Acclaimed jeweler Loree Rodkin left hometown Chicago for Hollywood and got her big break when actress Elizabeth Taylor became her first client. Now she’s a celebrity favorite, but her ongoing mission is to help underprivileged children.
By Ondine Jean-Baptiste
I am a mad designer. I’ve designed homes, actors’ careers, jewelry, eyewear, handbags’ and fragrances. I think of myself as a painter in different mediums.
Baby baguette bondage ring
You are originally from Chicago; would you say your upbringing shaped you as a person?
I’m from Chicago, but I’m a New Yorker at heart—which is an oxymoron, because I live half the time in Los Angeles. I would say music shaped me as a person more than Chicago.
How did your interest in jewelry begin?
I’m a girl… we’re attracted to shiny, pretty things. My mother would give me jewelry for my birthday every year, and I didn’t think it was cool enough, so she gave me the gift of getting to design something for myself every year.
In advertently, Rod Stewart provided me the vehicle to pursue my passion. When I was in my 20s and designing his house, [for my birthday] he gave me a vintage ring from Cartier. It needed repair, and Cartier sent me to a workshop in Beverly Hills that they used. The man and woman who owned the workshop gave me the gift of allowing me to study in their workshop. Then Elizabeth Taylor became my first client, and the rest is history.
Where do you seek inspiration for your pieces?
My obsession with architecture is reflected in my jewelry. Cathedrals, rooflines, and nature are what I draw from.
Skull ID bracelet
Loree armour ombre ring
Proudest moment of your career thus far?
When the White House called me and asked if I’d like to design Mrs. Obama’s jewelry for the inauguration.
Michelle Obama wore your pieces to the inaugural ball in 2009. Did you see a significant shift in your career after designing for the former First Lady?
Designing for the First Lady certainly gave me global recognition. It was a secret handshake seal of approval, and I ended up designing jewelry for heads of countries after that.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My eighth-grade art teacher told me not to bother pursuing anything in the creative arts and that I had no talent. I love proving people wrong. I don’t understand the word NO.
Who is a Woman of Empowerment in your life (a woman who inspires you, who you look up to)?
Cher. She’s managed to succeed in three aspects of the creative arts: She’s been a singer, actress, and director (and my closest friend).
My mission is…to give back, to helping underprivileged children have a start in life. I try to focus my philanthropy towards providing shelter and food for at-risk children. Children need to feel safe and to have someone tell them they can be anything they want to be.