“Sandra Bullock has a beautiful, large silver cuff with 24K flowers on it with center diamonds. Angelina Jolie has more than 20 or 30 pieces,” Gurhan says as we chat in El Paseo’s Saks Fifth Avenue, the exclusive desert retailer of Gurhan’s exquisite creations.
Collectors of all kinds, from superstars to everyday folks, avidly seek out the Turkish-born jewelry designer’s gemstone-encrusted necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings. It seems unfathomable that, upon his arrival in America in 1997, his pieces were a tough sell.
“It was the time for white metals,” Gurhan explains. “Platinum. Silver. White gold. No one wanted to see yellow gold. And when I started showing my work, they said, ‘This is not just yellow. This is very, very yellow!’”
The man who singlehandedly pioneered the revival of “pure gold,” which is both softer and heavier than 10K, 14K, or 18K, came to his calling late in life. He was 41 in the mid-’90s, when, while browsing in an Istanbul watch shop, he met a man selling a small sheet of 24K gold. Immediately taken by its color and beauty, he bought it.
“It was love at first sight,” Gurhan, now 58, recalls. He started working with the precious metal the next day. “I had to travel back in time because they didn’t use today’s jewelry tools. You have to work by hand exactly how it was done thousands of years ago.”
While he always designs alone, making each prototype and resolving issues on his own, Gurhan oversees an army of 80 craftspeople in Istanbul. His three original employees head a trio of Turkish workshops, and Gurhan and his wife Fiona travel back and forth from Turkey to New York City.
Although his pieces range in price from $200 or less to upwards of $120,000, Gurhan says his dream is to create work of jeweled art worth millions.