Scott Kay was a kid without direction—the son of a father who walked out and an alcoholic mother he was trying to save. When he graduated high school, he said, he had no inspiration. No drive.
He was walking home from his catering job one day when he kicked a lug nut across a New York City street. He picked it up, stuck it on his pinky finger and, once home, filed it into a ring.
I love this, he thought.
He applied to the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology but was rejected. Undeterred, he hopped on a bus, walked into the school, and argued his way into the office of the man who signed his letter. He pulled out his ring.
“I can do this,” he pleaded. “I never really wanted to do anything.”
The school agreed to let him take two basic summer courses—jewelry and gemology—to judge his talent. After being accepted, his work drew so many job offers that he dropped out before graduating to start his career.
Now his namesake, New York-based company is almost 30 years old, and his jewelry—most notably his engagement and wedding rings—are celebrated nationwide. He has created pieces for the likes of Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow and more.
He still sketches every piece himself, he said. And he incorporates meaning into each—from a necklace depicting an angel whose cheek rests against the cross (“She’s protecting the ideology of what the cross stands for”), to a pitbull ring (“There’s an intent for me to inspire leadership”). Many of his engagement rings also include spiritual elements, as does the one he designed for his wife more than 25 years ago.
“He is a truly inspired designer,” said friend and Diamond Cellar owner Andy Johnson, who sells Kay’s products and occasionally flies him to the Columbus store to meet fans. “He’s always out on a ledge, but I love it.”
As for that first lug nut ring, Kay wore it daily until making it his final gift to his mother, whom he had helped until she healed. When she passed, he buried it with her.
“My most prized possession was that ring. That was the ring that got me into school. That was the ring that gave me self esteem,” Kay said. “When she passed… I took that ring off my finger and put it on her chest and put it beneath her hands.”