How a modest hobby grew into a bicoastal brand coveted by bohemians and sophisticates alike.

Serbian-born Gorjana (gawr-yan-ah) Reidel was raised in a world where women handcrafted everything, from traditional Balkan cuisine to custom garments. This handmade culture remained a powerful influence in her life, even after she moved with her parents to Canada and then the United States. Years later, Gorjana’s respect for authenticity and a compelling urge to “be creative” would lead to her first semifine jewelry collection and, eventually, to eight eponymous boutiques stretching from Newport Beach to New York City.

Against blue Shibori wallpaper and glossy white display cases, pieces in gold, rose gold and silver catch the light. Crescent moons, stars and palm fronds dangle from delicate tiered necklaces and playful statement earrings. Bracelets and rings range from thick and bold to dainty, some adorned with shiny Opalite and crystals. A special collection of “power gemstones” promises to enhance an array of emotional strengths, including courage, self-expression and healing. The collection appeals to all ages and somehow adapts to the person who wears it.

Around her own wrist, Gorjana, whose style is a seamless mix of bohemian and city gal, sports a gray labradorite bracelet. “It provides balance,” she explained, “which helps when you’re juggling all the checklists that come with raising children and running a business.”

Like many brands, the label sprang from unexpected beginnings. After earning a marketing degree, Gorjana went to work at Neiman Marcus and found herself in the jewelry department. “I didn’t know much about it,” she said. But in the world of gemstones, she discovered her passion.

“At 23, I couldn’t afford a $1,500 necklace, so I began playing with gemstones and other beautiful materials.” She created pieces only for herself at first, but her friends started to ask for them. Before long, a store in Newport Coast® wanted to carry her line, and soon demand exceeded supply. “One Christmas break about 15 years ago, I made my family help me make jewelry,” she said. “That’s when I knew I needed to expand.”

Together with her husband, Jason, who handles the company’s marketing and public relations, Gorjana sought out talented female jewelry makers to help produce her designs. A manufacturer followed, and the bicoastal couple eventually moved the design and marketing operations from their Laguna Beach home studio to a 4,000-square-foot space in Laguna Canyon. In addition to six stores in California, Gorjana has opened two in New York City: one in the North of Little Italy (NoLIta) neighborhood and another in the West Village. Plans are underway for two more by 2019. While the collections are identical in the California and New York boutiques, Jason’s astute merchandising reflects differences in the clientele.

“The New York City stores get a lot of Parisian shoppers who love our elegant necklaces, whereas shoppers in California tend to gravitate toward bracelets,” said Jason, who sports stacked power gemstone bracelets that were carried under the former Griffin label for men that featured watches, bags and other jewelry. “Everyone asks us to bring back the watch,” he said, hinting at a possible return to men’s accessories.

Traveling frequently between coasts, Gorjana draws inspiration from both ends of the country. Southern California’s bohemian vibe and beautiful scenery are reflected in layered chains and desert-palm prints, while East Coast architecture inspires geometric pieces like triangle pendants and rectangular bar posts.

“I’m an artist with a grounded, practical side,” said Gorjana. “Everything has to be functional. But I’ll see a piece of architecture and think, ‘that shape would be cool as a ring,’ or a pretty palm and think, ‘that would work well in a cast piece.’” Sometimes, she’ll spot an ensemble on a passerby and immediately invent a piece that would pair well with it. “It’s an intuitive process,” she remarked.

Gorjana believes that a fabulous piece of jewelry should not only be affordable, it should also be timeless. “A unique aspect of our brand is that we create trends, but we’re not trendy,” she said. “I love that our collection appeals to different generations, from a 5-year-old to my 85-year-old grandmother.”

Jewelry should accentuate without being a focal point, she added. It should look effortless and never be too heavy. “If you can feel the weight, you’re wearing too many layers,” she asserts. To take the guesswork out of mastering the jewelry balance, Gorjana designs layered sets.

The Fall 2018 collection reveals new incarnations of the power gemstone bracelet, with a focus on charms. Gorjana said she would love to explore finer gemstones, but in what particular form she’s not yet sure.

“When I started, I didn’t have a vision,” she said. “One of the best things has been not being set on something, but allowing the trajectory to happen.” The key to the company’s success, she believes, has been the ability to conform to what’s happening in the industry even when it means bending or twisting the original plan.

In a storage bin in her studio, Gorjana keeps a sample of every piece from the company’s first collection. “It’s to remind me where we started,” she said. “It’s so cool to pull it out once in a while and see that evolution.”

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