Skincare Savant Peter Thomas Roth Explores Jewelry Design
Famous for his luxe line of skincare products—which stretches from cleansers and toners to anti-aging and high-tech solutions—Peter Thomas Roth is exploring new territory. On Super Bowl Sunday (a.k.a. QVC’s “jewelry designer day”), Roth headed to the shopping channel to debut his first jewelry collection (which, we should note, he designed and also produced). After joining him for a celebratory launch at his Upper East Side home, we gave him a ring to find out more.
Word has it jewelry is a family business.
Yes—my father immigrated to America from Hungary in 1939, and worked as a dental mechanic/technician, which included casting gold teeth. After the war was over, he became a jeweler, casting jewelry for other people. He made almost all the things for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and for most of the jewelers on 5th Avenue, so I learned from the best.
So what made you go into skincare?
I had bad skin and acne growing up, and jumped into the skincare business as a hobby. I used to stay at my family’s jewelry factory, which we had on 46th street, until 2 or 3 p.m., then I’d walk to Rockefeller Center where I rented a space for my skincare production. Then the skincare industry rocketed, and I got really, really busy. [Laughs]
When did you begin designing jewelry?
Four years ago I decided I wanted to do a jewelry line, but I was a little rusty. Our jewelry factory wasn’t doing very much because a lot of the business had gone overseas. When I graduated from college, I licensed Gloria Vanderbilt, and I did her fine jewelry for two years. It was successful, but also unsuccessful because I was way ahead of my time. No one understood that a designer could do real jewelry—it didn’t exist—everyone was doing costume jewelry. Retailers, while they bought the jewelry, never even put Gloria’s name on it. I learned a lot from doing that. I’m very creative—for skincare, we come up with a bunch of products each year. But it took me three years to come up with a really recognizable jewelry design—that was the hardest thing. And I always focus on quality; everything is either sterling silver or 18K gold. To me, color in gold is so important, so I spent forever choosing the color.
The jewelry boxes are pretty unique!
I wanted to come up with an experience that was different, so I spent a year designing the box. If you receive a silver or gold piece of jewelry, it’s a forever thing until you give it away or you pass it on. With my mother, even with my dad, there were things in the house that they never told me the history about. My mother had this very pretty ring, which I nearly tossed aside until she told me it had been her mother’s. I would have melted it! So inside each box there’s a certificate of authenticity and a book of provenance, like when you buy something from Sotheby’s or Christie’s. Where they bought it, who owned it, where they wore it—whatever the history is, when the next person gets it, it makes that piece so much more important.
How did you end up partnering with QVC for jewelry?
I showed them everything—the booklet, the box, and the jewelry—and they went crazy over it.
So this is your first time actually designing jewelry?
Yes—I’ve made rings and other pieces for so many people throughout the years, but have never designed it.
How was that process?
Really difficult. I knew I had to make my jewelry distinctive so someone will know it just by looking at it, like the Van Cleef & Arpels clover. So I included a signature ribbon and reed pattern. The ribbon is on a curve that wraps around the reed. That’s the hardest piece of jewelry I designed because there’s a mathematical formula involved. We made everything on a 3D printer first. I remember my father telling me in the ’80s, “Soon we’re not going to have a model maker sit there and hand-make everything. There will be machines and you’ll just press buttons.” I was like, Yeah, sure…And here we are!
What’s one of your favorite pieces in your personal jewelry collection?
I’ve always bought pieces of jewelry to keep as art, or for my wife or my mother to wear, but I don’t wear much jewelry. I have so many gold and silver bands. My favorite one is my Reed & Ribbon band. I wear three of them together, stacked.
Your 24K Gold Mask is a best-seller. Was that inspired by your experience at the jewelry factory?
Yes, I used to clean the jewelry, and all of this beautiful 18K gold dust was getting all over my hands. The powder was so cool, and we decided to put it in a mask, and it worked. Cleopatra is said to have slept in a 24K gold mask every night—it’s anti-aging and firming. Now we have a whole gold collection.
Would you want to collaborate with a designer for the next collection of jewelry?
No—it’s very difficult for me to work with other creative people on my pieces. If it’s my piece, I’m very territorial and precise, and a bit of a perfectionist. If I make something with someone else’s name on it, which we did so many times, I also recognize it’s their name on it, so it has to be their inspiration. I help bring it to what they want.
So where can we find the jewelry collection?
On QVC, and also on peterthomasrothjewelry.com. We’re looking into retail. I can’t do it all at once!
Will you continue designing new pieces?
Yeah, I can’t even load all of my pieces on the website! The best part about the collection is that it’s endless design, because the pattern can work on cuff bracelets, dangly or stud earrings, tons of rings. The imagination just keeps going. It’s going to be fun.