Husband-and-wife team Jason and Gorjana Reidel shine with their local jewelry brand gorjana and philanthropic efforts.
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 25 stores in Southern California, the Bay Area, New York, Chicago, Arizona, Texas and beyond. 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 and flagship store are located.
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 recent ventures include launching a Fine Collection with 14-karat gold, diamonds, sapphires, opals and more. The company has also partnered with Fitbit to blend the jewelry brand’s style with the smartwatch’s technology in the Fitbit Luxe Special Edition tracker, which started selling this past spring.
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.”
Gems of Generosity
For the gorjana company and its owners, giving back just comes naturally.
A Laguna Beach-based foundation, With My Own Two Hands, has caught the attention of Jason and Gorjana Reidel for the nonprofit’s work to help provide children in East Africa with the basic human rights of food, water and access to education. Among the group’s holistic-minded projects are establishing clean water systems and farming projects as well as improving sanitation and hygiene, all of which allow children to spend more time in the classroom. Seeing this impact, the Reidels funded one of the 28 greenhouses built by the foundation so far. “We connected with WMO2H years ago here in Laguna,” Gorjana says. “We have a soft spot for children and causes that support their well-being, so we worked together to fund a greenhouse at a children’s home in Nairobi, Kenya.”
Aiding the Animals
When an oil spill off the coast of Orange County endangered marine life this past fall with approximately 25,000 gallons of crude oil leaking from an offshore pipeline, the Reidels jumped in to help, donating to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna. Now marking its 50th anniversary, the nonprofit rescues, rehabilitates and releases seals and sea lions that are sick or injured. “We were devastated to hear about the oil spill that took place in our backyard,” Gorjana says. “After reading about the potential impact on our community and coastal ecosystems, we chose to support the local Pacific Marine Mammal Center and, [in Huntington Beach, the] Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center.”
For the month of October, gorjana pledged to donate 50% of the proceeds from its Rose Quartz Collection—including pieces such as the Power Gemstone Ring for Love and the Power Gemstone Aura Bracelet for Love—to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, generating more than $60,000 for the New York-based organization and its mission to prevent and cure breast cancer. Notably, the foundation was the largest private funder of breast cancer research and metastatic breast cancer research worldwide this year. This work resonates on several levels with the gorjana company. “We raise money every year for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, an incredible organization with a great reputation,” Gorjana says. “We have predominantly female customers and employees, so preventing this life-threatening disease is extremely important to us.”