Wonders of the World with Misahara’s Lepa Galeb-Roskopp

by Kristen Heinzinger
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Lepa Galeb-Roskopp

Globe-trotting jewelry designer Lepa Galeb-Roskopp knows no bounds when it comes to inspiration. Be it the Adriatic, the Sahara, or California, the Misahara creator finds beauty in all her surroundings.

What’s your background?
My father is Serbian and my mother is American. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, and spent my summers in Europe, mostly around the European continent and Yugoslavia, where my aunt was a diplomat and my uncle was the head of a prominent political party in ex-Yugoslavia. I spent a large part of the summers in Paris, where I was exposed to fashion. In the Balkan culture, fashion is considered shallow; my father wanted me to go into mathematics.

How did you come to launch a jewelry company?
I’d have a goldsmith in Silicon Valley alter the jewelry my husband would buy me. Finally, the jeweler said it was costing too much, and I’d need to do it on my own. So I went to New York and found a fantastic atelier to create and handcraft my designs.

What does the name Misahara mean?
It’s a combination of my children’s names—Mara, Sara, and Harrison. It’s also for the Sahara, and the “Mi” is for Greg Minnaar, a pro athlete who’s part of [my husband’s] international mountain biking team.

What places have inspired your designs?
My Balkan roots and the Adriatic, and Africa, where my family visits every year.

How often do you travel?
We live a nomadic life and have four places of residence—in Soho in New York, Silicon Valley, Zimbali resort in Durban in South Africa, and Porto Montenegro.

How do those places inspire your designs?
In Africa, we live in Zimbali, and I find a lot of inspiration in a private homestead owned by the Getty where I watch the animals and I’m surrounded by nature, my most inspirational force. A lot of the collections are inspired by the African and Adriatic sunsets and the stars. I use star sapphires to represent those.

Do you have formal design training?
I have a doctorate from Stanford, but no formal design training. [Laughs] My designs tell a story—they have a soul. The jeweler I work with, Emile, is brilliant, and he’ll tell me if a design can or can’t work.

Where are you most creative?
In Africa, where I can remove myself from everything.

What are some of the materials you use?
I work with 18- and 20-karat pink gold, white gold, and yellow gold. I love diamonds, but some of my favorite exotic stones are tourmaline, African kunzite and tanzanite, and sapphires. Misahara is all about mixing exotic stones with the precious and the semiprecious. I work a lot with fancy [diamonds], too. I have to wear each piece before it’s released to make sure it doesn’t cause a headache or weigh on the ear. I’m very particular about that.

Who is the Misahara customer?
An independent woman who wants to create her own style. She’s powerful and she loves to aspire, too.

Where are your biggest customers, and what does it cost them to own a piece?
It’s super international. At Porto Montenegro, it’s eclectic, because it’s a marina. In the U.S., it’s more of a Beverly Hills crowd, and in Palo Alto, we’re targeting millennials. On average, prices range from $5K to $15K, and go up to $300K.

What’s in store this summer?
I live in Porto Montenegro in the summer, where we have one of our flagships. It’s a mecca for super yachts, which is great for business. In July, I visited the Hamptons, and I head to Europe in August. In September, we start trunk shows at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, and we also unveil our collection at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. It will officially be available in October. I’m doing a few hand and body adornments, like lariats, cuffs, and chokers, and fusing a few lines together, like Petal with Unity.

What do you recommend for a summer wardrobe?
I love lariats! You can wear them with a bathing suit, and it adds such an element of beauty.

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