For most jewelers, expensive and unique requests from clients usually come in the form of Bridezillas who are hell-bent on getting the perfect engagement ring from their would-be spouses. But for Jason Arasheben, CEO of Jason of Beverly Hills, that would hardly qualify as a tough day at the office.
As one of the most prominent celebrity jewelers in the business right now, Arasheben has built a diamond and gold crusted jewelry empire that spans locations in Southern California, Las Vegas, Miami, Charlotte, and Tokyo.
His foray into the industry first began on UCLA's campus — flipping $50 trinkets to his fellow classmates — which over the course of 16 years has grown to include a roster of celebrity clients like Drake, A$AP Rocky, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Diddy, and Kim Kardashian West.
While the jewelry favored by the hip-hop elite has certainly evolved since the days of the rope chains worn by LL Cool J, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, and Eric B & Rakim during the '80s, there has been a contemporary period when innovation and creativity have both slowed. Both artists and jewelers learned that more gold and more diamonds didn't necessarily mean more press.
Arasheben aims to tell a story with each piece that he creates. His latest and perhaps greatest — a bespoke OVO owl chain for Drake which boasts a kilo of gold and over 100 carats of Asscher cut diamonds — is a good representation of how it's possible to marry extravagance with realism.
We recently caught up with Arasheben to discuss the aforementioned OVO owl chain, other prominent works, tips for those wanting to commission a bespoke piece, and trends he sees moving forward.
You famously crafted Lil Jon’s five-pound “Crunk Ain’t Dead” medallion, which earned a Guinness Book of World Records designation as the world’s largest non-religious diamond pendant. Was breaking a record your intended goal?
Absolutely. With everything we do we set our eyes on breaking records or establishing new jewelry standards. We accomplished that with the "Crunk Ain't Dead" chain and later again with Nick Cannon's diamond shoes.
You also did ASAP Rocky's "ASAP" chain. Is there something that sticks out to you about that particular piece?
Yes. When we did that pendant, Rocky didn't want to go the traditional route, so we did 4 pendants in one piece, which was a unique twist. It is a lot of fun to work with people who dare to be different and are creative. Rocky is one of the most creative. We always have a great time designing together.
Most people think of jewelry designers solely in a contemporary/rap context. There's you, Johnny Dang, Ben Baller, etc. Who are some notable jewelers people should know more about, and what specifically did they do to move the needle in the industry?
The general public mistakenly judges a jewelers success solely by their popularity in pop culture. Its not all about a strong social media following and TMZ cameos. There are a lot of jewelers who design important pieces that are well known throughout the luxury sector, but not so much in pop culture. Designers like Theo Fennell, David Morris, and Lev Leviev.
You've enjoyed a solid relationship with the Golden State Warriors - having designed several of their championship rings. What are the challenges of working on something smaller - like a ring - versus a chain which is a much larger palette with which to work?
You are right, rings are a bit more difficult, because you have a smaller palette to work with. You also have to build more of the story line into a ring and it needs to encompass not only the identity of the organization, but also each individual player and the season as a whole. It needs to have multiple stories all built into the design.
You and Drake first set the internet ablaze with your collaborative "Scorpion" pendant which tied into the album's release. Do you see jewelry - which fits so well on a visual medium like Instagram - as being a new school marketing tool for albums?
It's definitely become a trend as of late. As long as the jewelry can tell a story it can communicate the message, whether that is an album, a new milestone, or a big life event.
Of course, the Owl chain is the newest piece of jewelry to go viral. What's the story behind its creation?
Drake texted me, "I have a special project for you," and anytime I hear that I know it’s going to be something special. The pendant was finished in 6 weeks and was flown to Drake in a custom birdcage that housed the diamond owl. He wanted to create an owl that made a statement with its size and he wanted to incorporate stones that haven't been used in previous Owls. I think we did that.
You can't talk about jewelry without acknowledging that people also produce fraudulent merchandise. For people interested in buying bespoke pieces, what are the right questions they should be asking their jeweler?
First and foremost, you need to know who you are dealing with. Remember, you get what you pay for and if you are getting a price that's too good to be true, it's because it is! There's more security in going with an established name and reputation. I hear too many tales of clients purchasing from a booth jeweler that's here today and gone tomorrow. Second, really understand what materials your jeweler is using and ask for examples of their work. Make sure you completely flush out the idea for the custom piece and get it as close as possible to what the final product will be. You don't want any surprises when it's done.
From a financial standpoint, are these elaborate pieces actually good investments?
Absolutely! Jewelry is a hard asset that consistently appreciates in value decade after decade. If purchased right, it can definitely be an amazing investment.
You and Justin Bieber designed a "Stewie" chain from Family Guy together. Are there any intellectual property laws a jeweler must consider, or are you free to produce anything that comes to mind?
I'm not a lawyer, but from what I understand, as long as it is not part of our core collection, and just a one off custom piece for a client, then it's okay.
You've worked with a number of high-profile clients. Who do you think has the best collection out there?
Rihanna has a strong collection of our items and I think our brand matches her image really well. A$AP Rocky has also steadily accumulated pieces over years and I feel like he is starting to create a really good collection.
Are there any trends you're forecasting for 2018 and beyond?
Colors for sure. I don't mean mixing gold tones, I think that will continue, but I think we're quickly approaching the age of multi-color pieces. People are incorporating blues, greens, yellows, and reds in a single piece or even just layering them all together. People are becoming less concerned with trying to match and going for thoughtfully mismatched pieces. Remember the days of Nigo and Pharrell and their multi-colored pieces? I see it coming back!
For more like this, revisit our brief history of hip-hop jewelry.