I. Gorman Jewelers, Washington, D.C.’s Avant-Garde Jewelry Haven



1133 20th St. NW, Washington, D.C.

D.C. is famously conservative when it comes to fashion, which makes the long-running success of I. Gorman—a showcase for avant-garde jewelry created primarily by European designers—pretty astounding. The store, founded by Ivan and Bonnie Gorman in 1981 and now owned by their children, Adam Gorman and Nicole Gorman-Shrum, performs a savvy balancing act when it comes to merchandising, mixing such timeless fare as three-stone bridal styles with floating-diamond glass sphere rings. The minimal, stylish decor also plays a part in attracting local jewelry hounds who, Adam Gorman says, are “looking to break out of the mold and learn something about themselves, stylistically speaking.”

NATURAL PROGRESSION
The store was originally located across the street, but the family relocated in 2007 with the mission of creating a lighter, more modern-feeling space. “The old store was beautiful, but very dark and classic,” Gorman says. “We wanted an environment that felt very urban and minimalist, but still warm and full of textures.” The owners hired D.C.-based Hickok Cole Architects to invent the interiors—in large part because the company had never before designed a jewelry store.

 

BONE STRUCTURE
In-case LED lighting strips—paired with relatively dim overhead lighting—create a pleasing lineup of softly  glowing boxes spanning the showroom floor. Unique baubles are also displayed in custom-built, cylindrical wooden units. The peekaboo portals feel vaguely nautical, and—with huge slices of raw gemstones acting as backdrops for the jewelry inside—a bit like luxury dioramas. Specially made glass pendant lights resembling giant clear marbles descend from the ceiling, anchored by thin silver cords. And a floor-to-ceiling slab of pink quartz, lit from within by a smattering of tiny lights, bolsters the store’s curb appeal at night.

 

OUT OF THE BOX
Best-selling collections include Todd Reed for bridal and fashion, MaeVona’s swooping engagement rings, Margoni’s colorful gemstone jewelry, and pieces from lesser-known (mostly European) artists including Marcel Roelofs, Roberto Demeglio, Furrer-Jacot, and Satoru. Maria Rzewuska, a Polish jewelry consultant, curates a collection of pieces from Polish designers for the retailer. “We saw carrying mostly European designers, and smaller designers, as a strong way to differentiate ourselves,” Gorman says. “And now we’re looking to constantly push it.”

 

COMFORT LEVEL
“We wanted our customer to feel like the store is a comfortable environment where it’s safe to take chances,” Gorman says. Recently, the owners created a touch-and-feel wall featuring about a dozen necklace designs for easy try-on. Ultimately, the shop is more chic-and-sleek than warm-and-fuzzy. And as for the inventory, “we’re more proactive than reactive,” he says. “Customers come to us asking, ‘What’s new?’”

 

Photographs by Jay Westcott