Gregory Lynn Hard- nicknamed Rocky at birth by his parents; his dad chose the name because of Henri Rochefort, but his mother claims she chose it because of Rock Hudson. No matter the origin, little Rocky was born to a cross culture as the product of the Creek Indian blood of his Revolutionary-era great-great-great-grandfather and a great-great-grandmother from the Civil War era. It was this background that Rocky believes inspired a vision.
In this vision, Rocky sees his Indian self, kneeling beside a lake… glistening metallic particles streaming through his fingers like sand. His consciousness tells him that in his hands is the ability to make the particles into a future and a livelihood. His gallery and his work are the manifestation of that vision.
The history of Rock Hard Designs is the story of a store all about history. This is a first generation store, yet it spans millennia. To read about the store’s history, click here.
Since the age of 10, when Rocky found a piece of petrified wood in his back yard, he has been fascinated by history and this set him on a quest to create future artifacts.
He was first introduced to the world of fossils in Florida’s rivers and springs where he found bones to mammoth, camel and other animals presently unknown to the region. Rocky reconstructed arrows and tomahawks he found into the tools they had once been, and was united with what he cites the Native Americans as calling “his path with heart.” At 13 years old, Rocky first understood the essence of meaningful design and the birth of his craft, as we know it today, whistled like a bird through his soul.
Rocky’s adventures through Florida’s history and the even greater World History are elaborate. The local paper has called him “The Real Indiana Jones.” People often ask where they can buy the book.
At 14 years old, Rocky had been a certified diver for only a year when he discovered artifacts of America’s first settlement and civil war munitions that were still explosive in Pensacola Bay. Film and surfing ignited his travels around the world. He was continuously inspired by meaningful design and following his path with heart. When bandits wrecked his VW in Iran, he chose to horseback across Afghanistan with Uzbek nomads. They led him to a Chieftain wearing a17th century Persian helmet and this is where Rocky traded for his first gemstones at the age of 19.
From hiking the Hindu Kush and an out of body experience with a Sufi mystic in Iran’s Elburz Mountains to standing in the place where Prometheus was bound for giving metal smiths fire, each monumental adventure is part of Rock Hard Designs.
As assistant to the director for BBC’s Conquest of Peru, filming brought Rocky to the Andes. He sought ruins and in doing so, he discovered a turquoise mine at 12,000 feet. This prompted him to export to the U.S. and sell by the ton to Navajo Indians, who became his clients, teachers and friends.
The Indians taught him stone cutting and then silver-smithing. Rocky won the top award and sold out at both of the first two craft shows he entered. This showed him the opportunity to create treasures people loved as a living. In 1974, he began with one showcase in a Pensacola Beach hotel, and added them one by one until he had six full shops between Gulf Shores, Alabama and Destin, Florida with fifty employees. He maintained his edge in design and was accepted into top ranked national shows. He opened his first mall shop in 1980, and then a boutique and workshop in the Pensacola Hilton (now Crowne Plaza). In 1995, he consolidated and opened his dream gallery-museum-workshop “where archaeology becomes art.” This store remains open today and the 40th Anniversary of Rock Hard Designs was in 2014!
Born: July 15, 1949 – Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
1969 – Horseback across Central Afghanistan with Uzbek Nomads. An extraordinary spiritual encounter with Sufi Mystic at a high peak in the Elburz mountians of Iran, which lead to meaningful life path.
1972 – Graduate BA – University Of Maryland, Cinematography and Creative Writing
“Tous Va Tres Bien” – film made with participation of Jean Luc Godard (Father of Modern film)
1973 – Assistant to Director “Conquest Of Peru”, BBC (Largest production in history of BBC)
Climbed Chachani (25,000 Ft.) with German team. Drove first vehicle around East side of Lake Titicaca “No Mans Land”; Recognized by Peruvian & Bolivian Authorities
1976 – Won “Best of Show” Award at Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival (One of top 50 in U.S.)
1975-78 – Further study at Rhode Island School of Design, Jewelry Institute and the Guild of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths (English Guild)
Numerous Awards – (60 plus) Photography and Metal Smithing in Regional American Craft Shows throughout the Southeast including “Southeast Regional” Macon, GA – Best in 3-Dimensional Design – 1978
1982 – Knoxville World’s Fair. Produce “Burning Sphere” Design
1986 – First Place Jewelry – 1st Year Category at Great Gulf Coast Art Festival
1989 – Commissioned to produce gold medal for Roy Jones, Jr. for Naval Aviation Depot. Presented live on Ted Koppel at NAS, Pensacola
1990 – First Place Jewelry – GGAF. Judged by most eminent juror ever at GGAF who picked an unprecedented 4 pieces for final judging and stated:
“In this day and age it is rare to find any fine art in precious metals and gemstones. This is the rare exception.”
Director Emeritus of Fine Arts
1992- Award of Distinction – GGAF and Finalist for the Diamond International Award
1995 – Commissioned to produce World Championship collection for Roy Jones, Jr.
1995 – Assembled free museum displaying largest permanent Collection of Dinosauria and unique anthropological “Evolution of Ornament” not for profit attracts many including school groups through college level.
1997 – Commissioned to produce “Champion of Peace” belt for Muhammad Ali.
1998 – Donated “Peoples Award” for Roy Jones, Jr. as recognition for the Olympic Order
1998 – Commissioned to produce 3rd Centennial Celebration Necklace “Tristan at Pensacola Pass” presented November 21st, 1998 at NAS
2000 – Partnered largest gem quality Emerald, 250 carats, cut in the world with Gus Varanza, the renowned DeBeers of Emeralds.
2003 – Awarded North American Designer of Choice in New York as part of DeBeers supplier of choice.
2003- 2007- Won commission in London at Madame Tussauds to design and make platinum jewellery for the world tour of the largest collection of precision cut flawless diamonds ” The Ultimate Diamond Collection” – winning designs- “Sacred Geometry”- inspired on Grayton Beach vision in the sky seen after meditation.
2006- Thanks to my wife Carla’s Native American instincts we were blessed to spend time with chief of all Shamans of the South, Peru, Nazario Alporto, who lives at 17,000 feet. We witnessed and filmed a ceremony with a fire constantly changing colors. As the Shaman raised his hands the entire five foot flames turned violet blue, green to orange….one of the most exhilarating rituals I ever witnessed, rivaled only by the Hopi…2nd Mesa.
2007- Emerald Coast Magazine
Readers Choice: Best Splurge for Her- featuring a 5ct D color Internally Flawless diamond.
2010-(In) magazine Best of the Coast, Unique Jewellery
2010- 22nd annual Wine and Food Classic, WSRE Destin
Donated a one of a kind Burning Water necklace featuring a perfectly cut Theta diamond that brought the distinction of being the highest single fund raising sale.
2012- Honored to exhibit Burning Water Jewellery at the Wild Horse Gallery in Steam Boat Springs, Colorado.
2012- One man VIP shows in Abu Dhabi and Dubai
2013- Receives recognition for his investment and contribution for Palafox Street be named a Great Place in America
2013- Hosts Spanish Designer, Jaime Moreno from Pensacola sister city, Madrid for extensive Jewelry Exhibition of his work and receives proclamation from Mayor Ashton J Hayward, III.
2014- Voted 4th Place by Editor’s Choice for the Exterior of a Store in the America’s Coolest Store Contest. Published in July 2014 issue of INSTORE Magazine.
2015- The visionary behind Rock Hard Designs returned to the elements from which he came; however, the foundation on which he built his business is strong. His designs, like many of the great jewelry houses that have lost their original founders, will continue to evolve. His legacy lives and the store remains open. The Rock Hard Designs team will always Rock Hard!