughout the Ray Griffiths collections.
Griffiths’ personal history includes jewelry school at Collingwood Technical College in Melbourne, and later obtaining degrees in gemology and diamond technology. Griffiths spent 18 years at ROX, Sydney’s premiere jewelry boutique, where he ultimately became head jeweler and designer. And then destiny’s path turned due northeast…
Green means go. After 18 years in Sydney, Griffiths applied for and won the US Green Card Lottery, also known as the Diversity Visa Lottery, which is open to countries with lower immigration rates in the US. He took this as a sign, along with his big dreams and high hopes, and made his move to New York City. Like many immigrants to the US, especially New York City, the transition wasn’t an easy road. In his words, “Sydney was high school. New York was university.” But with hard work and determination, he forged onward, taking the love of his family with him on each step of his journey.
Man of tradition. Sometimes words fall short in communicating the aggregate of ideals that fill a man’s heart, especially when that man wants to pass them down to the next generation. Ray Griffiths was blessed with nieces and nephews whom he adores, and they are the recipients of Uncle Ray’s own family tradition: a special piece of jewelry commemorating their 21st birthdays. One nephew even received a pair of cufflinks restored by Griffiths that his father once received for his football grand final.
Rooted in love. Beyond doubt, jewelry is Ray Griffiths’ love language. He showers people with love when he bestows a piece of his jewelry, and he offers people a means to express love when he creates it. Each Ray Griffiths jewelry piece represents the culmination of his life adventures, the passion that fuels his life story. Every detail recalls his years of training with his shoemaker father, his jeweler mentor, as a student in technical college, and as a student in the school of hard knocks.
When I first stopped by the Ray Griffiths booth at the Centurion Show, I was wowed by the jewelry. Then I met Ray Griffiths. I was immediately struck by his enigmatic personality, and understood completely why his booth was filled with women ogling over his jewelry and clamoring for his attention. He is genuine, authentic, and possesses a unique, humble confidence laced with certain vulnerability. Ray Griffiths is the rare and beautiful person behind the rare and beautiful Ray Griffiths jewelry.