Bobby Whitlock: Lord of the Rings

Guitarist/keyboardist for Derek & the Dominos, George Harrison puts 'Mountain Ring' up for auction 
By Peter Lindblad

Bobby Whitlock with wife CoCo Carmel
Black diamonds, it seems, are Bobby Whitlock's best friend these days, at least as far as his jewelry art is concerned.

Practically raised at Stax Records, the Memphis native played alongside soul legends Booker T. & the MGs and Sam & Dave, before joining Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, contributing keyboards to George Harrison's All Things Must Pass album and forming Derek and The Dominos with Eric Clapton. But, Whitlock has other artistic interests outside of music.

Much of his attention these days is centered on his ability to create stunning jewelry, including an incredible new piece called the "Mountain Ring," which is being auctioned off right now. The auction began on Saturday, Oct. 11, and will conclude Nov. 29 at 11:59 p.m. Bids are to be submitted by e-mail to:

For auction rules, go to

"You know, it’s not so much the selling of it, as it is making my art available," said Whitlock. "This is the first interview I’ve ever done that has to do with my art, other than my musical art. And it’s really all one and the same. Art is art, just like love is love."

Bobby Whitlock's 'Mountain Ring'
As a teenager, growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, Whitlock would go through stones and picture making "those big rings, those big, chunky things, and I always like that they symbolized something. I never knew that it’d be something, an art form, that I would express myself at any point."

That is until his wife CoCo Carmel came along.

"My wife and I, have been together 14 years, and the first thing I did was have something made for her, just ‘cause I wanted something unique and it was an earring," explained Whitlock. "And I had this idea that I’d make it for her, and I don’t know … it just seemed like I had a knack for it. And that piece won an award."

Other pieces followed, as Whitlock designed one ring and then another, without ever thinking he'd sell them. He enjoys the entire process, from finding the right stone through the casting of the wax. It was a trip overseas, however, that gave him the idea for the Mountain Ring.

"When CoCo and I went back and forth to Geneva, Switzerland, to perform for 5,000 Japanese people at a symposium they were having, I was really taken by the grandeur of the mountains and the cliffs," said Whitlock. "After going there three times, ‘cause we stayed each time quite a while, you get to know the place, and even when we were shopping ... when I came back and started  fooling around, I came up with the idea of the mountain range, but I didn’t know exactly how it was going to be, because it’s hard to make a mountain range. You don’t just put a stone on top of it (laughs)."

A trip to Geneva, Switzerland, inspired
Bobby Whitlock to create the
"Mountain Ring"
For the piece, Whitlock chose his old favorite, black diamonds, " ... which no one uses on the other end of the spectrum, and they’re beautiful," added Whitlock, who goes through a process of creating the design and drawing it out, then picking the stones, carving the wax, and then casting the gold through the lost wax process.

Making the Mountain Ring even more special, Whitlock used the very last bit of "rose gold" in his possession that was made by a friend, Danny Abbott, who used to render copper into 24-karat gold by "putting a little piece of penny into it," related Whitlock. "He’s no longer around ... and he was an alchemist and an incredible jeweler. That was his thing. He was frustrated because he wanted to be a rock star, you know. Everybody wants to be a rock star, but his gift … now he could play guitar, but his real true gift was incredible art."

That little touch helps make the "Mountain Ring" special. Some of it he used for CoCo's jewelry.

According to Whitlock, a number of people had a hand in making the "Mountain Ring."

"Charles Kirkpatrick owns the Midas manufacturing here in Austin, and there were different artists casting in that, and among them was a girl named Rima," said Whitlock. "She was one of the artists who was designing. And there were several other people … actually, in the making of the Mountain Ring;there were seven people involved in the piling of the wax, and that was one that worked and then we did another one where another artist got involved, and so I just started out with like a rough draft of just something I do, and the next thing you know I presented it to – in this case for the Mountain Ring – to Rima and we bounced around some different ideas and she said, 'Well, how about this, you know? It’s pretty incredible. She’s off doing her own thing here in Austin as well, so it’s never really the same person, except my stone setter Aaron. He’s a big guy, about 6-foot-3, a big man, and it always seemed interesting, setting a stone … that’s most important part of the whole thing, because the whole thing is built around the stone."

The 'Mountain Ring' has an
ounce of gold and an
ounce of black diamonds
As for Kirkpatrick, Whitlock said, "His thing is, he loves stones. He’s a stone man, and it was six months in finding the star sapphire that’s in the Mountain Ring. It was six months of going through stones and him going to different gem dealers and stuff to find the right stone. So the piece is built around the stone. So if the stone breaks or something compromises the stone, the piece is gone, because you’re not going to get another stone that’s just exactly that size. And everything changes, you know."

At his wife's suggestion, Whitlock is finally letting the public see his work, and he added that reaction so far to the Mountain Ring has been incredible.

"There’s over an ounce of gold in the thing, and over a karat of black diamonds – over a karat and a half or so of black diamonds, I can’t remember what the number is," said Whitlock. "It’s either 48 or 49 diamonds all throughout, and it’s absolutely a beautiful piece. I’m real proud of it. And I never thought about letting anybody see it in a public way, just people near me or in my circle … I don’t know, but it’s okay. We started now. We started Bobby Whitlock Jewelry, and it’s funny how it’s opening the door for something. Everything I do is a one-off anyway, and I may do some commissioned things down the line. What I’m going to do is just turn this “Mountain Ring” into something else, you know, for someone else, and just make that available … I don’t know, it’s just opening the door for maybe a jewelry store. There’s always a song in everything, my life is a song and just like that, the doors open for something like a jewelry store."

We'll have more with Bobby Whitlock in the coming days and weeks as he talked to us about his time in Derek and the Dominos, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends and, of course, his work on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass.

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