4/24 Gives Luxe Look for Less

Taking a page from his Ottoman ancestors, New York City–based jewelry designer Gurhan Orhan unveiled a collection featuring an alloy using 4 karats of gold as a companion metal for his traditional 24k gold designs. He calls the combination 4/24.

Incorporating 4k gold allows the designer to strengthen certain styles—channels exist in some rings to house decorative deposits of 24k gold—while other applications are soldered onto designs as a means of reducing cost (much like the use of silver and bronze). The color of 4k gold is pinkish, but becomes a bit bronze when oxidized (24k gold, meanwhile, doesn’t oxidize). Gurhan also uses the material to set stones so their sides are completely exposed without the use of prongs or bezels.

His first 4/24 collection took eight months to bring to life. “This line has enabled me to catch up with some of my lower price points that I lost with the extreme jump in the price of gold,” he explains. Gurhan also makes a silver line, but 4/24 gives him another (golden) opportunity to hit lower price points, as 4k gold is eight to 10 times less expensive than pure gold. The 4/24 pieces start at $340.

This first collection, Capitone, draws inspiration from a type of quilting, yet still reflects the Gurhan aesthetic. “I try not to lose my fingerprint,” says the artist. “Things are not in ‘perfect’ condition and look a little bit vintage on purpose.”—Jennifer Heebner

Conflict of Interest

The conflict gold controversy is giving the jewelry trade an “opportunity to prove that it is an industry people can trust,” said Sasha Lezhnev of the Enough Project in a JCK Las Vegas seminar in June titled “Conflict Gold: The New Blood Diamonds.”

“The jewelry industry has been a leader on the conflict diamond issue,” he noted. “We have seen that ­progress can be made.” He argued that illicitly mined min­er­als, including gold, generate $100 million to $300 million a year for armed groups in the Congo, fueling a war that’s “the most deadly since the Holocaust.” Most of the miners who find these minerals are children, who work under armed guard. “The human devastation is unreal.”

While other minerals generally used in electronics (like tin and tantalum) are involved in the Congolese civil war, that industry has taken action to audit its supply chain, but so far, Lezhnev said, the jewelry industry has not. “From the ­electronics side, we are starting to see serious pressure from higher on the supply chain,” Lezhnev said. “From gold, not at all.”

He noted that the issue is receiving more attention: There are two bills regarding conflict minerals in Congress, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the issue “a priority” when she visited the Congo last year.

“We’re in the process of writing to the major jewelry companies,” Lezhnev said. “We want to find out what they are doing and hear from them how interested they are. We have done this with the electronics industry, and at first only half of them wrote us back. But now they are all responding after they see the consumer response.” He recommended that the jewelry industry set up a working group on this issue and talk with key players in the gold market. —Rob Bates