Get to Know Alex Prijic-Smith of Vargas Goteo

Montreal-based jewelry designer Alex Prijic-Smith of Vargas Goteo crafts contemporary, nature-inspired collections with portions of sales benefitting environmental conservation and wildlife.

Alex Prijic-Smith of Vargas Goteo

Headquarters: Montreal

Year firm launched: 2010

Signature style: “Contemporary yet timeless, with sleek and simple lines. I don’t follow trends too much. Many collections, like Manta, are inspired by nature, though INS and POE are two collections that celebrate human achievements: INS is an homage to a multimedia artist INS from Herceg Novi, Montenegro—where I grew up summering, always at the sea—and the other is Edgar Allen Poe. There are some recurring motifs within collections, one of which will be cracked ice in the upcoming Arctic collection. I focus on aspects, lines, or details of things that inspire me, not the whole form; a good example of this is the Shark ring, borrowing the fin shape from the side view of the shark, and open mouth from the through-finger view.”

Training, education, and design process: “I have been designing jewelry for five years, though my professional training was is in interior design and décor; I used to paint faux finishes like trompe l’oeil. There were so many pieces of jewelry that I wanted but couldn’t find, as well as gift ideas, so I took it upon myself to take a silversmith course. I started Vargas Goteo after watching several major design houses with ample resources beat me to the execution of several of my ideas. The name Vargas Goteo comes from 1940s pinup girl artist Alberto Vargas, whose models were seen as some of the most beautiful women in the world, and the Latin word Goteo, for droplet—as water inspires much of my work. I’m also inspired by Elsa Peretti.

“I come up with all the designs and concepts and draw sketches. From there, a 3-D model maker and I sit down and work together—I prefer to be involved and oversee every step. A workshop in Montreal then produces the pieces with me working closely alongside and overseeing the process.

“Components are purchased, not made, unless the piece requires a custom finding, and all of our jewelry is cast, with polishing and finishing done by hand. All the jewelry is made in Canada.”

Materials of choice: “I work in silver and 14k and 18k gold, white, yellow, and rose, sapphires—I have simply always liked them—black spinel, onyx, lapis lazuli, aquamarine, and Canadian diamonds. When it came to introducing diamonds to our upcoming Arctic collection, I felt more comfortable knowing the origins of the stones. Plus, a portion of sale proceeds from this collection will be donated to the WildAid Polar Pledge campaign. This was a perfect opportunity to use Canadian diamonds!”

Starting retail price: “In sterling silver, prices start at $95, in 18k gold vermeil prices start at $160, and in 18k gold, prices start at $500.”

Retailer buy-in: “In general, $2,000, but it depends on what works best for the store. I think two to three pieces from three of my collections makes a nice presentation.”

Accounts: “None!”

Jewelry trade show exhibits: “We exhibited for the first time at JCK Las Vegas 2012, and we will concentrate on attending the next one in 2013.”

Is there anything you would like to add? “Designing jewelry is an absolute joy for me and something I take much pride in, however, I don’t create a product that anyone needs. For this reason, I wanted to find ways to do some good and make a difference through creating pieces of quality and careful design that can be worn with the knowledge that Vargas Goteo proudly donates portions of sale proceeds to various charities. Among them are Reef Check, a nonprofit that helps save ocean ecosystems, for sales in our Reef collection, and various WildAid campaigns for sales in my Manta, Shark, and upcoming Artic collections.” [WildAid is a nonprofit that aims to end the illegal wildlife trade.]

“Sometimes it’s difficult to justify purchasing a luxury item, but my goal with Vargas Goteo is to adorn as many fingers, wrists, and collarbones as possible with beautiful pieces while enabling customers to take steps towards meaningful changes in our environment.”