Welcome to the Year of the Dragon. The year of John Hardy.

The next 12 months look exceptionally bright for the glamorous, handmade jewelry brand and their collections. Especially their Naga collection.

“We’ve reached a level where everybody now knows our dragon collection, our Naga collection,” said Guy Bedarida, John Hardy’s head designer and creative director. “John Hardy really sets the trend and [2012] will be the Year of the Dragon, according to Chinese astrology.”

The modest and gentle Bedarida met privately with Boca Raton magazine in Saks Fifth Avenue at Town Center to discuss his world-renowned company.

At our interview, Bedarida wore two intricate dragons around his wrist. One was crafted in a beautiful rose gold, which he explained in a very “trendy” color. The other mythical creature was even more ornate, speckled with sapphires, white diamonds, and two blazing rubies for eyes.

“I love all [the collections] very much,” Bedarida said. “However the Naga, the dragon, is my favorite. It is a very important inspiration for me.”

Bedarida first introduced the fabled beast to John Hardy in 2008.

“The Naga is a very important symbol in Bali because it is a symbol of love and a symbol of prosperity, two elements that really everybody like, especially these days,” he said.

Bedarida explained that the dragon, and many other of John Hardy’s collections (the beautiful bamboo, luxurious metal braids and lava stones), are inspired by nature and ancient cultures.

“I start first with the pure inspiration,” he said. “I’m never inspired by marketing, for instance. Never. It’s only real inspiration.”

After the creative spark is set, Bedarida begins to sketch and draw his ideas on paper...which can happen on a flight in between Bali and Bangkok, in a hotel in Ohio, or while visiting friends in Manhattan.

“I really like the most classic and old way to design,” Bedarida said. “I start to do some rough sketches [and] then I meet with my team. From there we do together some very precise renderings that are made from pencil and paintbrush and water color. They are like paintings. They are very, very beautiful. From there, we will decide which one of the designs we want to make and everything will be carved by hand in green wax.”

Both the design process and the wax carving could be executed by technology, but not at John Hardy.

“I’m totally against that,” Bedarida said. “I want to keep the artisan-ship as part of this business. Also, to help create employment. I rather have people doing this, rather than the machines.”

John Hardy is not only working to help employment. The company is environmentally friendly and prides itself on its green initiatives.

John Hardy works with recycled silver, an impressive list of eco-charities and has planted over 600,000 bamboo seedlings through their “Wear Bamboo, Plant Bamboo” program.

“[John Hardy is green] not because it is in fashion and everybody is talking about it,” he said. “It has always been like this, because we realize how important it is to protect the nature for ourselves, for our whole life...It is really a priority.”

John Hardy’s offices are also sustainable.

“Our factory, if you can call it a factory, it is in the middle of the nature,” he said. “It is in the middle of the rice fields. We live with nature and we realize how important it is to preserve the nature...we have to protect it. We have to protect the environment. You will see that our factory, it is completely made out of bamboo and mud walls...and we are keeping farming on the lands [around the building]. We really have a mission to keep this place a pristine and preserved piece...

“Now more than ever, in these uncertain economic times, people are looking for an authentic product, authentic story, authentic philosophies, and I think it’s very important.”

Currently, John Hardy is working diligently to finalize their spring 2013 collection. Bedarida is most excited to share upcoming pieces with their customers.  

“To make happy the people that will wear the jewelry, this is really the thing that I love the most.” he said. “When everything gets together, after the long process to design and create, finally I see the woman who will wear [the jewelry] and how happy she will be and how much she will love it. That’s the best part of the process.”

A very special thank you to Saks Fifth Avenue at Town Center at Boca Raton for arranging this interview!