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Simple Beauty

Oakland’s Philippa Roberts transforms metal and stone into timeless works of art.


Photography by Erika Pino

When she’s not at gem shows dreaming up next season’s line, Philippa Roberts is in her retail shop on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, sweeping the floor or jumping in to help her small team solder and finish metal. Roberts, who was born in South Africa, studied metal smithing and photography in college, and launched her contemporary jewelry business shortly thereafter. The clean lines and graceful curves of her work add understated elegance to any ensemble, and helped Roberts score an artisan’s trunk show at the de Young museum last spring.

Q: Describe your customer.

A: She’s a mom; she works. And she wants something that’s everyday wearable: timeless, classic, and simple. Guys like to buy it [for their spouses] because it’s easy to understand.

Q: What inspires you?

A: A lot of it is driven by the stone. If I find an oval stone I like, I know I’ll create an oval piece that goes with that. I also pull things out of magazines, and I have a sketchbook and take notes on my phone.

Q: What materials do you use?

A: Silver is the base for everything, and everything I do can be silver or vermeil [gold plated]. And then semiprecious stones. I like blue tones, warm tones. My favorite ones are chalcedony, aquamarine, and labradorite. And then I mix the colors.

Q: Do you have a favorite piece?

A: I have a favorite pair of earrings; they’re a large open oval shape, and to me, it’s the perfect size. I’m always telling my customers, “You have to get these earrings.” I wear them in silver or gold, and I go back to them every day, which is lame because I have so much stuff.

Philippa Roberts, 4176 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, (510) 655-0656, philipparoberts.net.

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