Chatting with Ariel Gordon
Ariel Gordon, Founder & CEO of Ariel Gordon Jewelry
Even though Ariel Gordon had never considered herself an artist, she launched Ariel Gordon Jewelry in 2009 from a little apartment in Santa Monica. Many A-list celebrities have worn her stunning jewelry, such as Selena Gomez, Gigi Hadid, Beyoncé, and Jennifer Lawrence. Her collections have been featured in Vogue, InStyle, and Elle. We recently had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with her about her business, inspiration, and the age-old debate: can you mix gold and silver?
Melissa: You obviously live and breathe jewelry, where did your passion of jewelry come from? And how did you decide to launch your own business?
Ariel: I started in PR, doing celebrity product placement and gifting-houses at award shows. It was not very fulfilling, but I worked with a jewelry designer at an event and I was really inspired by the life she had built for herself. She was doing something creative, she was her own boss, she had kids, and she had flexibility. That really attracted me more than finding a creative outlet or anything. I approached it from seeing it as a lifestyle that I wanted to build for myself: to be my own boss, to run a business, and benefit from my own hard work.
I had never made a piece of jewelry before. Ever. My sister is a painter and an artist, but I was always the nerdy one at school. I had never done anything creative before. I took a couple classes in Santa Monica, and then I moved up to San Fransisco and did more classes there. I then worked for another designer named Maya Brenner for 6 years. I learned the ins and outs of the business side of things. And now, here I am.
Melissa: What was one of the pieces you launched with?
Ariel: The Love Knot Ring, which is still one of my best sellers today. It feels like I was onto something. That was 2009 and it was a hard time. People were not shopping online, but I couldn’t afford to do trade shows or go after stores, so I just committed to selling things online. No one was selling online, especially not fine jewelry. I now do wholesale and I work with a lot of great stores, but I work with the stores I want to work with; stores that I feel bring brand awareness and build trust in the aesthetic, quality, and branding.
M: How do you accessorize differently from day to evening?
A: I wear the same thing for months, sometimes years at a time.
M: Did you launch with personalization of your products?
A: I did. one of the first collections I did was a collection of initial necklaces. I was inspired by the movie, Helvetica, that I watched in 2009. Those necklaces really took off. I found that people wanted to do their kid’s initials, husband’s initials, or multiple on a chain. At the time, personalized jewelry was all about Man Repeller’s Arm Party bracelets, or big chunky necklaces. No one was really doing dainty, fine, personalized things. All my jewelry is fine jewelry so it’s not going to tarnish on you or turn your skin green.
I still have pieces that aren’t personal that you can layer in, but the personalized stuff is really what sells the best for me. It’s what people keep coming back for when they have a milestone in their lives, such as their kids graduating school, someone getting married, or has a baby. I feel like if you’re going to wear something every day, you’re going to want to have something that is meaningful to you in your life.
M: Got to ask the age-old question – gold or silver?
A: I am pretty much a gold girl. I used to be all silver, because I couldn’t afford gold. I had a rose gold moment, but now I have swung back to yellow. I mix and match. For example, my engagement ring is platinum, but I wear rose gold earrings with a yellow gold necklace. I like to mix them all up.
M: Layered or 1 piece, which do you rock on a daily basis?
A: I kind of keep adding, but because all the pieces are dainty, I feel like it never looks like I’m wearing a lot of jewelry. I am probably wearing 15-20 pieces of jewelry every day, but it’s all so little and fine that it doesn’t feel super excessive.
M: What does a day in your life look like?
A: I take my son to school, my 1-year old baby girl goes with the nanny, and then I am right into the computer communicating with the girls in the office. Most of what I do is not design, I mostly deal with customer service, negotiating better UPS rates, updating the platform for our website; the non-sexy but critical to having a business stuff.
M: What do you do to unwind?
A: I love a massage. I love a weekend away with my husband, even if it’s a staycation. One night can really be so rejuvenating. I go for hikes with girlfriends. I normally do an eyelash extension which feels very luxe. I feel like a new person.
M: Where do you manufacture your items? Do you go and check on them regularly?
Everything is within two blocks of right here. I can never really move the office to the Bay Area, because there isn’t the infrastructure up there. All the artists and technical skill to make stuff is right here. We check-in with our production team multiple times a day. New York has a pretty big jewelry district, but a lot of New York designers are now coming out to L.A. to do their production.
M: What are three pieces of jewelry every woman should own?
A: First, an everyday necklace that you never take off. Secondly, a good pair of huggies because you can sleep in them and they won’t stab you. I have two piercings on each side and I like to wear them side by side. Thirdly, I would say an anklet. I am bringing anklets back. One on each or two on one foot. And a pinky ring! If you’re wearing no rings on any other fingers, you can still look good with a pinky ring.
M: Being in such a creative field can be trying at times, what has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
A: There’re challenges every day. I think learning how to roll with them and remembering that it is just jewelry. If someone gets a necklace a little later, it’s okay, it’s just a necklace. The blessing and the curse of running your own business is that you are the driving steam behind everything. When you’re always go-go-go, you have to give yourself a little wiggle room. I took some time off when my children were born, my mom passed away, and when we moved, and the business was still great. I have a great team. It’s my own sense of wanting to exceed that I need to tamper down.
M: What was the moment when you felt like you made it?
A: Back in the day when magazines made a difference for sales, I was living in Santa Monica in my little apartment. I was checking out at the grocery store and there was a Lucky Magazine, an Instyle, and an Elle, and I was on the cover of one and had big spreads in the other two. I was like “That’s me!”
M: Your pieces are coveted by celebrities around the world. Who is one person you’re still dying to get a piece of jewelry on? Or do you care about that?
A: I actually don’t care about that at all.
M: Has there been anyone who made you think “I am so glad she has that!”
A: Yeah, totally. Beyoncé, Charlize Theron, Gigi Hadid, Jennifer Lawrence. All these major ladies. That always feels good.
M: You source your stones from conflict-free areas, tell me why this is important to you.
A: There are certain vendors that you can work with that can provide documentation. There’s a show called the AGTA Show, which is held throughout the country at various times of the year. It is direct to trade for different designers. In order to show at the AGTA Show, you have to prove that you are sourcing all your stones through reputable channels. I get a lot of my stones through that.
It’s kind of a funny thing when people say their gold is recycled, because all gold is recycled. No one has been throwing gold away for centuries. All gold is refined. Like the gold in your bracelet, you have actually no idea when that gold was mined because it has probably been refined several times over. When you sell things mined naturally you have to sign NAFTA and sourcing paperwork.
M: If we were to raid your closet right now, which type of accessory would we find the most of?
A: Obviously, jewelry. I am also a handbag junkie. You can be wearing ZARA but no one will know if you’ve got a nice handbag and good jewelry. Those are the two things that can really elevate an outfit. And I feel a little less schlocky when doing preschool drop-offs if at least I’ve got a cute handbag. I also can’t buy myself jewelry. I feel like I am saving money there, so maybe I can divert that money to purses! I also do a lot of slides and sandals I can put on hands-free, because I am always holding a child while I’m running out the door. If I have to lace it or buckle it, I am probably not going to wear it.
M: Are you excited for any new collections you’re coming out with? And how often do you release a new collection?
A: I do twice a year. I do a Spring and a Fall. I am super excited about my Spring ‘19 collection. It’s all that fun enamel stuff, and some bigger gold statements, like big heavy hoops and heavier chain necklaces. I feel like when I started the line, I wanted it to be all dainty fine things, but as I’ve evolved I think my aesthetic has evolved and as the market has gotten more saturated. I think for my own pride, I don’t want to be confused with other designers. At first, I was nervous about the price point because everything is based on the gold price. Making a heavier piece very directly translates to being more expensive. But my customers are totally going there with me. They are growing and evolving too.
M: How do you come up with your collaborations? Is it organic? Are you just friends with people?
A: They have all mostly grown out of friendships. I’ve done one with Sugar Paper, Le Feu De L’eau, and Frieda Salvador. The Sugar Paper collaboration came about naturally because our kids go to school together. It’s just friends who are also business owners. I feel like I am at a point in my career where I am excited to make jewelry, but I am also excited to do collaborations and keep it fresh.
M: You launched your own nail polish?
A: We launched in June. Everyone wants a nice nail to go with their nice rings. Naming polishes is the most fun thing ever.
M: Where do you get your inspiration from?
A: For the jewelry I used to get it from street style stuff, magazines, or travel, but now it’s mostly in my life. One of my best-selling necklaces, the Imperial Disc, I designed because when I had two kids, I wanted something that I could put two names or dates on. Before that, my best-selling necklace was the Medallion Signet that I designed when I had my son. I wanted something a little heavier, like 70’s Italian summer time, in Capri. I was afraid of making something more expensive and heavier, but I sell them every day.