Fashion, Style

How to Become: a Jeweller

They’ve made rings for Metallica, Motorhead, Iron Maiden and Satan (we assumed the last one), now Reino Lehtonen-Riley, owner of iconic rock ‘n’ roll jewellers the Great Frog, is here to give you an overview of what they do and how you can do it.

How did you get into making jewellery?
My dad started this business in ‘72. It wasn’t a jewellery shop to begin with, it sold smoking paraphernalia and bongs. There were bits of jewellery he got in from Morocco that they flogged on Carnaby Street, but people would come back if it would break, so rather than give them their money back he wanted to learn how to fix it. He’d always been obsessed with having this skull ring from the Phantom comics, so he wanted to create one of those after he learned the skills of making jewellery, which was pretty much self-taught. Business went along, then I was born. My dad always said the only reason to have children is to have a cheap work force. From 10 I was on the jewellery bench, messing with bits of jewellery, wax, carving and drawing.

Describe your average day
It’s always different. You could come in one morning and you’ve got an email from someone wanting an engagement ring for a celebrity couple or another band who’s contacted wanting another piece or a collaboration like we’ve done with Iron Maiden. Now we’ve got the LA and New York stores we’ve got to keep in contact with them, so once it closes here in London, LA is awake. If I’m doing a work day on the bench I’ll be carving, designing and drawing. I’ll also do production on the polish machine, setting rings etc. Each day is never the same.


What’s the best part of your job?
Best part is having the freedom to create whatever I want and not having to answer to anybody. If I want to make a ring, I’ll just make it. I still get a kick out of it.

What’s the worst part?
You never switch off, you’re always doing the job. I go to LA and New York a lot, but now it’s for work to meet lawyers and accountants. With having American stores, you have to work evenings. Also the injuries, I’ve had my hand caught in the machines before and took off all the skin on my hand. A day doesn’t go by where you don’t stab yourself with something. It’s just a part of it.

Have you had any weird bespoke requests?
In terms of weird commissions, people have wanted rings from a picture of their cocks. There’s a lot of commemorative stuff, which is understandable because jewellery is a keepsake; something that means quite a bit to people. But unfortunately we don’t have the time in the day to do all of them. We’re quite a small company, there’s only about 20 of us worldwide.

What advice would you give to young people wanting to become jewellers?
Get some basic tools and start messing about with them. Draw as much as you can, too. If you want to get in to the stuff we do, like carved pieces, it’s really cheap and accessible. The tools that I use, I made myself, which cost about £40. A block of wax will cost £10. So for £50 you could start making stuff. If you want to learn wax carving it’s very easy to pick up, you just have to practice it.

Jared Leto is wearing a skull bracelet in the new Suicide Squad movie. Did you know that was happening?
I was in LA at the time and we’ve got a store in Melrose. The stylist for the film drove past and mentioned it to the creative people, and it’s my friend’s wife who actually does the art direction, but it was just a random stylist who drove past and saw the motorbike in the window and said they were looking for some cool biker style jewellery. They showed me all the original artwork before it even came out so it was pretty cool. A lot of it wasn’t approved because it was quite violent and deranged.

What other WTF moments have you had whilst working here?
Somebody told us that Lady Gaga just posted a picture of her wearing the Iron Maiden ring we did and I was like, wow, she has 15 million followers on Instagram. She didn’t @ us, which was annoying.
Also bumping into Lemmy randomly and him giving me a ride in his limo while we shared a Jack Daniel’s, that’s how the collaboration started for the latest Motorhead rings. He said the Warpig ring was too dangerous because he always put his hands in his pockets and it might have damaged his jeans.


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