Speaking for stones
Gurhan is an alchemist, spinning gold out of human longings and frailties.
The jeweler is in town through Saturday, holding court at Vail’s Squash Blossom.
“One side of jewelry concentrates attention to an attractive part of the body,” said Gurhan. “Another side – it covers something up.”
So a necklace might cascade down, pointing to a cleft between the breasts; earrings might be tiered, showing off the line of the neck instead of the ear lobes. Gurhan believes in creating his jewelry for real people, real women. He has a bucolic outlook on his art.
“I’m not like a painter, but a shoemaker,” he said. “First, it should be comfortable to wear, emotionally and physically. Then you can look at the aesthetic.”
Gurhan is smitten with gems and perceives a magical quality in them. It comes out in his enthusiasm.
“Have you seen how they come out,” he asked, referring to uncut stones. “Just like a rock, you wouldn’t even kick it. But then you slice it, and there is the sparkle and the color – how does this happen? We don’t know. There are lots of things we don’t know.”
He’s adamant that stones – big diamonds in particular – carry their history inside them. They can also be lucky or unlucky. Sometimes they can even be dangerous, if the wearer doesn’t have the strength for them. But it’s not a permanent state of affairs.
“Stones, they pass things on,” said the jeweler. “The best way to wash them is in a river with rushing water for a week.”
But the monetary value of gemstones being what it is, he can’t go about throwing them into rivers and hoping they’ll be there a week later. Instead, he keeps the water flowing in his New York studio. Eventually, the stones feel new and clean to him. Then he’ll work with them.
“Women who buy my jewelry, they might not know anything about the technical aspect, except that I make them each one by one, by hand,” he explained. “But they can feel the love that comes through. I love each piece, and they can feel the jokes and solutions in the jewelry.”
Gurhan’s thought processes are gilded, set in gold as they are. Sometimes it’s as straightforward as making one chain with multiple length options. Other times, it’s more ephemeral, in a texture or a line.
Gurhan has lived many lives. He worked with audio equipment, then lighting. He decided to open a disco, which worked for a good long time. But when the Turkish-born Gurhan touched pure gold for the first time, it so electrified him he knew he’d discovered a life-long passion. He was 40. He spent a year researching Byzantine and Anatolian metalsmithing dating back 7,000 years, and made the decision he would never work in less than 24-karat gold.
“I do not like to work with the impure,” he said. “I want it to be perfect.”
But he still likes discovering new things, such as the black diamonds. He likes working with stone-cutting artisans – people who do more than simple slice a stone.
“When you find a unique or beautiful stone,” he said, “designing is easy.”
He’s developed a reputation as a jeweler with stone sensitivity. When a man inherited rubies his father had bought in Vietnam in 1967 and hidden away in a safe, Gurhan was the first person he called.
Gurhan has a studio with assistants, but he won’t hire anyone with previous jewelry experience, as he doesn’t want anything to interfere with the ancient techniques he uses. Casting and stamping have no place in his studio.
Gurhan’s first jewelry enterprise was a tiny booth in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Fiona, an American tourist traveling in Turkey, fell in love with the designs and was hell-bent on tracking the designer down – quite a feat as the designer was “a grumpy old man who doesn’t deal with tourists.”
Perseverance paid off, and she finally cornered him. Long story short, they fell in love and became “committed,” which he celebrated by making a pair of rings.
“I didn’t think I should be married again,” he admitted. “But between married and unmarried, I prefer married.”
And so they tied the knot. She convinced him that he had to begin selling more jewelry to a broader market. In 1997, his jewelry began to be sold in the United States. A few years later, he was the top-selling designer for Neiman Marcus.
Beyond his two personal shops, his favorite gallery is Squash Blossom. In fact, many of his customers are loyal to the store.
“I have clients who come and see me at shows, maybe in Dallas or San Francisco,” he explained. “But they always say they have to wait and buy things at the Squash.”
You can find him at the Squash today and Saturday. Call the gallery for more information.
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