When Patterson Riley landed in London at the height of the Swinging Sixties, he had one singular goal in mind: to become a rock star. He never quite realized his dream, but he did end up etching his name in rock 'n' roll history, albeit in a roundabout way. In 1972, Patterson opened The Great Frog, a tiny jewelry store unlike any in the British capital had ever seen. The walls were black and ominous, the air was thick with smoke, and the pieces were handmade. What's more, these weird pieces of jewelry were made specifically for men.
A pioneer of rock and biker men's jewelry
“There was no such thing as men's jewelery back then,” says Reino Lehtonen-Riley, Patterson's son, who inherited the business from his parents in 2002. Ringo Starr's nickname was inspired by his ring which was not a wedding band. At the time, for people it was crazy. But Patterson's skull rings and heavy chains immediately struck a chord with musicians and their fans. The Great Frog quickly established itself as the jeweler of choice for generations of rock stars, from Motörhead and Iron Maiden to Iggy Pop, Metallica and Oasis.
Today, under Reino's careful guidance, every The Great Frog men's piece of jewelry is still designed and handcrafted. "We're an archaic company," laughs Reino. “My father taught me the trade and I really believe in it. It took a lot of work to acquire this know-how, and it is a skill that few people have anymore. These days, people can simply download an image from a website, 3D print it at home, and cast it. But this kind of jewel is totally devoid of soul. The stuff we make has an artisanal side to it that you can't replicate. »
A new The Great Frok store in SoHo (New York)
When designing the new Soho New York boutique of The Great Frog, the company's second Manhattan-based outlet, Reino made sure to incorporate a lot of those moving personal touches. " Everything I do should get better with time, like wine," he says. "I want everything to look good in 40 years when I pass it the store to my kids, I want it to age like an old leather jacket or good jeans."
To achieve this, they opted for custom cabinetry constructed from sustainably sourced solid wood. They are covered with an ebony lacquer which fades and wears over time. The silver handles and locks are handmade. They will tarnish like the wood that hosts them. “Our original London store is steeped in history and anecdotes, including when Lemmy and Ozzy Osbourne walked through its doors. We can't recreate that exact feeling in New York, but I want to be able to write a new story that can be told in the future. »
Now, New York motorcycle enthusiasts looking for biker jewelry or Johnny Halliday style bracelets have a new address to source their supplies.