Fine jewelry’s fit and movement on the body is just as important as its aesthetic beauty and artisanal excellence, and luxurious yet lightweight Crownwork® creations by New York-based master jeweler Ray Griffiths embody this multi-dimensional truth. Having apprenticed in his native Australia with a high-end jeweler who specialized in restoring antique tiaras and other upmarket adornments, Griffiths is internationally recognized for creating Crownwork® jewels, which are as chic-looking and brilliantly engineered as they are easy to wear. 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of Ray Griffiths Fine Jewelry. This writer caught up with the natty and recently naturalized U.S. citizen as he presented a selection of holiday jewels in his Fifth Avenue atelier.
While all creations by Griffith embody distinctive forms and concepts, it’s worth noting that they are also contributing new life to noble jewelry traditions. “European artisans invented crownwork to form the underside of tiaras and crowns from the 1600s through the 1800s,” Griffiths begins. “Back in the day, a structured, foundational shape for the headgear was made and then hollowed out to create a lightweight yet strong metal grid on the reverse of the pieces. This lattice-like grid on the underside formed the piece’s strength and structural integrity.” Employing these technical and aesthetic concepts as the basis for his first fine jewelry collections, Griffiths started designing and hand-fabricating jewels featuring fully visible; 18-karat golden Crownwork® for everything from earrings to pendant necklaces, oversized yet lightweight link bracelets, wedding ring sets and even high jewelry glittering with important diamonds or colored gemstones. (Griffiths trademarked Crownwork® in 2014.)
Presenting a blossoming lemon yellow and Madeira citrine bracelet that wraps easily around the wrist, Griffiths explains, “While it has visual volume owing to the Crownwork® setting, this 18-karat gold jewel is in fact lightweight. The best jewels adorn with color, light and beautiful compositions while moving gracefully without weighing you down.” Jewelry is and always has been a form of color therapy for the wearer and for the world, Griffiths ventures. “During the holiday season’s events, friendly celebrations and marathon family gatherings,” he continues, “the way that jewels fit on the finger, weigh on the ears, roll on the wrist or drape around the neck can make an uplifting difference in how you look, move and feel. At its finest,” he continues, “Jewelry spreads positive energies and colors to all those who see it. We need pure energy, feel-good jewelry now more than ever, given the challenges that Covid-19 has brought into our lives.”
The citrine bracelet radiates sunny and rich gemstone colors that illuminate the wearer day and night. “It drapes around the wrist and is stabilized by the small but strong hinges between the pale yellow citrines,” Griffiths explains. “All elements move comfortably on the wrist as the wearer changes positions, and because the bracelet is articulated in an East-West pattern for ease of movement, it feels quite comfortable while also looking luxurious.” The art of Crownwork® also animates his classic 18-karat gold European gypsy, high domed Crownwork® band. “This makes for a great gift as it’s a signature piece that is stylistically and structurally strong, complementary to other jewels and perfect for everyday wear,” he suggests.
For those who prefer dramatic rings with party power, however, Griffiths offers a 46-carat, smoothly tumbled amethyst cocktail ring that rises high above the hand. The sumptuous color of this gemstone can be compared to purple silk velvet. According to Griffiths, “This ring is so carefully designed and the stone sits so far above the finger that if you make a fist with it, you never feel it.” Indeed, this perfect purple mountain of a ring is a design treasure with an arched back and a soothing streak of whimsy. “Since the time of the ancient Egyptians and Romans, amethyst has been highly prized and used for decorative and soothing purposes,” Griffiths notes. “It has long been thought to soothe irritability and reduce anxiety.” Amethyst is also intriguing, he continues, “Because like rock crystal, amethyst can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. Amethyst crystals are used in televisions, microphones, generators, and nanotechnology products.” While Griffiths can’t promise that his cocktail ring will electrify the wearer, he says with a smile, “This ring is a jumbo jewel that delivers a jolt of rich purple color.”
For those who prefer smaller purple pleasures, Griffiths offers amethyst earrings set in Crownwork® that hang from tapered ear wires. Each sizable stone is 12.5 carats, meaning that these jewels embody 25 carats of amethyst. Sitting regally underneath each ear lobe like glowing purple beacons, it’s easy to understand why the ancient Romans drank in the color of amethysts and found them so intoxicating that they wore amethyst jewels, drank out of amethyst goblets and sewed amethysts into their clothing. Other elegant ear jewels from Griffiths include the burnt-orange colored hessonite garnet earrings with frosted natural quartz. “Gemstones that glow in fiery colors like hessonite garnet are ideal for holiday wear,” Griffiths says. “Because these glowing garnets are combined with frosted quartz pendants, these earrings emit lots of light and a dreamy frosted vibe that is great all year-round, but especially during the holidays.”
Moving into the realm of bracelets, another holiday offering being made by Griffiths is his airy 18-karat gold Crownwork® bracelet, which features interlocking Crownwork® oval links and icy 2.7 mm diamonds twinkling on either end of the toggle. “This clasp is a carefully engineered element,” Griffiths says. “It just fits so that it never, ever slips out. I take great care to make it impossible for that toggle to disengage.” (While the bracelet comes in a standard eight inch-circumference fit, it can also be ordered in smaller wrist sizes.)
As for the four leaf clover Crownwork® necklace by Griffiths, this Renaissance-inspired design lays perfectly around the neck. “Historically, four leaf clovers are associated with good luck, faith, hope and love, especially in Ireland,” Griffiths notes. “I like Renaissance jewels with the four leaf clover motif that feature in many Renaissance portrait paintings.” While this golden design looks great by itself, one of the many colored sapphire, diamond, tourmaline, enamel or pearl and Crownwork® enhancers that Griffiths offers can add a perfect embellishment, as these beauties are designed to clip on and off with great ease. “Enhancers are often under-represented in jewelry collections, yet they are capable of making great impact by changing up a variety of looks with great colors, textures and flashes of brilliance,” Griffiths observes.
At the opposite end of the necklace spectrum, a handmade, 34-inch oxidized sterling silver necklace that gleams with a mountainous, 3.5-inch clear rock crystal orb set in 18-karat gold Crownwork®. Embodying the ultimate in pure elegance, this gender-neutral jewel can be shared among couples. “People love this necklace because looking at it makes them feel clear and light,” Griffith explains. “I wear one often, and I like to take it off and wrap the chain around my hand and chill out while holding the rock crystal between my fingers. As I mentioned, crystal can conduct electricity, and there is something so calming about holding on to smooth quartz. It makes you feel purified.” While he has customers who give his rock crystal orb necklaces to elderly parents for the sake of their serenity, Griffiths says that there are plenty of men and women who wear these to important meetings and family reunions for talismanic protection. As Griffiths says, “There’s a strong case to be made that this is the ideal holiday gift for jewelry lovers of all genders.” Besides making you look imperial, “this pendant on its 34-inch chain can also be used as martial arts jewelry,” he says with a laugh.
To glow while going with the holiday flow, Tahitian pearl necklaces subtly punctuated with 18-karat gold Crownwork® beads suit all genders, ensembles and situations. “Pearls suit every occasion,” Griffiths explains, “and there is something so timeless about them that makes them perfect for gifts and for holiday wear. Having worn pearls and promoted pearls for menswear ever since he started his fine jewelry collections, Griffiths loves the fact that pearls are now on the global style radar. “Everybody from pop stars like Harry Styles and pro baseball players such as Joc Pederson of the Atlanta Braves are popping up wearing pearls on the red carpet and on the baseball field. Pearls work for all ages, genders and life stages!” Made by a living creature, (an irritated oyster), the heavier the pearl, the longer it has been inside the oyster. “As pearls absorb body oil from being worn, they start to become more moisturized, and this is how pearls acquire their sheen. Never wear cologne or perfume on skin that comes into contact with your pearls,” he counsels, “as the chemicals within the formulae can damage the pearl’s nacre, its outer coating and sheen. You want your pearls to look beautiful and last a lifetime or more.”
Griffiths has managed to keep up a safe and busy trunk show schedule around the country despite Covid-19 restrictions. He will be presenting trunk shows and making personal appearances in November 2021 at such fine boutiques as: Brent Miller in Lancaster, PA., The Fine Jewelry Bar in Palm Desert, CA., Angela Boutique and at Danielle in San Francisco. During the month of December, Griffiths will be appearing at Frederic’s Fine Jewelers in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, as well as Trove, in Weston, MA. and Vincents Fine Jewelry in Pelham, New York.
Jewelry lovers in the New York metropolitan area can also arrange to meet with Griffiths in his atelier by appointment only for private consultations and custom design work. Known as a jewelry whisperer for this masterful restoration and re-fashioning of vintage pieces, Griffiths says modestly, “I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to create and restore magnificent jewels from many important eras in jewelry history. There’s no time like the present, though, and I love the way fine jewelry is assuming more importance in people’s everyday lives. I think that Covid-induced ZOOM and FaceTime work and leisure culture has made people appreciate the power of jewelry to lift moods and looks in a way they never did before.”