COUTURE PRACTICES - Gudbrandur Josef Jezorski, Reykjavik

March 2008

For the past 32 years, an old house painted brick-red and set just above street level on Reykjavik’s quirky main shopping street, Laugavegur, has showcased the work of a goldsmith named Gudbrandur Josef Jezorski.

On a blustery January morning, the shop is nothing so much as a sanctuary. An island in the middle of the North Atlantic, Iceland is habitable thanks to the warm currents of the Gulf Stream—which isn’t to say it’s always hospitable. In the middle of winter, when the sun only makes an appearance for six hours a day, walking Reykjavik’s slush-filled streets feels downright treacherous.

Inside the 480-square-foot boutique, the warm ambience is in stark—and welcome—contrast to the conditions outside. A series of vertical glass showcases display Jezorski’s one-of-a-kind jewelry, as well as pieces designed by his daughter, Tina Jezorski, a goldsmith who joined the business 10 years ago. Together with wife and mother Barbara, they run a gallery-like space that draws both locals and tourists alike. (The latter overwhelmingly arrive during the white nights of summer, when Iceland’s population of 300,000 more than doubles in size.)

Like the locals, visitors find it hard to resist Jezorski’s unique vision. Using colored gemstones sourced from trusted dealers in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, as well as stones found locally, including a white quartz known as Icelandic opal, he reimagines Iceland’s volcanic wilderness of geysers, glacial waterfalls and geothermal pools in highly original works of jewelry art.

“We have all kinds of design thanks to this landscape that inspires them,” says Barbara, a former “air hostess” with Icelandic Airlines (in the 1970s, fondly known as “The Hippie Airline” for its cheap flights and disheveled passengers). Ever since she quit to have children, she’s been a fixture at the store.

She presides over an ever-changing collection that includes an enormous cocktail ring whose 22-karat gold bezel setting holds a mesmerizing boulder opal; a brooch fashioned from a latticework of gold and capped by a slice of watermelon tourmaline; and an 18-karat yellow gold cuff bracelet textured to resemble dripping “hraun,” or lava, its course sparkling with a carat of tiny diamonds (at 1.6 million Kronur, or about $25,000, the cuff bracelet is the store’s most expensive piece). But this is just a sampling of what Jezorski can do. Trained in Pforzheim, Germany, he’s been plying his trade in Reykjavik for 42 years. In that time, he’s amassed a body of work that’s caught the attention of the Queen of Denmark and the Queen of England.

lapis brooch

Daughter Tina, also Pforzheim-trained, takes after him, although her style leans more towards big and chunky necklaces of polished stones: lapis lazuli, popular among Icelanders; lava rock, evocative of the sprawling fields of lava that blanket much of the island; and smooth polished jasper, to name a few. The necklaces start at around 30,000 Kronur (about $460), while the gem-set pieces range between 100,000 and 200,000 Kronur (about $1,500 to $3,000). “We always go to Intergem,” Barbara says, referring to the gemstone buying fair that takes place in Idar-Oberstein in the fall, the source for many of the store’s uniquely cut gems. “We love the stones.” She says that handmade engagement rings in 18-karat gold are a hit with tourists, who often get engaged in Iceland, no doubt swept off their feet by its energy, and the inimitable jewels that capture it.