Award-winning jewelry designer Ariel Gordon has made a name for herself in the short amount of time she’s been crafting gorgeous rings, bracelets and necklaces. She’s been on the cover of almost every fashion glossy and has still managed to grow her business from a side project to a full time gig that is ever-growing. We love her whimsical pieces—her love knot ring is a fan favorite!—and wanted to know a little bit more about how she turned her passion project into a thriving company, so we sat down in her light-filled Downtown LA studio to pick her brain and ooh and ahh at her brilliant baubles.
TCM: How did you start your business?
AG: “I launched my collection in 2009 as an escape from the hectic pace of the PR world. When I decided to pursue jewelry design professionally, I moved to San Francisco to learn the craft of metalsmithing and stone setting at the Revere Academy. After returning to Los Angeles, I further honed my design skills apprenticing with jewelry designer Maya Brenner for 5 years.”
TCM: What has been your biggest challenge?
AG: “90% of what I do on a daily basis is running a small business (customer service, accounting, marketing, sourcing materials, PR, website maintenance, product photography, graphic design, order fulfillment, etc.). Juggling all the different tasks can be daunting. Some days it’s hard to know where to being. That’s why I’m a ‘to-do list’ addict. I’ve got them floating around me at all times. When I feel overwhelmed, I just start at the top of the list and work my way down, item by item.
The rising cost of gold also makes my design process more difficult these days. I feel like I’m a young designer and I want to be able to afford my own jewelry. To keep the prices points reasonable, I sometimes have to modify my designs.”
TCM: What has been your biggest achievement?
AG: “Having a background in PR has been a huge help for me. I’ve been lucky to garner a lot of magazine press in a few short years. I remember there was one month last year when I was in the check out aisle at the grocery store and there was a Lucky Magazine next to a People Style Watch next to an US Weekly next to a Glamour and I had jewelry in all four of them at the same time. That was definitely a proud moment for me. I was also pretty ecstatic when I won ShopStyle’s Emerging Designer award.”
TCM: What would you tell someone who wants to turn their passion for making jewelry into a business?
AG: “Find someone who has a business model similar to what you aspire to and work for them first. There is a learning curve to things and you might as well get paid while you learn that curve. When I decided I wanted to pursue jewelry as a career, it was a really scary moment in my life. I didn’t know anything about how to start a retail business. All I knew was that I felt a sense of satisfaction making something tangible and seeing people wear it. I wanted the freedom of being my own boss and I wanted to be the one to reap the benefits of all my hard work. To help ease into being self-employed, I decided to send my resume out to every LA-based jewelry designer I could think of and ask if any of them needed an assistant. I got a bunch of responses but I hit it off with one in particular. It couldn’t have been a better match… I ended up working for Maya Brenner for over 5 years (I launched Ariel Gordon Jewelry the last 2 of those 5), running almost every aspect of her company. It was the best learning experience I could have asked for. Maya taught me so much and I’m so lucky that we found each other!”
TCM: Tell us about your wedding and how marriage has impacted your work life.
AG: “Alex and I have been together for almost 8 years (we met at UCLA) and he has done so much to help me realize my dreams. He has been so supportive of me starting my own business and that has made a huge difference for me. From cooking dinner at the end of a long work day to helping me schlep things to trunk shows to bouncing design ideas around with me to balancing my books, I don’t think I would have been able to muster enough courage to launch my own company had Alex not been there as my rock.
We got married on August 4, 2010 in Berkeley, California at the Brazilian Room – a lovely historic location in the middle of Redwood trees. We wanted everything to feel really personal, so we did things like write our own vows, have a close friend officiate, have both of our parents walk us down the aisle, make the decorations, put childhood pictures as the table numbers (table one had a picture of us when we were 1-year-old, table 2 when we were 2 years old, etc), and of course I made the rings and the bridesmaids jewelry. I wore a stunning Monique Lhuillier dress that I scored at her infamous sample sale.”
TCM: How do you stay healthy and balance your schedule and health?
AG: “I try to eat as healthy as possible. Lately I start every morning with a sweet, delicious almond milk, date and banana shake (thanks for the recipe, Heather). I shop for most of my produce at the Farmers’ Market (my fave is in Santa Monica on Sunday at Gretna Green and San Vicente). I have also really cut down on my meat intake to 1 or 2 times a week since reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. I drink green tea everyday (in lieu of coffee). I try not to drink too much alcohol or eat too many sweets. Try is the operative word.
As far as exercise, I rotate between yoga at Maha Yoga, Tracy Anderson’s mat video, hiking the Sullivan Ridge trail in the Palisades and walking the Santa Monica bluffs. I also just started a new routine with the girls in the office where we take a 30 minute break and do some power yoga or Tracy’s video. It’s a nice boost in the middle of the day.”
TCM: Have you ever juiced before? Can you talk to us about working while juicing?
AG: “Yes!! Alex and I did Pressed’s Cleanse #2 together a few months ago. It was a great way to jumpstart a healthy new year. I have a pretty big appetite normally, so it was hard not to eat anything for the first few days. By day 3, I was used to not eating. By the end of the 5th day, I didn’t even miss food. The juices were all delicious but they did leave me with lower energy levels, so I skipped exercising and shuffled work so I didn’t have anything too crazy scheduled.
When it was done, I felt stronger, healthier and more clear-headed. We are all guilty of overindulging and sometimes the body just needs a moment to regroup. I would definitely recommend it. One note… having my husband juicing at the same time was a key for me. As long as I didn’t have to watch someone eat something delicious, I was fine sticking to my juice. If he had eaten in front of me, I don’t think my will power would have held up.”
TCM: What’s your favorite destination? Does travel affect your jewelry?
AG: “Alex and I spent Thanksgiving in Tulum and I’ve decided it’s the perfect vacation. It’s got beautiful beaches, delicious food, Mayan ruins and warm weather. I can’t wait to go back. Right now, we are planning a trip to the Far East (Japan, China, Mongolia, Bali) and I’m really excited for that. Last night I dreamt about staying in a ryokan in the Japanese countryside. I can’t wait!!
Travelling definitely inspires my jewelry. I love seeing how other cultures adorn themselves and interpreting that in my own way.”
TCM: You just moved to a gorgeous new office—can you tell us a little bit about your creative space? Where was your first office?
AG: “My first office was in my living room! I’ve expanded a bit since then and now my office is in the heart of LA’s jewelry district. I’m really proud that I can make all of my jewelry locally and support the jewelry industry here. I share the space with Maya Brenner (my mentor and friend). We wanted a space that was bright and inviting, feminine and modern. My interior designer friend Krista Ewart lent her magic touch to help with the floorplan and picking out a few key elements.”
TCM: What’s next for Ariel Gordon Jewelry?
AG: “Always more beautiful jewelry! This year I want to focus on expanding my wholesale business. There are so many great boutiques out there that are struggling in this economy and I’d love to be a part of what helps to keep them prosperous and growing.”
TCM: Who inspires you the most? Do you have a creative community of friends that inspire and support you or do you find you work more independently?
AG: “I am inspired to design jewelry for people like me – girls who don’t change their jewelry everyday or with every outfit. Once I realized there is a whole group of women out there that want one less thing to think about in the morning, I set out to design my collection with them in mind. My slogan is ‘Handmade. Modern. Luxe’. I am always working to add pieces to my collection that are personalized and chic and that can translate from day to night.
I admire my girlfriends and the everyday girls that I see on the street, in blogs or around town who manage to look casual, elegant and chic without fashion closets or stylists to help them out. They are confident women who have their own sense of style while living on a real budget. Necessity leads them to be creative. They are fresh faced, playful, modern, sexy and timeless.”
TCM: What does a day in Ariel Gordon’s life look like?
AG: “Wake up around 7. Answer emails while waiting out traffic. Drive downtown around 10:30. Work in the studio until around 6. Head home. Cook dinner with Alex. Go for a walk down to the bluffs. Hop in bed and watch something on Netflix or read a book. Sleep by 11. Wash and repeat.”
Want to score your own Ariel Gordon goodies? Click here to see all the details for our exclusive giveaway of her signature Love Knot ring! Just tell us in the comments of this story what the best relationship advice you ever received is and the answer that has us ‘aha’-ing the most will win an Ariel Gordon piece!