When Patterson Riley landed in London at the height of the Swinging Sixties, he had a singular goal in mind: become a rock star. He never quite made that dream a reality, but he still wound up etching his name permanently into the annals of rock ’n’ roll history. In 1972, Patterson opened The Great Frog, a tiny jewelry store unlike anything anyone in the British capital had ever seen. The walls were black and ominous, the air was thick with smoke, and the wares were handmade, freaky, and specifically designed for men.
“At the time, men’s jewelry didn’t exist,” says Reino Lehtonen-Riley, Patterson’s son, who inherited the business from his parents in 2002. “Ringo Starr got his name because he wore a ring that wasn’t a wedding ring, and that was crazy to people.” But Patterson’s gleaming skull rings and heavyweight chains immediately struck a chord among musicians and their followers, and The Great Frog quickly earned a reputation as the jeweler of choice for generations of rock royalty—from Motörhead and Iron Maiden to Iggy Pop and Oasis.
Today, under Reino’s careful direction, every Great Frog piece is still designed and made by hand. “We’re an antiquated business,” Reino says with a laugh. “My dad taught me the craft, and I really believe in it. It’s a hard-learned skill, and it’s a skill that not a lot of people have anymore. Nowadays, people can just download an image from a website, 3D print it out at home, and cast it up—but it just doesn’t have a soul. The stuff we make, there’s a handmade-ness to it that you can’t replicate.”
When devising The Great Frog’s new SoHo shop—the company’s second New York location—Reino made sure to incorporate plenty of those soulful touches. “Everything that I do, I want it to wear in well,” he says. “I want it to look good in 40 years when I pass it on to my children, I want it to break in like an old leather jacket or a good pair of jeans.” To achieve that, they opted for custom cabinetry built from solid, sustainably-sourced woods, covered in an ebony lacquer that will fade and wear away in time, and outfitted with handmade silver handles and locks that’ll burnish alongside them. “There’s this incredible history in our original London store, with Lemmy and Ozzy Osbourne walking through those doors. We can’t recreate that exact feeling in New York, but I want to be able to create a new antique for the future.”
For the latest episode of #ShopTalk on the @GQRecommends Instagram, we asked Michael Dagger—The Great Frog’s head of North American sales—to take us on a tour of the legendary brand’s new SoHo digs. Head to our Instagram stories to watch the full episode now, or scroll on down to shop Dagger and Reino’s favorite pieces in the store.