Rafka Koblence is a jewelry designer who was born in Riga, Latvia, and developed a fascination with adornment when, as a child, he read a book featuring jewelry collections by Peter Carl Fabergé that were exclusively designed for the Royal Court. Rafka was immediately drawn to the extreme detail of the creations and felt a strong desire to create. However, his life took a different turn and he became a wrestler in the early 1960s before moving to America. In 1996, he decided to start his own jewelry company called Rafka & Co. and creates his pieces by utilizing modern technology and almost-forgotten artisanal techniques.
To Rafka, jewelry is art. He recently discussed his work via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially learn the craft of jewelry design and how did you break into the industry?
Rafka Koblence (RK): I am completely self-taught in designing and crafting my jewelry. In 1996 I slowly but surely began to create my own lines of one-of-a-kind jewelry with an emphasis on detail and the highest workmanship of my creations. I have been very inspired by the creations of Karl Faberge.
MM: Your jewelry is very high-end, so was it more difficult to find buyers and sellers for such precious materials?
RK: It has been the most difficult aspect of my business to find those few individuals who would not only have the eye to spot the Rafka difference but also recognize the value of classical workmanship.
MM: Out of all your jewelry designs, do you have any favorites? If so, which one and why?
RK: The most memorable piece I created was a line of slide bracelets early in my career. One of my friends asked me if I knew what a slide bracelet is, a common accessory after the Victorian era and if I knew how to make one. I told him I did and decided to make not just one but a whole collection of slide bracelets which were themed with playing cards, musical instruments, sea world, with vibrant Enamel colors and motifs inspired by Faberge’s works.
MM: What is the most memorable feedback you have ever gotten about your jewelry?
RK: My son Phillip had one of his closest friends from UPENN, come to me when he decided to get an engagement ring for his fiancé. I never met her, and I only had a picture of her left hand holding a champagne flute to go off of for sizing. He gave me his budget and showed me what style of ring and stone he wanted to guide my design. I believed that his choices in the style of ring and stone together lacked elegance. So, I told him I would make him a ring with my own design and if he didn’t think it was the perfect ring then he had no obligation to purchase it and I would make another ring to his liking. Eventually, when he laid eyes upon the ring I had designed and created for him and his soon-to-be wife he was immediately brought to tears. As soon as he left my office, my son Phillip calls me perplexed and inquired if the ring I had made for his friend was perchance nicer than the one I made for him several months earlier.
MM: What have been the highlights of your career as a jewelry designer so far?
RK: There is no real highlight to my career, it has been a journey with each milestone playing an integral episodic role in subsequent phases. I see this journey as being one that is rife with a picaresqueness that can only be described as “fluidity.”
MM: What materials have you not worked with yet that you would like to?
RK: One precious stone that I wish to work more closely with in the future is rubies. I hope to utilize the vivid reds of quality rubies in conjunction with the rich blues of Kashmir Sapphires to create a beautiful contrasting masterpiece in the near future.
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future?
RK: My ultimate goals for the future are to create a business, a life’s work, that will persist with the same quality and principles I have laid forth for generations hence.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to discuss?
RK: More than anything I want people to know that while jewelry today continues to commercialize, I value the timeless complexity and workmanship of days gone by. That I, regardless of how few may ever discover or love, do everything to create the beauty of the classical jewelry of yesterday today.
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To learn more about Rafka Jewelry, visit the official website.