BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. —Robert Procop has become known to most people as the jewelry design partner of Angelina Jolie. The two are creating high jewelry pieces using statement gemstones under the Style of Jolie brand. It’s a charitable undertaking where all proceeds from the sales are used to build schools for girls in impoverished countries through the Education Partnerships for Children of Conflicts, co-founded by Jolie.
However, Procop’s involvement in the upper tiers of the jewelry and gemstone industry runs a course that has immense depth and breadth. He currently owns and operates, Robert Procop Exceptional Jewels, where he sells his own jewelry creations, and buys and sells statement gemstones in a confidential and secure environment to well-heeled buyers. Before this venture, he was the CEO of the famed jewelry house, Asprey & Garrard, where he led the organization through a difficult period by returning it into the two separate entities they originally were. He then led Garrard for a while. The remarkable thing about this is he had no prior experience running a luxury jewelry house. He has also owned retail stores on Rodeo Drive.
|Robert Procop 63.27-ct. cushion blue sapphire ring|
But his true skill is being one of the best and most knowledgeable diamond and gemstone dealers in the world. It is something he has done successfully since he was a teenager and is the foundation of his long and varied career as a business leader, retailer, wholesaler and jewelry designer. His contacts range from the workers in remote mines in countries like Colombia and Sri Lanka, to the leaders of haute joaillerie houses in Paris and London. His ultimate skill is buying superb, statement gemstones at less than what it costs to mine them. It’s the result of his network that he is able to discover sources of great “material,” buy it when the price is right and then resell the items as an investment.
“I only buy for value,” he said in the Beverly Hills showroom and studio. “I never buy something where I’m going to make a design. I buy it if I could make an offer competitively and it can be sold in the trade.”
This means he doesn’t get involved with auctions or other competitive bidding situations. He also tends to avoid white diamonds, turning instead toward rarer and more valuable fancy colored diamonds.
|Robert Procop Exceptional Jewels Long Emerald Earrings|
He says he only deals with gemstones that haven’t undergone heat-treatment or has had very little treatment. Almost all gems these days undergo some kind of heat treatment, which enhances clarity and color. Large, recently mined gems with the most sought after colors (“pigeon-blood” rubies; luminous emeralds; deep, rich blue sapphires) are rare enough. Being able to purchase them without heat enhancements is even more difficult. But Procop says these stones exist if you know where to look.
“It’s just buying them at the right price,” he said. “Since I need to sell them to the wholesale trade and there are customers looking for an investment, you have to buy below the market. So they know you are buying at a competitive market price.”
View pieces from the Style of Jolie Collection.
His knowledge of gemstones and diamonds is so great and he is so respected, that he has become the editor-in-chief for the next edition of Famous Diamonds, considered by many to be the world’s most important book about diamonds. It was first published by Lord Ian Balfour, a noted diamond historian and a longtime employee of diamond mining giant, De Beers.
Procop, who refers to the book as “the bible,” explains that after five editions, Balfour, in his late 80s, can’t continue updating the coffee-table-sized tome—with its lush images and vibrant stories about the world’s most famous diamonds. Balfour personally chose Procop.
“I had been honored by Ian Balfour to pass on his legacy,” Procop said. “(Balfour) is very good at finding these romantic stories. He always says the diamond business is not only full of trading but full of everything from emperors to smugglers.”
With his expertise in colored diamonds, Procop said he will update the book with some of the rarest colored diamonds in the world and will provide explanations of how diamonds get their unusual colors.
“Pumpkin orange, unusual greens … diamonds that come from the Argyle mine (in Australia, famous for its pink diamonds) that are a deep violet, then they get brighter blue,” he said. “We’re going to try to come up with a rainbow of colors because people have never seen some of these.”
Procop’s studio and workshop is well organized and immaculately clean. Walls are painted white and a row of windows fills the room with light. It’s here where his small staff designs jewelry based on his sketches and specifications that are then sent to master craftsmen to build. It is also where his customers can come to look at his jewelry creations and gems. His clients, which he never reveals, include every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan, other notable politicians and, considering its location, the best known and most powerful names in Hollywood.
On this day several Style of Jolie pieces, including an emerald necklace, bracelet and ring set in rose gold (his metal and color preference) were among the jewelry pieces on a white table. All of the emeralds are cut in the tablet shape (which resembles a cushion cut) created by Jolie and Procop, and a signature part of the Style of Jolie collection. Procop said Jolie wanted something with an historical message. She spent a great deal of time studying how a tablet is held and together they designed the shape.
As mentioned before the idea behind the jewelry is to build girls schools in impoverished areas. The business model is rather simple. They design the jewelry together. She wears the pieces. Then they are sold.
Procop pointed to the ring. “This is a 27-carat emerald,” he said. “When the stone is sold we give the money to the charity and then we build another school.”
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