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corina larpin celebrity jeweler

The Jeweler Behind Cardi B’s Ruby Nipple Covers

Beyoncé, Cher, and Elton John have Corina Larpin on speed dial.

By: Noah Lehava
Photography: Tim Buol

What does it take for Cardi B to dial you up and request 44-carat ruby nipples for the Met Gala? A keen eye for the rarest and most gorgeously large jewels, that’s what. And if you’re wondering whose number you have to call to get your hands on such gemstones, it’s Corina Larpin. Larpin is a veteran in the jewel biz and took the reins of Hong Kongbased luxury jewelry maison Stéfère in 2014. Since then she’s garnered quite a clientele (Cher, Beyoncé, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Zendaya—we could go on—ring a bell?) for all their blinged-out needs. So when she flew in to New York from her home in Hong Kong, we asked her to bring along some of her iciest jewels so we could play while we talk rare gems and jewelry trends.

 

Tell us about those gemstone nipples for Cardi B:

“I am very proud of my collaboration with Cardi B, Thom Browne, and Kollin Carter for the Met Gala. Working with such talented people is remarkable on its own, but the most memorable part of the entire experience was that we came up with the wildest imagination for jewels, and we made it a reality despite the time constraint. The end result was simply stunning. For once, rubies are not just some expensive stones; they delivered a message, they challenged the status quo, and they expressed emotions. Being able to bring the rubies to life on such a big artist is a huge achievement for me, and it made me very proud.

“The final look was Kollin Carter’s vision, which perfectly matches Cardi’s daring personality. To find the perfect stones for the Thom Browne dress, I prepared several pairs of precious gems to bring to New York and eventually picked the 44-carat rubies, which blend perfectly onto the dress. Among the choices, there was a pair of pink tourmaline stones of 68 carats.”

What’s the most intense timeline you had to create a piece?

“The 2019 Met Gala was definitely the event where I had to create some of the best pieces in a record time. It was the nipples for Cardi B, which I only had 10 days to find the stones, ship them to the U.S., and then start working 20 hours a day with Kollin and our showroom, the Residency Experience. We made a great team, and it was nonstop working and high adrenaline because we didn’t know if they would match or not. Even in the last second, when the nipples were attached on the dress, I couldn’t believe it was real and we made it happen.

“At the same time, I was working on a project with Law Roach for Zendaya, where we had to combine three necklaces to make them one big choker—as well as modify a pair of earrings to make them look how Law and Zendaya wanted. We didn’t even have 24 hours to do that. So it is safe to say the 2019 Met Gala was monumental for Stéfère.”

 

What was the first design you created for a celeb?

“I still clearly remember the skull earrings I designed at the start of my career. It wasn’t just a project, it was a journey. I had to make changes to the earrings over and over again to make them wearable. Hard work pays off, and it felt incredible when I saw Lady Gaga wearing them.”

Is there a piece of jewelry everyone should have in their rotation?

“I believe that in every jewelry box there should be a wide range of jewels you can mix and match with—but that’s just me. A jewelry box is a very personal space. If I have to name just one, I would say my big snake ring that I wear all the time.”

 

What are some jewelry trends you predict for 2020?

“Colorful jewelry: Something playful that is easy to layer up and mix and match will be on trend. My latest Petals collection is a good example. If you wear only one, it looks like a petal. If you wear two together, the rings form a butterfly. Rose-cut gems are used to exaggerate the contrast between the hardness of precious stones and the softness of nature. This year’s Petals collection comes in playful colors using blue sapphire, smoky quartz and peridot.

“Pearls lend understated elegance to any wardrobe, but the latest jewelry trends suggest something more daring. I mix and match the pearls with colored stones to add a playful touch for an easy, chic look.

“Ankle bracelets: More and more clients are requesting anklets.”

In your words, how would you describe your designs?

“My jewelry is a good blend of classic yet rock and glamour contemporary pieces. They are chic and cool but also fun to wear. They can put a smile on your face.”

 

Where do you draw inspiration from?

“My inspiration comes largely from my personal take on people, landscapes, and objects around me. I get inspiration from traveling to different countries, inevitably exposing me to different cultures, insights, aromas, etc. My son is also a main source of inspiration. He is only 13 years old and always offers me an entirely fresh perspective on things.”

What advice can you give someone trying to break into the jewelry industry?

“Follow your dreams, work hard, and keep on believing that everything is possible if you put effort into it. Believe in yourself. Be inspired, and be inspiring. Stay curious to the world around you. If you want to break into the jewelry industry, do it, but don’t view it as only a business venture; make sure it is your hobby, your passion, and something that you really enjoy.”

 

Shot on location at Cafiero Select.

 

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