In a sport that's been around for centuries, it's unusual to encounter something that hasn't already been tested, tried, proven or failed. We talk about tournament organization in regard to the three T's: title, team and trophy sponsors. Heritage clubs, in particular, aren't known for mixing up that veritable recipe for success. Why mess with what we know works? That's why I was pleasantly surprised to be introduced to Tara Gray by our mutual acquaintance Charles Ward, well-known to the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club members. Gray is the official jeweler of the Santa Barbara Club, but she's not a distributor of Audemars Piaget or Hublot, as the official jeweler of a polo club is
generally assumed to be. Her jewelery designs are custom, inspired by her extensive private client list, and reflect both her incredible attention to detail as well as gem stone quality. "I'm all in for polo," she said in a phone interview on a break from taping her segment of a TV show, TVON, which airs on national cable providers in the United States. TVON focuses on high-end jewelry, sourced and sold directly to buyers. She's long been a polo fan, but "taking (polo) lessons has given me new insight into the sport." That insight turned out to be divine timing for Gray, who was asked to design the Pacific Coast Open's first-ever championship ring this year.
"I drew on inspiration from the famous trophy," she said, referring to the larger than life silver and gold perennial trophy that's lived at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club since coming from the Beverly Hills Polo Club in 1952. "It's combination of polo scenes, ornate leaf work and eagles is mounted on a rosewood base. Using that inspiration, I designed championship rings that honor the spirit of the Pacific Coast Open and its trophy." There are some hidden meanings, too. For the 110th anniversary of the Pacific Coast Open, Gray included 110 diamonds in each ring. The under gallery of the ring is engraved with a horseshoe. All four members of the winning Farmers & Merchants Bank team that defeated Lucchese 9-8 received one of the rings. The rings complement Gray's other equestrian designs, which she sells online and at the polo club. Rings, necklaces and earrings are all painstakingly designed in the motif of polo: diamond-encrusted and pearl-crowned mallets, harnesses, horseshoes, lead ropes and horse bits. Each design intertwines the meaning, refinement and elegance of the sport of polo. "I was thinking outside of the jewelry box," Gray said about the designs. "Polo opened up a whole new world to me: it relieves my stress, it's Tara-time... my only hobby outside of designing jewelry."