Marmol Radziner’s Robin Cottle designs jewelry inspired by architecture

By Carl Kozlowski

The Stone Collection combines nature’s handiwork with architectural fixtures

As a graphic designer for the prominent Westside architecture firm Marmol Radziner over the last 26 years, Robin Cottle has seen the company grow into a powerhouse that fuses natural elements with inventive designs to create properties that draw worldwide attention. Yet it’s her work as the chief designer for the firm’s unique line of “architectural jewelry” that has brought her even greater fulfillment.

Cottle’s latest line, the Stone Collection, blends architectural-grade brass plated in 18-karat gold with an array of hand-picked stones — the pieces fabricated in small production runs by the firm’s in-house metal shop in El Segundo, normally used for custom architectural hardware and furniture.

The Stone Collection and the company’s earlier lines of rings, pendants, earrings and bracelets have grown popular enough to be sold through 11 online retail sites and nearly 100 brick-and-mortar stores across the U.S. and in Canada, Australia and Japan. Not bad for an idea that was born from the fact that Cottle’s husband, firm co-founder Ron Radziner, loved wearing a piece of metal he found on the street as a cufflink.

“He always loved it, a long, long time ago, and many years later, he has a firm with a metal shop and a cabinetry shop, and they’re doing their own construction,” explains Cottle, who lives in Mandeville Canyon with Radziner and their two teenagers in a home he designed. “He says to somebody in the metal shop, ‘Hey, can you make me a cuff like this?’ and described it like the metal piece he found. That was the first Marmol Radziner cuff. He showed a client, who admired them; I saw and wanted them, but as something different because it wasn’t fitting me properly. Several architects and I got together and asked if we thought they could make a few pieces, and before you know it we had a line of jewelry.”

Cottle believes that a key to the success of the jewelry lies in the fact that the architects came up with “an irregular pacing” to the designs that parallels what Radziner does with his lighting designs for rooms. The jewelry was originally having designs that had a distinctive absence of stones, yet maintaining small holes that drew onlookers to wonder why there were no stones.

“Then one day I found a piece of broken mirror on the ground and kept it because it had beauty from the organic quality of it, and I placed it on one of our rings and saw it was really beautiful,” recalls Cottle. “That’s the aesthetic that interests me. I started going to gem shows and discovering irregularly faceted pieces of rutilated quartz.”

A native of Chicago, Cottle moved to Los Angeles in time for high school and earned an MFA at the California Institute of the Arts. Prior to jewelry design, she focused her passion on print and graphic design for film and television, with a focus on typography. She now heads a five-person design team as they explore new ways to bring stones and metals together.

“My biggest challenge was: How do you make these architectural-grade materials wearable? How do you cut them, slice them up and finish them to be jewelry?” asks Cottle. “How do you also bring it to another level, where something happens with the form and you can bring it to another place? It’s a fascinating challenge I always love learning to do.”

See more of Cottle’s work at marmolradzinerjewelry.com.

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