Do you appreciate eco-friendly jewelry with a lovely, organic feel? You should know about the dynamic design of Aroc Urtu (as in “a rock ‘er two”). Lauren Bergman has an impressive design background, working for handbag fashion titan Judith Leiber, and legendary haute jeweler Harry Winston. She is joined by her niece Sarah Lederman, who provides a fresh perspective of trends and fashion that balance Lauren’s classical experience perfectly.
*Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Aroc Urtu has arranged for an amazing 20% discount on any orders from their site now through March 1st, 2012, using code vday2012.*
The Jewelry of Aroc Urtu
The jewelry of Aroc Urtu sits close to the body, warms to the touch, and patinas with wear and time. In short, this is jewelry that feels as good as it looks. It also has a conscience: all of their metals are recycled, diamonds and gemstones are from non-conflict sources, and all pieces are manufactured in New York City versus overseas.
Aroc Urtu has a few different collections, each with their own unique feel and energy. Their Beach Stone jewelry collection is perhaps most evocative of their signature style. Beach stones in soothing colors, polished naturally smooth by countless years in the water and sand, were washed up on shore to be discovered by the designers personally. This, and the contrast of the sharply faceted precious stones set seamlessly into them, define their style perfectly. Recycled gold and silver add a touch of responsible shine to the designs.
Flora and Fauna riff on other themes from nature: twigs and branches, feathers, cute little bunnies, serpentine snakes. Everything is textural, almost as if it’s been cast from the real thing (though in the case of the rabbit, not!). Mezcla, intriguingly named, consists of interesting outlines and cuts of gemstones, not perfectly symmetrical, set softly into sterling silver and 14kt gold.
Their most recent design foray delves into the engagement ring category. Aptly named “I DO“, it’s a collection for those looking for something other than a traditional prong-set round brilliant diamond. Softly hued natural diamond slices or rose cuts are bezel set into silver, rose and yellow gold settings. Simple pave eternity bands pair with the organic shapes beautifully, and even sparkle through the diamond slices. Also in the collection are necklaces, bracelets and earrings for wearing or presenting for the big wedding day, all with a very natural aesthetic.
The Aroc Urtu Interview
idazzle: What was the inspiration and impetus of your new “I Do” collection?
Aroc Urtu: There aren’t many jewelers in the market right now catering to brides who are looking for earthier more organic pieces on their big day. We’re trying to fill that void with Aroc Urtu I DO, which focuses on unique, one of a kind gems like diamond slices, rough diamonds and rosecuts set in anything from engagement rings and wedding bands to bridesmaids gifts and symbolic jewels.
I love the juxtaposition of the smooth, organic beach stones with the perfectly-faceted diamonds and gemstone accents you incorporate. How hard is it to set the gemstones into the rocks?
Lauren: I started out experimenting with my flex-shaft – the jeweler’s motorized hand piece that is virtually identical to the dentist’s drill. While this worked, it was very slow with the denser stones and used up expensive diamond bits at an alarming rate and was also really bad for the motor. So then I graduated to a table-top drill press which survived for about three months. Now I have a three and a half foot tall Black and Decker drill press in my living room. I’ve learned how to use it very precisely as the diamonds have to fit perfectly in the holes.
Wow, you do that yourself!!? It’s even more impressive than I thought! What was the original inspiration of setting the faceted stones into the smooth beach stones?
We’ve both been collectors of stones and shells for years. To us, the untreated beach stones we’ve been finding on beaches around the world are equally as beautiful as fine gemstones that are cut and polished by stonecutters. It seemed only natural to combine the two to achieve that perfect balance of sparkly and earthy.
Of all the interesting materials you work with–beach stones, shells, geodes, gemstone slices–what is your favorite and why?
Lauren: Working as senior designer at several world-renowned jewelry houses, I’ve had the opportunity to create pieces for some of the world’s most rare and most valuable gemstones. Beautiful beyond words, it is always a thrill to work with these magnificent stones. Yet since my childhood I’ve been captivated and a bit obsessed with the beauty of stones I’ve gathered on beaches, rivers, etc. The idea of somehow creating pieces that incorporated the beauty of both was percolating in the back of my mind for many years. The beauty of the simple and imperfect combined with the beauty of the rarified. The basis of Aroc Urtu is that extreme beauty resides in both. I found a blue and white striated stone on the beach on a recent trip to Costa Rica, and for about a week that was my favorite stone EVER. Then last week one of my stone dealers showed me some natural, tumbled seafoam green emeralds that today are my favorites. And don’t get me started on baroque pearls! They’re next in line to be favorite.
Your pieces sit so low and comfortable to the body. Do you think that jewelry design is moving towards ergonomic versus traditional prongs?
Lauren: Personally we prefer a ring that has the stones sitting as low to the finger as possible. Some stones are cut deep (height from the bottom, or culet, of the stone to the top, or table). Sapphires, for example, often require a deep bottom to maximize color intensity. In these instances the stone dictates how low it can be. But often times stones, particularly diamonds, are set way up high as a way to basically show them off. Not our taste. Even with faceted gemstones we keep them as low as possible, whether it is bezel or prong set, for a more understated look. One of the things we love so much about slices is that they have a flat bottom and can sit right on the finger.
A signature of many of your pieces are the beach stones, many of which you source yourselves on travels. With all the press recently, any danger that you will run out of stones?
Sarah: It’s funny because there was a time that we were definitely worried about that. Luckily, there’s no shortage of beach stones on the beach in front of our family home in Bridgehampton. Sometimes we send the boys out during high tide with shovels to scoop bunches of them up into buckets. We’re also lucky enough to have great friends who are kind enough to bring back stones from their travels around the world. It’s the best way to have variety!
You are committed to responsible manufacturing: recycled metals, zero environmental impact with your beach stones, even your packaging is hemp! Has this been more difficult than traditional manufacturing?
Lauren: When we started out two years ago vendors would look at us like we were speaking martian when we’d ask if they used recycled metals. Now, while still the exception, it is much easier to find jewelers, casters, etc. who are working from the perspective of environmental responsibility. Awareness of conflict diamonds and rubies from Burma that were supporting the oppressive government has increased tremendously as has our own government’s vigilance over the importation of these “dirty stones”. And while, yes, it is easier to work in ways that harm the Earth less, being aware of our roles as caretakers of this miraculous planet we live on requires constant effort. While Sarah and I see many of our fellow designers moving production overseas to keep expenses down, we have chosen to keep everything here in NYC where we can be more vigilant. We also believe in and support the talent of our local jewelers who are watching jobs go overseas at an ever increasing rate.
How would someone go about custom designing a piece of Aroc Urtu jewelry?
We try to accommodate all custom requests as long as they’re in line with the vibe of the brand. We’ll always stay true to using only Kimberly certified diamonds, non-Burmese rubies, and recycled metals. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and Lauren@arocurtu.com if you have an inquiry and we’ll be happy to discuss any custom requests you may have!
What’s the most interesting custom design request that you have received?
One of our favorite custom orders was for a client who wanted some fabulous earrings to wear to her sister’s wedding. They had to be earthy to go with her personal style, yet elegant enough to make a statement at the over-the-top black tie event. We created a pair of chandelier earrings that had approximately 20 carats of autumn colored sliced diamonds and almost two carats of rose cut white diamonds. Needless to say, they were a big hit.
They sound fabulous! Where can readers find your designs?
For one, on our website www.arocurtu.com. We’re also carried in select specialty boutiques like Thistle & Clover in Brooklyn, Albertine in the West Village, and The Styleliner – a unique mobile shopping experience! Be sure to check the stockists page of our website for updates!
What’s next for Aroc Urtu?
Lauren: Sarah and I couldn’t be more excited about our two upcoming collections. For summer we’re launching our Sea, Sand, and Sky collection that will incorporate Thai Gold, seafoam emeralds, and water blue sapphires. And for fall we’ve become obsessed with baroque pearls (I told you not to get me started), sliced rubies and emeralds with pave diamonds. We can’t wait to show you!
Where and How to Find Aroc Urtu Jewelry
If you would like to purchase Aroc Urtu’s designs, visit their website at www.arocurtu.com, or to visit a store that carries their designs you can find a location here. As a special Valentine’s Day, you can take 20% off of any jewelry on their site, Feb 1st through March 1st, 2012, using code vday2012 at check out. It’s an amazing opportunity to own a piece of wearable art at a justifiable price!