Ripka’s formal art education at Parsons School of Design was less of an influence than her family’s support and dedication to aesthetics. “My mother taught me to see the beauty in everything around us,” she says proudly. “My father taught me determination and always reinforced in me that I could do anything.”
That confidence and sense of beauty and style imbues Ripka’s designs with a bold and individualistic flair that is unmistakable. The scale is large, and the look is opulent: 18-karat gold, lavishly textured, paired with flamboyant, honeycomb-faceted colored stones like green tourmaline, aquamarine, citrine and amethyst, highlighted by sparkling white diamonds.
The richly colored and textured metalwork and imposing colored stones combine to make Ripka’s jewelry some of the most unrepentantly glamorous, statement-making jewelry around, yet it is not conceived or created strictly for the red carpet. “Luxury fine jewelry was, and often still is, consigned to a safe or relegated to the back of a drawer, only to be trotted out on special occasions. It is important to me to design jewelry that a woman can wear and enjoy every day,” Ripka says.
Ripka’s jewelry has evolved from simple to more opulent and complex designs. Most of her creations are “statement” pieces: large centre stones, highlighted by white diamonds or richly colored accent stones like pink or yellow sapphires, brown or black diamonds.
Ripka has had the thrill of seeing some of the most famous women in the world wearing her jewelry. “It’s wonderful to see a younger generation of Hollywood glamour girls donning my designs, such as Tina Fey, Kate Hudson, Naomi Watts, Cindy Crawford, Courtney Cox and Vanessa Hudgens,” she says. “They always put their own ‘spin’ on how to wear the jewelry. I remember feeling inspired after I saw Sarah Jessica Parker wearing my ‘Dew Drop’ necklace on Sex and the City. What I always thought of as a very classic piece suddenly looked fashion-forward and downtown chic.”
Yet she designs with every woman, not just stars, in mind. “I believe that a woman is never too young or too old to wear jewelry,” she says emphatically. “Adding jewelry to an outfit makes a woman feel like she shines.”
Another of Judith Ripka’s pieces symbolizes much more than the sum of its gold and gems: the 18-karat gold, diamond, ruby and sapphire brooch she designed for Hillary Rodham Clinton to wear to President Clinton’s inauguration in 1997. Based upon the Presidential Seal, it features a guardian angel protecting the White House. It is now in the Smithsonian Institute.
Ripka thinks it is appropriate that the now-historic jewel is on display in a museum. “I create wearable art,” she asserts.