Skulls, spiders, bleeding hearts: for half a century the Great Frog has been the ace of spades when it comes to jewellery with serious bass
Paterson Riley was not thinking decades ahead or even months ahead when in 1972 he opened the Great Frog, a small alternative jewellers off London’s Carnaby Street. All the New Zealander wanted to do was make a quick buck, which is funny because hand-making jewellery isn’t the easiest route to that, particularly when you’re not a jeweller. But having acquired the shop in some hazy 1970s deal that was never entirely clear to the rest of his family, and realising that jewellery was what sold best there, jewellery is what he sold. “And if a customer asked, ‘Can you make me one like this?’ he said, ‘Yes,’” laughs his son, Reino Lehtonen-Riley, today. “He taught himself to make jewellery, because he needed the money. He never turned down a sale.”
Almost half a century later and Reino is running an international jewellery brand, best known for its handmade gothic designs in sterling silver or gold – grinning skull rings with hulking gemstones, ace of spades ear studs and dagger pendants. The Great Frog has been worn by Motörhead’s Lemmy and any number of heavy metal royalty you can think of, not to mention the Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Kate Moss, Alexa Chung and Jared Leto.