Jun 18 2012 2:36PM
Robert Procop: The Jewel Hunter
Robert Procop wasn’t even old enough to own a credit card when he entered the jewellery trade. Yet, in an illustrious three decade career, he has been commissioned by every serving American President since Ronald Reagan, had the honour of taking care of Her Majesty’s jewels as CEO and Managing Partner at British Crown Jeweller Garrard, and collaborated with global modern style icons like Angelina Jolie (including designing her engagement ring). Roli Gupta finds out more about the man, his incomparable jewels and his latest mission.
Diamond World News Service
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Robert Procop is founder of high jewellery atelier Robert Procop Exceptional Jewels, a remarkable jewellery designer, a renowned gemstone dealer and an astute businessman. These days though, a new and stimulating role keeps him absorbed. As a leading international authority on diamonds and gemstones, Robert was appointed the Editor-In Chief of Famous Diamonds, the definitive guide to the world’s most important diamonds and chronicle of the stories behind them. “For the first time the entire jewellery industry - people who have mined, cut, classified, bought and sold these extraordinary gemstones – are going to join and assist me in this international treasure hunt. There are jewellers from Rio Tinto and De Beers, experts from venerable auction houses Christies and Sotheby’s and legendary maisons like Cartier and industry bodies like the GIA and of course very important collectors participating,” elaborates Procop. The new edition of this seminal work promises to be a revelatory read highlighting the history and provenance of several as-yet undocumented rare diamonds.
More interesting stuff keeps Robert super-busy – three new collections - the American Glamour collection, the Parisian collection and the Queen of Diamonds collection are scheduled to launch in the next few months. Procop is also working with the GIA to develop new techniques in microscopic engraving on gemstones to trace their provenance. “This is something that has been done with diamonds for some years, but engraving on softer stones such as emeralds was unheard of – until now!“, he explains.
Then of course, there is also the stunning Style of Jolie collection. “The creative design process for this collection was most interesting. Angelina and I worked together to identify the most appropriate designs to communicate Angelina’s unique sense of style. She wanted something classic, timeless and intensely feminine. Angelina loves the idea of hidden messages and she spearheaded research into how messages have been communicated throughout history finally deciding on the distinctive tablet setting which has become a signature of the Style of Jolie collection.”
He adds animatedly, “Angelina and I had to ensure that the gemstones used were magnificent in all respects – their colour, character and quality. There is the entire colour spectrum from breathtakingly green Colombian emeralds and vivid coloured diamonds to rich citrines, broodingly dark spinels and ethereal green quartz. “
Several pieces from the collection have been debuted by Jolie herself on the red carpet. The collection launch was via discreet exhibitions with 100% of all profits benefiting children in need around the world via Angelina’s charitable foundation, the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict.Interestingly, the Style of Jolie collection happens to be just one amongst several charitable initiatives that deeply interest Robert. “In the 1980s I devoted time to helping the homeless, supporting and building future transitional shelters for women and children to start a new life. It gives me immense pleasure to see such artistic masterpieces and objects of such aesthetic beauty do so much good. The collection is still in its infancy, yet has already raised enough money to build and support a school in Afghanistan with several more valuable projects in the pipeline,” he says proudly.
Robert is an unabashed gemstone lover and gemstones fuel his imagination leading to the creation of some inimitable jewellery. “I am most inspired by the remarkable rocks that I have the privilege of working with - they have been millions of years in the making – true forces of nature – and it is for me to translate their raw beauty into polished jewellery masterpieces. To do them justice is my principal priority and dominates the creative design process. “says Robert, adding that, “Nothing quite beats the exhilaration of stumbling across a truly precious, exceptional jewel,” with a sparkle in his eye.
Robert also thrives on the challenges that dealing with such astonishing gemstones offers. “I have worked with many unique jewels, and the more valuable and precious the stone the more demanding the design process. For example, I recently mounted a rare 282 carat beryl catseye as a ring, and to make sure that the gem was displayed in all its glory was quite difficult.”
With such a long career in a notoriously tough and competitive field, Procop has some interesting memories to share. Sharing one fascinating incident he says, “Some learnings have such a profound effect in later life. I was sixteen and my boss at the jewellery loan store cautioned me against making displays look too neat, with the most important piece in the centre – he told me clients get deterred by jewels that look too expensive. Last year, his advice came back to me when I was setting out gemstones at a trade show – I had a rare pink diamond that I laid out in the back amongst some brown diamonds. A prominent retailer came round and thought he’d discovered it there – and there’s a good principle in that: everyone likes to feel that they’ve discovered treasure! It amuses me to think that he most probably thinks he got the better of me!”
Reminiscing about the past, Robert also admits that changes have been quite tremendous, both in the design and in the business side of jewellery. “There is now an increased focus and emphasis on bespoke jewellery and fine craftsmanship. Clients are more discerning laying equal importance on investment and aesthetics. I also think that within a few years, the ethical provenance of gemstones is going to become imperative, which is where my work with the GIA in microscopically engraving stones is important.“
Robert’s words of advice for aspiring designers come like a soothing salve – “Jewellery design is a challenging industry but there is always an appetite for exciting new talent. Stay true to yourself creatively, don’t compromise for the sake of a commission and – above all – work hard. You’ll have to knock on a lot of doors when you start out, but nothing beats seeing someone wear jewels from a collection that you have created – the fruits of your labour”
The designer also considers himself fortunate in more ways than one. Not only did his work in the jewellery industry help him finance his way through business management studies and courses at the GIA, he is also one of the lucky few to have a hobby as a career. His love for design extends beyond the realm of jewellery though, as he admits he would have been an architect, if not a jeweller. “I love outdoor landscaping, and tremendously enjoy creating exciting new spaces at my properties in the US and elsewhere.” Well, thank God it was the jewellery industry that got him first, for what was architecture’s loss has been the jewellery trade’s gain!