Judith Ripka: A Brief History
Many of us struggle to know what we want to be when we ‘grow up’-- even when we’re well past our college years.
Meanwhile, others are born with a deep-rooted sense of destiny and purpose entwined within their very DNA. One such example is Judith Ripka: mother, entrepreneur, and crafter of fine jewelry.
Judith Ripka Companies have provided their customers with immaculate first-class jewelry for over forty years, with each piece carrying The Queen of Hearts’ signature design elements. According to Ripka, “It’s about striking the balance between the elegance of a classic woman with the fashion sense of today’s modern woman”.
Inspiration in Memories
Ripka’s vision of fashion design began as a young girl rifling through her mother’s jewelry box. There she would find inspiration in various bits and bobs with which to accessorize. Little did she realize this spark of inspiration would ignite a flame that would carry on well into adulthood. Before she knew it, Ripka began finding new and innovative ways to wear old jewelry. Her mother, a couturier who worked in Europe before immigrating to the US, was a role model and an inspiration in her own right.
Speaking fondly of her mother, Ripka once told HuffPost in an interview:
“She taught me to see the beauty in all the little things in the world around us. Each piece of jewelry I design is an expression of that beauty as shared through the eyes of my mother.”
Ripka wouldn’t let anything come between her and her dream. She first began her brand as a single mother in her 20s, furiously piecing together what she could between family, classes, and a day job as an assistant jewelry buyer for The May Department Stores Company. Her first creations were for friends, then she started garnering clients.
Taking the plunge into the competitive world of commercial jewelry, Ripka launched her first 18k gold collection in 1977.
The Importance of Mentorship
Officially recognized as one of "The Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World," Ripka is often looked up to and asked for advice by others. As she was growing her brand, she too asked for her fair share of advice, knowing that there was value in being humble enough to ask for help from those who had paved the way before the path that lay at her feet.
In addition to her connections at the May Department Stores Company (and eventually Bergdorf Goodman), Ripka also found a jewelry maker to personally mentor her between her tight schedule. She refused to quit no matter how difficult things became, and was steadfastly determined to fulfill her dream and take care of her three boys.
Being an entrepreneur in any field, let alone a woman, can be a difficult task. At the time, Ripka represented a growing class of leading women ready and eager to smash through the proverbial glass ceiling. Having obtained great success, she now wants to help other women forge their own paths. Breaking barriers and making the best decision for a business is never easy, but Ripka finds the reward in seeing her designs on clients, from the average worker to the highest-honored woman in the country.
A Dream Coming True
From humble beginnings selling jewelry in her living room, Ripka’s early success prompted her to open her first brick-and-mortar store in Manhasset, New York. She would eventually go on to run a New York Times ad that read: “Give your pearls a little culture. Simply bring in your pearls and see them transformed into a beautiful new necklace.”
Thus began her first well-renowned PN line. “I still get requests for the PN,” Ripka explained in a 2017 interview with Jupiter Magazine. The simple acronym stood for “Pearl Necklace.”
The rest is history, and Ripka is continuing to make just that-- history.
A Vision Honored
Ripka’s clientele are not the only ones to notice her beautiful designs and her hard work. Ripka was the first female entrepreneur to feature her jewelry on QVC, and she has received many accolades and honors during her career. She was inducted into the hall of fame for American fashion designers, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). In 2017, she was awarded the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Pioneer Award at the UN. She is a recipient of the prestigious DeBeer’s Award for Outstanding Jewelry Design and has even designed jewelry for the First Lady of the United States.
Ripka’s jewelry has graced the features of many well-known public figures; Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, and more.
Finding The Balance
Early on in her career, back when she was a single mother of three young boys, Ripka began one of the more difficult journeys a woman can face: becoming a single working mother-- and an entrepreneur, at that. Finding a stable work/life balance is a difficult task without adding in the pressures of building your own business.
She knew from the beginning that family would always take priority. As worked, every morning began with breakfast for her boys in their Long Island home. After they were on the bus to school, it was off to the City (New York City, that is) to make more spectacular pieces. She would be home in time to greet the boys and cook dinner, and then she would burn the midnight oil working on new designs.
She knew it wouldn’t be easy, but she believes in the power of pressing on. And press on she has-- with Judith Ripka Jewelry becoming one of the more recognized brands in fashion.