“My Crownwork® is based on the grid-like underside of crowns and tiaras,” Griffiths begins. “Forming a fine grid and embodying negative spaces that lighten the weight of each jewel, Crownwork® allows light and space to enter and exit the designs.” Although Crownwork® forms a beautiful environment for gemstones to be set inside of, especially in rings and pendants, the Crownwork® link bracelets that Griffiths makes are remarkable for their sculptural beauty, ease of wear and versatility.
While 18-karat gold Crownwork® beads are fabricated in shapes reminiscent of everything from Byzantine domes to Moroccan lanterns, Griffiths uses these to punctuate strands of gorgeous Ethiopian opals or lapis lazuli. While great eras in architectural history inspire his imagination and inform many of his jewelry designs, Griffiths has a gift for conceptualizing cosmopolitan-looking silhouettes that look marvelously vintage yet of the moment. Achieving what so many jewelry designers strive for but never achieve, Griffiths lives forever in the pantheon of classic and therefore ageless designs.
A luscious pearl rimmed by diamonds shines like the moon and stars in this 18-karat gold Crownwork® ring by Ray Griffiths.
“While I strive for timelessness,” he says, “I continually design and create new pieces that can coordinate well with all my previous creations.” Taking the form of sensually appealing elements such as beads, pendants, ring settings, and so forth, the 18-karat gold Crownwork® jewels may look substantial, but are far lighter than they appear. As a result, they are super-comfortable and easy to wear. “What’s more,” Griffiths adds, “my pieces are strong and durable. Crownwork®is the ultimate expression of my philosophy, which is that jewelry should bring you joy, feel effortless to wear and become part of you over time.”
Having had the good luck to be born into an artisanal family, Griffiths grew up in Melbourne, Australia and was encouraged by his family to develop his aptitude for drawing from life. Youthful years spent assisting his shoemaker father helped Griffiths develop manual dexterity and fostered a healthy respect for materials and the time and energy that is required to master a craft.
Griffiths often uses opals to great effects in his designs. "Depending on the lighting conditions, opals emit constantly changing colors," Griffiths says."They're such soulful stones."
When the moment came to choose a career, however, Griffiths chose to apprentice under master jewelers who taught him everything from the goldsmith’s art to how to restore tiaras and heirloom adornments. “I eventually left Melbourne to work in Sydney for seventeen years at a fabulous jewelry store in the Strand Arcade called Rox.” As luck would have it, Griffiths, who was a partner and head designer at that store, won the U.S. green card lottery in the late 1990s. “Talk about a miracle!” he says, relishing the memory. Griffiths left the Southern hemisphere for New York, armed with optimism, his mastery of Crownwork®, a tireless work ethic and the dream of one day opening a studio on Fifth Avenue.
Ray Griffiths and the face of his brand, model Manon Crespi (Photo by John Tsiavis)
“I started from zero and worked my way up to my dream Fifth Avenue atelier, one jewel at a time,” he recalls. He started making jewels out of a tiny workshop in New York’s Meatpacking district, using each sale to fund the materials for the next piece, and so on. Today, his jewels are now on offer in about 30 luxury retailers around the U.S., including select Saks Fifth Avenue stores and Mayfair Rocks, Griffiths also does a brisk business in restoring and repairing vintage pieces and evaluating old stones for re-cutting. One of New York’s most in-demand jewelry whisperers, Griffiths magically reanimates valuable pieces that have gone out of style. He does nearly all work in-house, and his quotes start at $500.
While jewelry may be his life’s passion, it’s equally clear that Griffiths’ willingness to work hard and give chance a chance makes him a winning master jeweler.