A Handful of Emeralds 6

The Start to an Unusual Finish of Leather Jewelry Cuffs

A young man with little direction was once handed a handful of emeralds!

Robert Palazzolo of Dana Point is that young man and is now all grown up with a successful, unique jewelry business. It all started in his early 20’s, and the time was the early 90’s when a friend of his introduced him to her family who imported Emeralds from Bogota, Columbia. They liked Robert and took a chance, so they dropped $25,000 worth of emeralds in his hands and said: “Go sell them.” As he recalled the story, he said his hands shook so hard that he was afraid he was going to drop them. He knew nothing about emeralds, so he took it upon himself to learn everything he could learn about them before trying to sell them. And learn he did: he knew more about Emeralds than what they taught at G.I.A. and what jewelers even knew.

As time went on, he realized that the value was more in the jewelry around the stone than the actual stone, and this realization stirred in the back of his mind as time went on. One day at the OC Fairgrounds, he saw a lady in her 90’s wire-wrapping stones and making earrings and necklaces as a demonstration. She had a little jewelry making book that she was selling for $5. Remembering the concept of the value being in the jewelry, he decided to buy it and started wrapping stones and selling them at a little shop in Laguna Beach. Each piece was one of a kind and took hours to produce, so growth was very slow.

Around 2007, Palazzolo was looking at Swaortsky crystals and wondered what he could make that would not be gaudy, since crystals are not precious stones, and they are big. One night, in a dream, a vision came to him of a leather rock-and-roll style cuff. He woke up and found anything he could cut up, and came up with a way to float the crystal in the leather cuff using his knowledge of wire-wrapping. Voila! The cuff was born!

He introduced the cuffs where he was selling his jewelry in Laguna Beach. They were a hit. The cuffs were such a huge success that they eventually overshadowed his wire-wrapped jewelry, which he ended up phasing out. With his newfound passion for leather cuffs, he ventured out to little boutiques in Orange County, which is when he found Avenue Accents in San Clemente. Little did he know that this store would be the place where he would meet his first jewelry rep who would get his cuffs into stores across the country.

After years of growth and success, his cuffs have evolved into what they are today: rustic but elegant, feminine but strong, and all around cool pieces. Being fascinated with how he started the cuffs, I wanted to know more about how he comes up with the designs:

Robert, how do you come up with new designs 
for the cuffs? 
You can’t look at what’s trendy now. You have to look into the future. I look at what crystals will be available in the coming seasons and what fashions and colors are forecasted for two-three seasons ahead.

Do you cut all the leather by hand? 
I used to cut each piece by hand, but as orders grew in size, I made a template for the cuff and had them cut for me in large amounts. I do still cut the first couple of samples for my new designs before I send them out to have die-cuts made.

How do you know what crystals should go with
each color and style of leather? 
It’s really about feeling, and asking if it speaks to you when they are together. I place the crystals, metals, etc. on the leather to see if works together. I check it in the light for brilliance and contrast. It all has to flow and work together. Some leather may seem cool and neutral, but with the right stone, it becomes warm and elegant.

You can find his cuffs on his website RobertPalazzolo.com and select boutiques in Orange County.