In 1970, Judith Ripka cared for her one-year old son and made gold rings by hand. Now Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Oprah, Cindy Crawford, Tina Fey and Kate Hudson, to name just a few, chose to wear Ms. Ripka's jewelry. Her sitting room sofa has expanded to boutiques in 11 cities and over 100 retailers carry her line. Her company is presently valued in the mega-millions.
Judith told New York Times reporter Lorraine Kreahling in 1997 she had been accessorizing since childhood inspired by her mother and knew then she would become a designer of jewelry. From her mother's jewelry box, she added pendants to her belts, hung pins off of chains and transformed necklaces into belts.
From Buyer to Creator
She started in the business by buying jewelry for May's department store and learning metalwork and design techniques in a friend's watch case factory. In 1977, she began creating pieces to order. In 1982, she earned the De Beers, the billion-dollar gem award for Outstanding Jewelry Design. Her 1986 re-creation of a 104 piece pearl necklace into a two-piece necklace and choker is still a best seller. Her ideas have sprung from the shapes in her carpet, New York building facades, Greek mythology and sand stones from the Colorado Mountains.
Judith Ripka believes in the creation of jewelry with understated elegance to complement all of the roles in a woman's life. She selects stones and materials from across the world using the coins of Rome, glass from Venice and Germany and woods from the rosewood forests of Honduras and the cedar tress of Spain. Arkansas quartz comprised the year 97 for the inaugural pin designed for Hillary Clinton. The 97 was a detachable pendant from a gold cast of the Presidential seal with a profile of the newly elected President. Detachable parts are a hallmark of her designs and she believes at the heart of their popularity. Women are able to create different looks and wear the pieces formally and informally.
Jewelry design has been part of all cultures throughout history. Gold and silversmiths created Greek, Roman and European designs. Beads and later, around the 1100's, gems stones were added. To this day, the ancient method of lost wax casting is used. A wax model is made which is encased in a plaster or rubber covering. The encasement is heated and the wax melts leaving a mold into which the gold or silver is forced through centrifugal energy. Judith Ripka marshals the process from conception to final casting. She is known to require millimeter adjustments producing pieces priced from $400 to $300,000.