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Ariel Gordon launched her jewelry line, Ariel Gordon Jewelry (AGJ) in 2009 from her Santa Monica apartment while she was working as a Hollywood publicist producing red-carpet events. With no design experience, Ariel went back to school to learn her craft and apprenticed with beloved jeweler, Maya Brenner. With a little bit of luck and a lot of grit and hard work, Ariel grew her business into the thriving brand that it is today. We love a lady who wants to become her own ladyboss and has the guts to make it happen. Read on to learn more of Ariel’s story…

Ariel Gordon

Ariel we love that you left a successful career as a Hollywood publicist to pursue your creative passions. What was that career pivot like?

I just remember being at Sundance Film Festival looking around and feeling so disconnected to my job and that whole crazy world. I was working insane hours, making terrible money, and didn’t see a clear path for my future. I knew I wanted to start a family and I knew I wanted a job that allowed me that flexibility. I also knew that if I was going to bust my ass I wanted to be the one to benefit from all my own hard work. So, I quit. I had no idea what I was going to do. I had never made a piece of jewelry before. I went to jewelry school to learn soldering, stone-setting gemology, casting, and everything technical that goes into jewelry fabrication. I then spent the next 6 years learning the business side of the industry by working with LA-designer (and fellow heymama member), Maya Brenner.

Do you think your background in publicity helped (or hindered) your desire to pursue a creative field?

It absolutely helped. When I launched my company in 2009, no one was shopping online—especially not for 14k gold. The industry was still dominated by brands that invested heavily in their wholesale business and doing trade shows. I didn’t have that luxury and I didn’t have the time or money to go that route. So, I used the tools I had available to me: my PR skills. I started pitching AGJ to all the publicists, stylists, and editors I knew and I got a lot of great traction. Because I credited all my press hits back to my website, it gave the brand instant legitimacy. Before I knew it, the orders started rolling in. Now I’m thrilled to partner with so many amazing retailers but my web business is still my bread and butter.

I also know how editors and stylists think and this informs my design process. I know there will always be a “layering necklace” story or an “under $500” piece and I keep this in mind while I’m designing.

Tell us more about how you learned the art of jewelry design.

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. It was a 3 month intensive program for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. It was amazing to be surrounded by all these creative and talented people. Some of the projects they had us do were insane (like making a hinge from scratch) but I am so proud to have completed the training. Even though I don’t get to sit at my bench much these days, having the technical knowledge of how things are made is immeasurably helpful when I work with my production team in LA (where all AGJ is handmade).

What advice would you give to other mamas wanting to start their own line?

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. Also, if you’re a mama, time is your most precious commodity; you have to spend it wisely. Not to say there won’t be long hours (there will) but you need to work smarter, not harder.

Do you have a mentor? What role, if any, has he/she played in your life?

Definitely two fellow jewelry designers – Page Sargisson out of NYC and Maya Brenner out of LA. Page is the original person who inspired me to start my own line (I worked with her on an event in my PR days) and Maya is the one who showed me the path forward. Both ladies were invaluable to me learning the ropes. Even though we are in the same industry, there is more than enough to go around for everyone and they have always been so supportive of me and AGJ.  

Your branding is very clean and refined. We love how you layer everything! Your Instagram is also very fresh and inspirational. What was the process like coming up with your brand identity?

Thanks! It used to be me handling all the social channels by myself but because it is something that requires daily engagement, I’ve brought on a freelancer to help with things since I’m often working remotely, keep odd hours and only have pictures of Luca on my phone (and people only want to see so many of those). It’s such a big way that I communicate with my customers and I needed someone who was dedicated daily to it but also someone who gets “me” and “my voice.”

In a bigger sense, branding is a huge consideration of mine. I’m constantly thinking about what I would need to do to win myself as my own customer. I consider myself a savvy shopper and I may not necessarily buy an $800 necklace online that I hadn’t seen in person. But, I might spend that much money on something from Rachel Comey or Ulla Johnson because I know the brands and I trust their aesthetic and quality. So branding informs everything I do – from my social media voice to my website to my packaging to my newsletters to the stores I choose to work with to my look books and photo shoots. And, I handle all of it on my own. I don’t feel like I need an agency to tell me who I am or who my customer is. So much of what I do is instinctual and this is a huge part of it.

I’m constantly thinking about what I would need to do to win myself as my own customer.

We love that you trust your gut as we often hear that this is the best advice. When have you gone against the grain and done something just because you felt it was the right thing to do? Did it work out?

Well…my family just relocated to the Bay Area (while AGJ HQ is staying in LA). This literally happened 2 weeks ago (while I am 8 months pregnant). It has been quite a whirlwind but the stars seemed to align and we took the plunge. It will be a big shift for me to work remotely and travel back and forth to LA, but I have to trust in my amazing team to handle things while I’m up north—so far so good. Check back in with me in a few months after I’ve had Baby #2 and see how that workflow is going.

Your pieces are designed after special moments in your life. Do you remember the first piece you made and how the design came to be?

At Ariel Gordon Jewelry, we believe in timeless pieces lasting a lifetime, in quality over quantity, in loving your jewelry and being able to live in it. We want you to put it on and forget it’s there. AGJ consists of highly personal pieces designed to be worn together and collected over time, since I often find myself wearing the same jewels for months. All of the jewelry that I wear is symbolic of a treasured moment in my life. I want AGJ pieces to be an extension of the woman wearing them.

Women no longer want to wait for gifts or grand gestures from others to build a jewelry collection—they can do it themselves. This customer often buys herself jewelry as a tangible symbol of those she holds dear to her heart, or a happy occasion in her life. The first piece I ever designed back in 2009 was my love knot ring. I had a similar ring as a child and I wanted to make a simple and modern version of the classic style that could be a sweet forget-me-not.

Back to layering! You say your designs are meant to look “lived in” and you can layer new pieces over time. What 3 pieces are your most treasured?

  1. My engagement ring.
  2. My signet medallion necklace – Perhaps it’s because I have a boy, but lately my trademark delicate jewelry has become a bit more substantial. I wanted this necklace to look like a vintage Italian charm necklace that a man would wear when he’s boating off the Amalfi coast. It’s hand engraved with my son’s name which gives it an heirloom feel. I haven’t taken it off since I put it on. Luca used to twirl his fingers around it while he nursed which was really just the sweetest.
  3. My Close to my heart necklace – I designed this necklace as a modern take on the BFF (Best Friends Forever) necklace for my bridesmaids. Instead of a janky half of a heart, there are alternating pave diamond halves. Again, I put this on in 2010 when I got married and I really have worn it every day since.

Honestly… my dream clients are everyday ladies. I am so inspired seeing real girls wearing my jewels in their real life. No stylists. No photographers. Just rad chic girls with a great sense of style who have to run around town and get their kids to school and make time for that phone call and pick up the dry cleaning and handle that meeting and see their friends and live their life.

Running a business and being a wife and mother to your son, Luca, is busy. Do you have any time-saving hacks that you’ve incorporated into your daily life?

Amazon Prime and I are very close. Instacart ends up saving me money because I feel like I shop less frivolously. And I don’t need to fuss with carseats and schlepping to the store. Google Calendar keeps my life organized. I send Ubers for my amazing nanny (who doesn’t drive). I use Slack to communicate with my team in the studio (to free up our inbox). I use Last Pass to save all my passwords. I Waze all my directions to find the shortest route.

People always think that being a jewelry designer must be so creative. I’m here to tell you that 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 begin. 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.

You use only conflict-free stones in your designs. What is the sourcing process like?

AGJ is committed to sourcing from reputable vendors and using conflict free stones. My skilled team of master jewelers shares my commitment to craftsmanship and attention to detail. Every year, I go to a few major gem shows (in Tucson and in Las Vegas) to source my stones directly from gem dealers, who are reputable and accountable in the industry.   

Your jewelry has been worn by some pretty impressive women, Beyonce, Drew Barrymore and Jessica Alba to name a few. Do you have a dream client? Who would it be and what piece would they wear?

Honestly… my dream clients are everyday ladies. I am so inspired seeing real girls wearing my jewels in their real life. No stylists. No photographers. Just rad chic girls with a great sense of style who have to run around town and get their kids to school and make time for that phone call and pick up the dry cleaning and handle that meeting and see their friends and live their life. These are the woman I design for and who inspire me. If I can become a part of their daily uniform, that’s all I want.

3 pearls of wisdom

1.

It's ok. You're ok. They're ok. We are all doing the best we can.

2.

Take a moment. Inhale. Exhale.

3.

Just remember you are a mirror for these little people. They will learn to navigate the world watching how you navigate things.

xx Ariel Gordon
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