Jay-Z and Beyoncé don’t give just anyone a shout-out, but one listen of their hit “Upgrade U”, and you’ll hear them name-drop a certain Jacob the Jeweler — otherwise known as A-list jewelry designer Jacob Arabo. The man behind Jacob & Co. — whose wow-factor watches are available on Gilt today — is known for encrusting his signature pieces with blinding doses of diamonds, and we got the inside scoop on his go-to inspirations, his life motto, and his most extravagant design yet.
StyleFile: What is the most memorable custom design you’ve created for a client?
Jacob Arabo: One of my most memorable custom designs was the result of a collaboration with Pharrell Williams and the renowned artist, Takashi Murakami, for the Design Fair in Basel. Pharrell asked if I might design some special pieces (there were a total of 7) that reflected some of his favorite things. The resulting pieces were very well received and sold for a high amount and then were generously donated by the buyer to the Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin. I was honored to be asked to take part in this project and had great fun bringing these pieces to life.
SF: When did you first become interested in designing jewelry and watches? What were your initial inspirations?
JA: Ever since I was child, I had an insatiable creative vision. I would see images and designs in my mind and seek innovative ways to bring them to life. By age sixteen, I found my passion in jewelry design. Jewelry is art, not only in the way that it is pleasing to the eyes like a still life, or a sculpture, but also in the way that is sensual to the touch, and takes on different lives with different wearers.
Nature, in particular, has always played an influential role in my creative processes, from my early designs to my new Jacob’s Web collection. Traveling keeps my inspiration alive. The more I travel, the more I see the wonders our world has to offer. As long as there is more of the world to see, my creative visions will never end.
SF: What is the most over-the-top piece you’ve ever designed?
JA: I would say the most over-the-top jewelry pieces that I have created to this point, are the gold and diamond glove and bolero jacket from the Rare Touch collection. In creating these pieces I had to take into consideration not only the design, materials and aesthetics, but the also the fit and comfort of the wearer. Unlike earrings or a necklace that may lay stationary, these pieces are meant to move in sync with the natural movement of the wearer, making the design process more complex, but the final product all the more mesmerizing.
My latest watch masterpiece is the Astronomia Tourbillon. I wanted to create a timepiece with a modern, innovative twist on the astronomical roots of horology. While conventional astronomical complications trace the real-life movements of our planets, I focused on the vision of the movement, placing every element of the Astronomia Tourbillon in constant, visible motion, all under the control of the oscillator at the heart of the tourbillon. Through combining sophisticated watchmaking with the highest level of horological arts, the movements of Astronomia Tourbillon gives the wearer the feeling of looking up with wonder at the night sky.
SF: What other designers/artists do you admire or look to for inspiration in your work?
JA: I am inspired by artists and designers from all walks of life, mainly those who are never afraid to try something new and stay true to their own creative processes. I have always admired the work of the artist Salvador Dali, for making pieces that caused people to think and Peter Beard, for infusing imagination into photography to create an art-form of his own.
SF: When did you have your “I’ve made it” moment?
JA: Although I am immensely proud of my success, and grateful for all of the supporters and fans that have brought me to this point in my life, I live by the motto “I have not yet begun to fight.” My many rare gemstone pieces, and watches such as the 5 Time Zone watch, and now the Astronomia Tourbillon have certainly solidified my name in the industry, but I professionally will never “make it” far enough. I strive to surprise my clients each year, with innovative pieces unlike anything else on the market, and while there are still ideas out there, there is still work to be done.