DAVID GOMEZ

NEW YORK — Few can relate fine gems to the jewel-like creations of the world’s finest restaurants as well as David Gomez Pearlberg.

The jewelry designer was once a full-time chef and owned the Fifth Avenue café, Eureka Joe, but when it closed in 2000, Pearlberg was ready to “carve out” a new career for himself. So, in January, he launched the David Gomez collection of 18- and 22-karat gold jewelry.

“I have always loved fashion and jewelry,” said the New York-based designer. “I have a real stylish mom, so I just couldn’t help growing up loving jewelry, shopping and clothing.”

The collection includes one-of-a-kind pieces featuring natural green and orange sparkly drusy stones hand carved into leaf motifs for pendant necklaces; bold, oval, blue topaz pendants, and earrings made from slices of agate.

“When you put together a plate of food, you look for the texture, color and composition to come together,” he said. “In a very abstract way, I look at my pieces the same way I would look at putting together a dinner.”

Since founding his company in January, Pearlberg has been wholesaling his collection from his Greenwich Village apartment. Earlier this month, he opened a showroom and office on Fifth Avenue and 20th Street. “I just needed a place for buyers to be able to come and relax, and where I could work quietly,” he said.

The 750-square-foot space is divided into a bright white front office and a back showroom with chocolate-colored walls.

“My logo is chocolate brown and white, so the idea was to create two very different feelings in a very small space,” he said. “Jewelry is such a personal thing. It should be offered in a more relaxing environment.”

Pearlberg made a chandelier by stringing together 1,400 clear Swarovski crystals on bronze jewelry threads around a long fluorescent ceiling light. The display wall is lined with graphic Plexiglas cubes, each of which features a different piece of jewelry. Clients can sit on clear acrylic Philippe Starck chairs and examine the jewels on a stark black table.Price points range from $500 for a pair of 18-karat gold hoop earrings to $10,000 for a black tourmaline and mixed-color South Sea pearl necklace. The line already has been picked up by Neiman Marcus.

First-year wholesale volume is projected at $350,000, and Pearlberg hopes to increase the business to $1 million by the end of next year.

“My next focus is to start building a business with independent jewelry stores,” he said.

— Marc Karimzadeh

JUDE FRANCES


LOS ANGELES — If a woman can afford to buy herself a Prada suit, then why not a pair of diamond earrings?

That’s what friends Jude Steele and Frances Gadbois wondered when they started the line, Jude Frances, last year. Since then, versatility and wearability have been the key to building the 350-piece line, and what started as a $250,000 business in its first few months has grown to a $2.5 million company, expected to grow to $4.5 million in sales next year.

“We like to call them ‘everyday diamonds.’ You can wear them wherever you want to, with jeans or black tie, and it’s very adaptable,” said Steele from their offices above Gadbois’ garage in Corona Del Mar, Calif.

The pieces, ranging from delicate briolette chandelier earrings to weighty cuffs, are highly adaptable. Earrings are offered as either posts or as charms that hook onto small pavé diamond hoops, enabling women to add charms to their collection, or wear them as necklaces. All the 18-karat white gold earrings and rings are offered with a rainbow of colored stones, from pink tourmaline to garnet to citrine.

“You don’t want someone who buys a piece once and never buys it again,” Gadbois said. “You want somebody who keeps coming back.”

The price points, as well as the interchangeable pieces, have encouraged repeat customers. Ranging from $600 to $3,800 wholesale, with most earrings priced at around $1,500, the pieces offer a lot of sparkle for the buck.

Steele and Gadbois had known each other for years in the small seaside town in Orange County, mostly through social events at their children’s school. At one point, Steele was organizing a charity event that Gadbois had offered to host.Gadbois, who had run an interior design business for 18 years was looking for a change. Steele, who owned a store selling jewelry, was also ready for something new. The impetus came when Steele took Gadbois’ sister, a student at the Gemological Institute of America, on a tour of local jewelry designers.

Gadbois said, “I came along for the ride and the more I saw the more I said, ‘I think we can do that.’ After that I said, ‘Do you have any interest in doing a line?’ and from that moment we picked up a pencil and started designing.” A friend of Gadbois’ who manufactures jewelry offered valuable sourcing and sampling advice, and soon the pair had a 20-earring collection.

The two had spent copious hours in the library researching history books and found that they both admired old crown jewels and medieval motifs. Even now, the crown, cross and fleur de lis are staples of the collection, as are rings with diamonds that wrap over and around colored stones.

By coincidence, the women and their friends were wearing Jude Frances earrings at a birthday party where one of the guest happened to have a friend in the Neiman Marcus jewelry department, and the next day they received a call from the store. Now, their line is sold in 12 Neiman Marcus stores, as well as Saks Fifth Avenue, Ice and about 40 other boutiques nationwide.

Because the pieces are manufactured locally, the quick turnaround time has become one of their strengths.

Steele believes their designs appeal to a wide range of women, which is why they sell well in both traditional Midwestern jewelry chains, like Borsheim’s, and in trendy West Coast boutiques, like Ice.

Dottie Chanin, owner and buyer for Ice, has carried Jude Frances in all five of her stores for the last six months.

“It’s really beautiful, very elegant and priced very well,” Chanin said. “They zero in on certain looks I knew would sell well, like pink stones, and they are very accommodating. That is so important now when everything is faster than lightning.”

The pair also is busy designing a line with pearls and white topaz that also will be appropriate for bridal, further broadening its retail scope.“Timing was the key to our relationship,” Steele added. “If we had met sooner or later, I don’t think either of us would be doing this now.”

— Marcy Medina

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