BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Just back from Bangkok with rare ocean jaspers, mint green amazonites, translucent kyanites, her favorite moonstones, and other bold stones, Lisa Coolidge Roberts recently previewed her new collection of dazzling collars, necklaces, earrings, and rings of her own design for Classic Chicago.
The former model and current mother of four hunts for gems à la Indiana Jones in far-flung locations across the globe, creating finished products that transition from blue jeans to ball gowns. Husband of three years, William Roberts, a third generation gemstone dealer, sometimes joins her on these gemstone adventures—the Nick and Nora of the jewelry world.
“I took a break from design to concentrate on the joy of putting our families together. Now I am enjoying creating a new line and loving the chance to work and travel with William. He goes all over the world to find beautiful stones, including sapphires, rubies, and emeralds that sell in Paris. His late father worked mainly in the rough stone trade with gemstones direct from the mines. William changed the business to finished stones.
“When we were in Asia, he showed me a marvelous sapphire from Burma that had been sitting in the company’s safe for 20 or 30 years. He generously said I could use it.
“It is fascinating to learn more about the gemstone business. In Tucson, I observed him participating in a four-day negotiation for a 29.11 cushion-cut sapphire. It was like a dance—a test of nerves. It is one of the last businesses based on a gentleman’s agreement, and both sides are usually quite happy with the results.”
Her latest creations, numbering around 20, will be featured in a dedicated trunk show at Neapolitan in Winnetka April 6 to 8.
How did you design the pieces for your new collection?
I am a very visual person, and I spent 10 days in Bangkok in the fall laying out all the stones, which we had purchased at the Hong Kong gem sale on a large table. I let the stones inspire me and I moved them around on the table. The stones have a real energy. After I have placed them, then I draw the settings. Many of the stones are set in gold. My thinking for this collection is totally new.
Moonstones are constants in your creations. Do they have a special meaning?
They are beautiful and give a feeling of joy and well-being when you wear them. Moonstones are sometimes referred to as the goddess stone and resonate with female self-empowerment.
What is the effect for the wearer that you aim to achieve?
I want the pieces to have a weight to them and for them to feel good on your skin. They should absolutely be enjoyed and be like a part of your body.
Wear them with jeans during the day then change into a cocktail dress later—they take on a new character as needed. I feel that my pieces complement a woman’s coloring and features. They transcend matching—they can be worn with everything!
If a person could choose only one piece of jewelry to purchase what would you advise?
I would probably choose earrings. It is very personal, what we wear at our face. It is the piece of jewelry that we associate with our face and identity—we like to pick it for ourselves.
A necklace would be my other choice, as it is still in our head field of view and wrapped up in our face and identity space.
How did you get started?
As a child, I polished rocks with my granddad, who was a geologist. I remember being tiny, and my grandmother in Key Biscayne asking me to choose the cocktail ring she would wear for the evening. They were always so beautiful and colorful.
I began my jewelry design by stringing necklaces using different types of quartz, some in white and green. Then I worked with gemstones like blue topaz, tourmalines in a variety of colors, and moonstones. Then, in 2004, my mom, Connie Coolidge, asked me to make one for her—she modeled it beautifully. I found myself doing more and more trunk shows after that.
Does your artistry expand into other areas?
I love color, which hopefully comes across in my jewelry design. I doodle sometimes and love taking color photographs.
In addition to the energy that comes from the stones you work with, how do you keep your great energy level?
I do yoga all the time. I think with yoga you can feel the energy through your body.
Close ties with her parents, Connie and David Coolidge, are essential as well, with outings with her children a revitalizing part of her life: “I cut short our work time in Bangkok to attend a sorority event with my daughter back home—great to be in the same sorority!”
Discerning women of all ages love their jewelry by Lisa Coolidge Roberts, and all the energy and beauty inherent in each piece. Most from hard-to-find places and increasingly rare, these gemstone creations so beautifully express Lisa’s eye for beauty, sense of adventure, and love of life.