The Royal Jewellers S01 ep14 : Robert Bielka Jewellery [New York]
Interview with Robert Bielka
NEW YORK - Robert Bielka - The designer of the "ASPREY SUNFLOWER".
In 1973 my wife and I realised that to really get into fine jewellery New York was the place to be. and I got a job at Cartier. I have a book which shows the Cartier workshop from 1920, 1925 and it looked exactly the same, it hadn't changed in fifty years. I got lucky enough to sit right across from the two best jewellers in the shop, and so I was constantly watching. One guy called me the giraffe because I was always looking over.
KM - What is Bielka?
RB - Well I'm a jewellery designer and a jewellery manufacture. I happen to
be a certified master bench jeweller.
RB - I was studying engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle
and I wanted something that was more creative so I went into art at the
University and Philosophy and then I met a jeweller and that really opened my
KM - In Seattle?
RB - In Seattle and I realised that this is something that I really have an
affinity for. The preciousness of it, was very exciting.
KM - When you first walked into that work shop what were things you had to
do - what was your "karate kid' start in all this thing?
RB - I was pretty much on my own. He showed me what I... we were making
candle sticks out of cut nails and brass. This was the hippy days so he showed
me how to use the torch and you know it takes time. All these things take time.
KM - So you were soldering and banging and …...
RB - Yeah
RB - Well in 1973 my wife and I got together, we realised that to really get
into fine jewellery New York was the place to be. Right away what I did was I
got a job in Tiffany's right from the Hotel room and so I went to work in the
work shop and it wasn't what I expected. It wasn't what I had been used to in
Seattle. I had been working at some trade shops in Seattle before. The
problem with the whole shop was that one man, the setter, was allowed to play
his country music out loud for the whole shop to listen to, and this did not
appeal to me. And so, I told my wife 'I really can't do this, this is not the kind
of scene for me'.
KM - How long were you with Tiffany?
RB - Three days.
RB - Finally I got a job at Cartier
KM - Oh really?
RB - At five dollars an hour and the work shop was incredible, because I
have a book from - it shows the Cartier workshop from 1920, 1925.
KM - Here in New York?
RB - Yes, the same workshop, if you were to see the picture and look at it, it
looks exactly the same, it hadn't changed in all those years. Fifty years, but we
were making some fantastic pieces, I mean incredible. And I got lucky enough
to sit right across from the two best jewellers in the shop, and so I was
constantly watching. One guy called me the giraffe because I was always
looking over and I learnt a ton there.
KM - What sort of stuff were they doing back in those days?
RB - I was doing a lot of really fancy repair work on things.
KM - This is on big pieces, on big suites
RB - Oh yes, big 25 carat D Flawless Diamonds and things and I was really a
novice but I really learnt a lot and I learnt fast.
KM - How long were you there for?
RB - Well we started there in 1975 and then we started our own business in
RB - You see once we started our business we became very successful, we
went to Mikimoto, to Van Cleef, we worked for Tiffany some. An independent
kind of contracting and special order work. We made some fabulous special
order pieces for those people - very important thing.
KM - Where do you see yourself in the world of jewellery.
RB - Well I designed a little Teddy Bear where all the parts move, the arms,
the legs, the head and it is all detailed, even the back: little tail and it is all
rubies and diamonds and even in the paws there are rubies, in the nose.
RB - I am the originator of the Asprey Sun Flowers.
KM - When did you do that?
RB - That was back in 1991 we first started making those.
KM - Oh you’re kidding
RB - No
KM - So are you related to the Asprey's?
RB - No, not more.
KM - What do you mean you are the originator?
RB - Well they had a customer in Boston who wanted sunflower earrings and
I was doing a lot of special order work for them and they came to me and said
make us a pair of earrings for her in sunflowers. And so we made a small pair,
and she loved those, and she wanted them larger and we made a larger pair
and they decided to stock those in the store. And they became the best selling
jewellery item they ever had, just those two pair of earrings.
KM - What is that?
RB - This is what we call the Pineapple broach because these resemble
pineapples here, and it has a flower in the centre, all the details are hand
engraved: little tiny diamonds around, and these unscrew.
KM - Oh I see
RB - And you can change the colour of the beads
KM - What are the beads made out of?
RB - This is amethyst and turquoise but we also use pearls and lapis but you
can use anything you like.
KM - There is no real limitation for you.
RB - No you see if I can conceive of it, then I can figure out a way to do it.
KM - If you were going to have to start one day looking at yourself as a brand
what are you going to brand? Teddy Bear?
RB - The Teddy Bears and the flowers I think.
KM - That's the thing?
RB - Yeah
KM - Won't you get sick of doing Teddy Bears and Flowers?
RB - No, how could you get sick of Teddy Bears and Flowers ?
KM - Well you know, you can get sick of things you know. It’s how it is.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Robert Bielka Jewellery ,New York,