There aren't enough superlatives in the English language to describe the genius that is Scott Kay. Captivating charisma. Uncompromising passion. Unparalleled artisanship. He runs his business the way he runs his life – fearlessly.
If you have the privilege of stepping inside the fortress that houses Scott Kay's jewelry design center in Teaneck, you are in for a singular and scintillating experience.
Armed with an arsenal of talented and incredibly detail-oriented craftsmen who have been with him for years, Kay cuts across the jewelry industry, serving bridal, fashion, spiritual and religious, and ultra-progressive categories. Business execs, rock stars and fashionistas, not to mention budding brides to be, all love his creations.
A STAR IS BORN
Funny, but it all started with a lug nut picked up off the street. Kay could see the potential of that oddly shaped piece of metal. He could see how it might be transformed from something basically functional into something extraordinarily beautiful.
That lug nut would serve him well, for it would be his golden ticket to design school and his gateway into the land of jewelry artistry.
He approached Mel Strump, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, asking to be admitted into the jewelry program.
"Strump looked me in the face and said, 'If you will come to summer school, we'll see if you have any talent,'" Kay says, beaming.
The budding artist happily accepted the challenge and would go on to design a ring that took the top prize in the school that year.
When you meet him, you cannot help but be impressed by Kay's intensity and determination. He is unwavering in his views on the jewelry industry and never afraid to speak his mind in a very public way.
Scott Kay is cool. Heck, he designed the signature necklace for a special anniversary for Playboy. Hugh Hefner called him personally to ask him if he would create a commemorative necklace charm. Enough said.
Kay sees himself as a true Gemini – a walking contradiction in terms. He cannot be pigeonholed in any capacity. He is comfortable moving from fashionable to spiritual to ultra-progressive in his creations.
INSPIRED BY FAITH AND CHIVALRY
Scott Kay draws much of his inspiration from Judeo-Christian symbolism. He believes in the power of faith – of protecting the cross and of the Star of David. Those themes are evident in his artistry. Guardian angels, lions and Jesus, stars and crosses have a profound place in his designs.
Before the handshake, there was the forearm clasp. A gallant demonstration of trust and friendship, it was often used for rescue – to pull one up and to save lives. Kay has interpreted and integrated that symbol into The Guardian, a design element that can be found in bracelets, belt buckles and other pieces in his collections.
"My faith collection has very personal importance to me," Kay says. "I want people to have faith in each other. I have great respect for spirituality and religion and in the positive messages of faith conveyed through their symbols."
UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
Walk through the work rooms at Scott Kay and you cannot help but be bowled over by the incredible attention to detail. Every design is scrutinized to the nth degree until it is utterly perfect. From drawing to wax mold, from casting to fine tuning – Kay himself studies each and every piece until he is totally satisfied. Some designs work. Some don't. But each design is worked, reworked, finessed and reworked again until it meets the artistic standards of its creator. It is scrutinized under the microscope until it can pass the most rigorous inspection of quality craftsmanship.
"Jewelry is an art, not a commodity" Kay says. "Our pieces are not mass produced, but lovingly crafted until they have achieved a level of excellence that our customers expect of our brand."
As passionate as he is about his jewelry artistry, he is equally passionate about his employees. Kay knows everyone by name and also knows precisely what they contribute to the finished product. There is a special kinship that exists between the man on top and his team of craftsmen. Specializing in the delicate and the precise, each and every employee is committed to executing each design and to its creator's vision. They are a family that demonstrates a pride in their work that serves as an example for others to follow.
"You have to be an expert at what you do to be the leader in that category," Kay says. "I have nurtured a cadre of craftsmen and women who sustain my uncompromising approach to design."
VIRTUOSO OF VOWS
Scott Kay might best be known for his line of engagement and wedding rings, but that is just literally the tip of the "ice" berg. He is credited with bringing platinum back to the jewelry industry in the 1980s – defying the naysayers who said it couldn't be done.
One could get lost in the metallurgy of the jewelry business, but suffice it to say that Kay resurrected a dead metal and brought it back to its rightful place in the bridal industry.
But understand that it wasn't money that drove the artist to push for transformation. He truly believed platinum was THE precious metal of the marriage vow. It was the best of the best. His leadership and innovation raised the bar in the industry, and he never looked back.
Surprisingly, Scott Kay was the first brand to advertise bridal jewelry – hard to fathom in today's marketplace.
Not surprising is his passion for these symbols of love and commitment. Devoted to his wife, Regina, Kay crafted his own marriage proposal and delivered it with great pomp and circumstance.
"After my first date, I told my mother that I was going to marry him," Regina says. "Scott has always been full of emotion and a chivalrous soul, qualities that are exemplified in his work. He has enormous drive and raises the bar for me and pushes me to be my very best."
Kay admits to chasing what might seem to many as a fool's errand. A few years ago, the ring given to Marilyn Monroe by Joe DiMaggio went up for auction and Kay wanted it. He was willing to bid, and bid competitively, for something he thought was a true treasure.
DeBeers told him to back off, but Kay was undaunted. In fact, he embraced the competition.
"Backing down aren't words in my vocabulary," Kay says. "Anyone who knows me knows that."
In the end, the ring fetched a ridiculous price from a private bidder, but Kay had satisfaction that he didn't lose out to the biggest diamond distributor in the bridal industry.
The guy is charming to a fault. Why? Because he has passion – not only for his creations, but for the craftsmanship of the past. He is an old soul in love with all things beautiful and is humbly respectful of the artistry of the ancients. His life's quest has become collecting, and he makes no apologies for his idiosyncratic approach – not even to his wife, Regina, who serves as curator of his latest venture, SK66, his jewelry gallery.
Kay has created a wonderland for the senses with his SK66 – a truly one-of-a-kind shopping experience that is one part museum and another part grandiose display case. Romantics will easily get lost in this incredible space – a labor of love that represents his avid collecting for the past 20 years. Display cases from Tiffany and a Manhattan haberdashery peacefully coexist with medieval church doors, machine guns and even vintage freezers.
Best part of all of this is that you cannot only look, but touch!
SK66 is harmonious dissonance of art and craftsmanship. The space was designed by Regina, who shares his vision and manages to translate it into an interior design. Regina is the yin to his yang, the beauty to his beast who has been inspired to make SK66 such a marvel.
The splendor of the exceptional space cannot be appreciated in a single visit. Nor can it be fully understood without getting inside the mind of its creator. There is a stream of consciousness that flows through that amazing combination of art and business. More than a few of his favorite things punctuate and complement his jewelry creations.
For membership information for SK66, call (201) 530-5842.
OFF THE CUFF
Dig French cuffs? Well, a spin in the cuff links room at SK66 will blow your mind. Be you a banker, ad exec or rocker, there is something to dazzle the end of your sleeve. White shirts and black shirts alike will sparkle with any one pair of those statement links.
"Clothes may make the man," Kay says with a smile, "but links make a serious statement about confidence."