Starter Series: Philippa Roberts Jewelry

Starter Series reviews & interviews

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The Mamalode Starter Series is an exciting opportunity for us to introduce you to some of the amazing people we get to meet. Starting something takes enormous amounts of work, faith, help and community. Every week we'll share another story of starting. So, community of Mamalode, read up, get inspired and check out these wonder-folk.

Todays Starter Series features Philippa Roberts, Founder and Creator of Philippa Roberts Jewelry.

Tell us a little bit about your business and how you started it.
In college I majored in Metalsmithing and Photography. It wasn’t until my senior year that I realized I was continuing in my family’s footsteps. My great-grandfather started a jewelry company in South Africa which was carried on by my grandfather, my uncle, and now my cousins run the business. I am always amazed that even though we left South Africa when I was young, and I grew up half the world away, jewelry making was in my blood.

As soon as I graduated college I knew I wanted to move to California. While living in San Francisco a friend knew a jewelry designer who needed an assistant. I am so grateful to my friend Guy for saying “Philippa you should be making jewelry and you should work for my friend Lori Mclean.” I worked for Lori in her garage in Oakland, polishing and finishing rings for a year.  I learned the most valuable lesson from Lori which helped me launch my business. A woman making jewelry in a garage IS a business. Business doesn’t have to look like a big name on the outside of a building, it can be anything. This took away a lot of the stress, and that gave me the freedom to start my own thing. I could be a woman making jewelry and that was a business.  

In 1996, I produced my first collection out of my basement studio in San Francisco. Since then I have created 10-12 new collections a year and sold to hundreds of stores. It is my goal to make jewelry that is beautiful, simple, wearable, and most importantly, timeless. I am proud to say that my work is all hand-made and produced in the USA.

From my early 20’s, I knew that I wanted to be able to work for myself and be a mother. I wanted to make my own schedule and have flexibility, while also being creative and having a business.  Thank goodness my husband, Brian, has always been supportive of my work and my sometimes quick, and dramatic decisions. 

In 2004, Charlotte was born and in 2005 we moved to Oakland. A year later, I opened my retail store on Piedmont Avenue. I wanted to have a space where my studio and store were attached, where you can find beautiful things and have a lovely shopping experience. I did not realize I was taking on a whole other business when I opened it. I originally thought it would just be an extension of the wholesale production studio, but it is a world of it’s own and requires a lot of attention and work. We carry many fabulous jewelry designers, personal accessories, home items, and gifts. We promote artists, encourage shopping locally, and support our community in Oakland.

What do your kids think about your job?
Charlotte’s answer word for word: “I think it is really cool that you are a jewelry designer and you are like totally good at it. It is cool that you are in magazines. And you are a really good multi-tasker.”

Tell us about a total mom + biz fail?
No matter how much you try to have it all—be a perfect mother AND run a perfect business you just can’t. I definitely felt a mom fail earlier this year when Charlotte fell down on the way to the Mile Run at school. I know she does not like to run, so when she told me she fell on the way there, I thought she was just trying to get out of the run. Three days later, a few Ace bandages, and still some pain, I took her to the doctor only to find out she had a fracture! I had to leave for a show in NYC the following day, so not only did I feel terrible guilt about not realizing the break, I felt horrible about having to leave town too.  

Share with us a total win (brag away!)
Having only one kid means I don’t want to miss a thing!  I have driven on almost every field trip since Pre-K, drop off and pick her up from school, I’m at every performance and help in the classroom as much as possible.  I am so grateful that I can do that and I know Charlotte appreciates it too. That’s a win, that’s why I created this business.

What's your relationship with Mamalode?
Dori Gilels (Mamalode’s COO) is the sister of my friend Emily Mitra. I have always looked at both of them as incredibly beautiful and strong women, inside and out. I am honored that Dori asked me to contribute to Mamalode.  Plus, I love reading and being inspired by the articles!


About the Author

Starter Series

The Starter Series is an ongoing set of interviews that share the stories of anyone who has started a business, non-profit or an interesting project in their field. Are you inspired by someone? Email any suggestions to

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