To say that John Ford is just a jeweler would be the understatement of the year. The Galveston based designer http://www.johnfordjewelers.com/ has been making an impact on the fine jewelry market for more than 30 years and become the leader in a sector that, in the past, was a no-mans land for Americans. While Tiffany's, Cartier, and other well known brands overlooked the rare black opal, Ford has used it to carve out a successful niche resulting in a place on the international stage and, most recently, the Academy Awards Red Carpet.
"I got tired of selling diamonds. So I thought about manufacturing something with my own design and with a little Texas flair," said Ford when asked how he got his start working with black opal.
While many companies sell the incredibly rare stone - a person can only mine quality black opal in the remote area of Lightning Ridge in the Australian outback - Ford saw potential in it that no one else had seen before.
"I loved the colors, the fire, the way each piece is different. It triggered my creativity. No one was working with black opal like I wanted to, so I saw a gap in the market. I made some pieces, submitted them to awards competitions, and began winning. Then people began contacting me for my designs."
The success of his early work prompted Ford to launch of Lightning Ridge Collection http://www.lightningridgecollection.com/, a line of pieces made with black opal and diamonds and manufactured exclusively in the Texas - Galveston and Houston to be exact.
Ford has even channeled his inner Indiana Jones and become a certified miner participating in the on-site operations that produce his stones.
In the last few years, Ford has risen to become arguably the finest black opal manufacturer in the world, so it should come as no surprise that Hollywood came knocking.
"Last year we sent in a piece, but didn't get worn. This year, we were asked to participate. I was a bit reluctant, but was assured that jewelry stylist Michael O'Connor was interested." A few weeks later, Ford's designs were included on Variety's list of Oscar brand to watch. "It was a thrilling feeling for a designer from Texas to be at the Oscars."
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Though more than a handful of Ford's pieces made it out to various pre-Oscar parties and events, the biggest moment came when Access Hollywood anchor and Red Carpet correspondent Shaun Robinson donned a Lightning Ridge piece during her live show.
"When styling celebrities for important awards they always want to see the most unique designs that showcase magnificently unusual jewels. I was thrilled to find the Lightning Ridge Collection by John Ford for the most important awards show in the world, The Oscars. John Ford's pieces are truly works of art that will create focus and glamour for the celebrities walking the red carpet," said stylist to the stars Michael O'Connor.
After three decades of past excellence, it looks like Ford is finally getting his present due. As for the future, plans are in place to bring Lightning Ridge Collection to a handful of yet to be named high end stores in the Houston metro area and Ford has plans to bring his pieces to retailers outside of Texas as well.
"Whether it is a special piece for a celebrity, or a pieces for a member of Texas elite, I just want people to see this work and fall in love with this stone like I did."