Loree RodkinYou would think someone who knows A-list stars such as Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., Cher and Steven Tyler would be a little more disenchanted with all of Hollywood and its sparkle, and a little less approachable, but a chat with Loree Rodkin proved that wasn’t the case.

In fact, the former manager to the stars turned jewellery designer confessed that – like most of us – she’s a fan of Gossip Girl.  

“Don’t tell anyone, but I secretly want to be Blair Waldorf. And I am still on Season Three, so don’t tell me anything about the ending!” she jokes.

Loree Rodkin begun designing jewellery in 1989 when she was still managing Robert Downey Jr., who back then was battling his drug addiction. To keep herself awake late into the night, in case she had to settle any problems that he ran into, she started making jewellery.

“The very first ring I made myself was a diamond skull ring that eventually ended up with Steven Tyler,” she explained.

“He saw me wearing it, and then sucked it right off my finger! He then said, ‘Now I guess you’ll have to sell it to me right?’”

Rodkin’s list of celebrity fans read like a who’s who of legendary Hollywood icons. Her first client was none other than Elizabeth Taylor, but go further down the list and you’ll see names such as Madonna, Daphne Guinness and Elton John. However, the name that truly launched her career turned out to be someone completely unexpected: Michelle Obama.

The First Lady commissioned three pieces of jewellery – consisting of a 14-carat rose cut diamond ring, 60-carat diamond drop earrings and a set of diamond bracelets – which she wore during the 2009 inauguration ball, and which now sits in the Smithsonian Museum.

“At first [when the White House called me] I thought it was a joke! They told me not to tell anyone but after I hung up the phone I immediately called Cher and told her,” she laughs.

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We spoke to Loree Rodkin about her jewellery career, her celebrity fans that include Karl Lagerfeld and launching Brad Pitt into the limelight.

HWP: You shot to fame when Mrs Obama wore your jewellery to the inauguration ball in 2009. Tell us more about the jewellery you designed especially for her.
Loree Rodkin:
The ring was designed with the Oval Office in mind – in the shape of the White House. I also designed the diamond drop earrings because they gave me the length of her neck and I knew what the neckline of her dress would be, so I wanted them to accentuate her beautiful neck. As for the bracelets, I wanted them to sparkle when she moved her arms while she danced.

HWP: After the inauguration ball, you received plenty of orders for the exact same pieces. Did you remake them for anyone else?
LR:
Not at that time. I only took orders for similar pieces, not the exact ones, because I wanted them to be unique for Mrs Obama and the Smithsonian. I would do them now though.

HWP: Who are some of the celebrities you have designed for?
LR:
Steven Tyler who told me he wanted a belt that goes down his leg, so I custom made a chainmail belt with diamond charms hanging down it. I also design jewellery for Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

Loree Rodkin: I count Michelle Obama, Madonna and Cher my fans

HWP: If you had to pick one celebrity you were most excited to design for who would it be?
LR:
I don’t know if I can pick one, they are all inspirational to me. Cher is my closest friend, while Madonna went on the radio once and said that the only jewellery she wanted for her birthday was mine.

HWP: You started the armour rings trend that everyone was wearing for a period of time due to your bandage rings. How do you feel about that?
LR:
Daphne Guinness really made it popular when she was spotted wearing one on every finger. I actually made the ring for myself 15 years ago, but no one understood it [until Daphne Guinness]. I guess I’ll look back in history and be proud that no one else made such jewellery before I did.

HWP: And when people starting copying your designs en masse, how did that feel?
LR:
I don’t love that part of it [laughs]. It is something like Chanel, where they got knocked off by everyone. You know what’s funny though?  One day Karl [Lagerfeld] came to my studio and confessed to me that he didn’t know who made these rings but he liked them so much and because he couldn’t find them anywhere, he got his studio to make a rhinestone version of it.

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HWP:  You’ve met so many celebrities and worked with them. Was there a particular moment that stood out for you?
LR:
There was once that Catherine Zeta Jones was at a party wearing my jewellery. I didn’t know her personally but I tapped her on her shoulder and asked her, “Whose jewellery is that?”
She very arrogantly told me, “Loree Rodkin”, and turned her back on me.
I tapped her on her shoulder again and said, “Yeah I know, I am Loree Rodkin.”
She thought I was some fan admiring her jewellery [laughs]. I meet her quite often now during Christmas, and we always laugh about it.

HWP: I heard you helped get Brad Pitt into Thelma & Louise. Do you consider that your greatest achievement?
LR:
Well not really, having my jewellery in the Smithsonian is really my greatest achievement. Putting Brad in Thelma & Louise was just lucky, it was all about timing, in fact, he was actually our last choice for the movie.

HWP: Finally, any advice for young jewellery designers?
LR:
Follow your dreams! If you love it, others will too. The worst that can happen is that you fail. I started out making jewellery for myself and not anyone else but I was so lucky that I started at the top when the Getty family saw the ring I made and hired me to do Elizabeth Taylor’s jewellery, which she loved.  I never expected all of this to happen so jewellery designers should go out there and follow their dreams.