Husband-and-wife team Jason and Gorjana Reidel, of local jewelry brand gorjana, share how they got started in the business, as well as their inspirations and favorite places in town.
By Sharon Stello
After immigrating to the United States from the former Yugoslavia by way of Canada and earning a marketing degree from Arizona State University, Gorjana Reidel found herself working in the jewelry department at a Neiman Marcus store. Just 22 years old, she didn’t have enough money to buy any fine jewelry, so she started making her own high-quality pieces.
Of course, Gorjana didn’t realize that she would one day establish a successful jewelry brand with more than 20 stores in Southern California, the Bay Area, New York, Chicago, Arizona and Texas. Even after achieving this level of success, Gorjana remains passionate about designing jewelry. There’s just something about the finishing touch that a necklace, bracelet or ring adds to an outfit.
“I love that jewelry is so personal and how, when you wear it, you become attached to it,” she says. “It’s much more intimate than clothing. It makes women feel good, beautiful and put together, and I think it is an amazing form of self-expression.”
Gorjana lives with her husband, Jason Reidel, and their children in Laguna Beach—where the business is based—while Fashion Island in Newport Beach is among their shop locations.
They met after Jason graduated from law school at Pepperdine University. He was working for a veteran sports agent, but had an “entrepreneurial itch.” The couple discovered a shared love for fashion and eventually teamed up to start the jewelry business out of their apartment. “I always say Gorjana is [the] ‘talent’ and I’m the ‘hustle,’ Jason says. “Together, we created gorjana, a jewelry collection with an accessible price point that had the look and feel of high-end jewelry.”
The brand’s jewelry is inspired by the West Coast’s effortless, laid-back style and incorporates an 18-karat gold finish as well as textural elements and genuine gemstones. Many of the pieces, like the necklaces, are meant to be layered.
“I love that it allows anyone to create their own look and express themselves,” Gorjana says. “My favorite thing is to see how women are layering the pieces and how they are styling them. The best thing about layering is that there are no rules.”
Some of the brand’s latest ventures include launching a Fine Collection with 14-karat gold, diamonds, sapphires, opals and more. The company has also partnered with Fitbit and this past spring started selling the Fitbit Luxe Special Edition tracker, which blends the jewelry brand’s style with the smartwatch’s technology.
When designing new pieces, Gorjana is influenced by her surroundings. “My biggest inspiration is our laid-back California lifestyle,” she says. “I love creating pieces that seamlessly fit within my day-to-day life. They have to be beautiful, comfortable and versatile, all at the same time.”
The business is also community-minded. “Giving back is one of the company’s core values,” Jason says. “On a national level, we donate auction packages to various charities. On a local level, our company donates food for the homeless [and] is active with … Working Wardrobes and With My Own Two Hands.”
When not busy running the business and giving back, the couple enjoys time together in Newport. Here, they share a few of their favorite places in town.
For a meal at home, Gorjana and Jason grab provisions from A MARKET. “This is our go-to pickup spot,” she says. “From the amazing breakfast pastries to the delicious salads and sandwiches, it is always so good. Some of our favorites are the Reuben, the Chinese chicken salad [and] the lemon bread. Their chocolate chip cookies, which you can now bake at home, are [also] amazing.”
Family days often find the Reidels in NEWPORT HARBOR. “We love to spend the whole day out on the water,” Gorjana says. “We pack all sorts of food and have a blast taking a harbor cruise with our kids.”
When craving a well-crafted sandwich for lunch at the park or anywhere, the Reidels head to C’EST SI BON BAKERY. “Their turkey sandwiches on the fresh-out-of-the-oven baguettes are simple yet amazing,” Gorjana says.
BAMBOO BISTRO in Corona del Mar is another local restaurant at the top of Gorjana’s list of favorites. “I dream about their traditional Vietnamese egg rolls,” she says. “They are literally one of my favorite things anywhere. Growing up in Canada, we would always go to a restaurant that had the same ones, so it [is] pretty nostalgic for me.”
When seeking a mini escape, the Reidel family spends some time on BALBOA ISLAND. “There is something so fun about pretending to be a tourist and getting a chocolate covered banana,” Gorjana says. “We switch between DAD’S [DONUT & BAKERY SHOP] and [SUGAR ‘N SPICE]. … Whenever we do it, everyone loves it and has the best time walking around the island.”