Jewelry will make you feel like a star

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 31 minutes ago Gail Kowalski has seen her jewelry sparkling on celebrities on the red carpet at the Emmys, Golden Globes and Oscars, as well as on actresses in television shows such as “Desperate Housewives.”...

Jewelry will make you feel like a star

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Updated 31 minutes ago

Gail Kowalski has seen her jewelry sparkling on celebrities on the red carpet at the Emmys, Golden Globes and Oscars, as well as on actresses in television shows such as “Desperate Housewives.”

The gold, platinum and silver earrings, necklaces, bracelets, pendants and rings also adorn the non-famous. Seeing her creations worn is a thrill, says Kowalski, a Ross native, who owns Jewelry by Gail Inc., based in Nags Head, N.C..

“It's very gratifying and humbling and exciting that anyone would spend their hard-earned money on something that I made,” Kowalski says. “It's the best feeling in the world. After all, everyone is a star in their own life. Of course, it is special when someone who is famous takes a liking to something I have made as well.”

Her celebrity customers have included Minnie Driver, who owns a pair of gold sunfish style psilomelene earrings, and Johnny Depp, who has a pirate and vampire medallion necklace.

Eva Longoria of “Desperate Housewives” wore a pair of Grace Peridot vine-style earrings in a 2011 episode of the show. Several of her co-stars, including Nicollette Sheridan, Vanessa Williams and Emily Bergl, have either purchased or worn Kowalski's jewelry since then.

The journey to Hollywood taking a liking to her shiny baubles began at North Hills High School.

It was her freshman year when two teachers introduced her to jewelry making. They opened a once-locked art room that contained books, materials and various tools for making jewelry.

“The rest is history,” Kowalski says. “I can't explain why I fell in love with making jewelry, but I just did. I made a bracelet and a lady wanted to buy it. I was shocked she wanted to buy it, but then it made me think ‘maybe I could make a living out of this.' ”

She went on to earn a bachelor of fine arts with a concentration in metal working from Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich. Two weeks after graduation in 1977, she moved to Nags Head, an area she was familiar with from family vacations. She borrowed $1,500 and opened a one-room store/studio in a shopping center that served as an artists' co-op. She currently has a stand-alone two-story building that includes two showrooms and her design studio as well as a website.

“Ever since those vacations, I have felt a tremendous need to be near the ocean,” says Kowalski, who has won the Johnson Matthey Platinum Award for excellence in platinum design and the DeBeers Diamond Today award for excellence and originality in diamond jewelry design. “The powerful energy of the sea provides me with the creative force for my jewelry design.”

In 2016, Kowalski was chosen by leading style expert and television personality Michael O'Connor to send a large assembly of her jewelry designs to the Emmy Awards Style Lab Jewelry Suite in Hollywood, where celebrities were given the opportunity to select jewelry to wear to the awards show.

Over $30 million worth of jewelry from an elite group of jewelry brands was assembled. Kowalski submitted eight designs. Three pieces were selected as loans to celebrities.

Gabourey Sidibe wore four Marilyn Monroe Swarovski crystal globe hair pins at the 2014 Golden Globes and at the 2015 Movieguide Awards. Adina Porter of “American Horror Story” and “True Blood” wore the mermaids choice pendant on the ribbon collar on both the red carpet and as a presenter.

Giuliana Rancic, of the E! Network red carpet, was loaned the Staircase to Royalty earrings for the 2013 Golden Globes, and TNT's on-air Oscar's commentator Laurel Ripley wore a four carat pair of rare champagne diamonds at the 2013 Academy Awards.

It's not just celebrities who admire the jewelry. On a vacation to Nags Head, Elaine Beck Oresti of Mt. Washington stopped in Kowalski's store.

“Now, every time I go there, I visit the beach and Gail's store,” Oresti says. “It's about seeing the ocean … and seeing Jewelry by Gail. When Gail is in Pittsburgh, we meet for dinner. She is more than a business acquaintance. She is my friend. I had the pure joy of experiencing her creating a piece of jewelry just for me.”

Kowalski says there isn't a day she doesn't learn something. And there have been mistakes as well as triumphs, and she has met many wonderful people through the years. She says it's not an easy business but it's the one she loves.

Kowalski credits her parents, Alvin and Charlotte Kowalski, with supporting their daughter's passion.

“I love rocks, period … and I love metals, and I love making them talk to each other,” Kowalski says. “I work with all the precious metals, and a wide variety of mineral stones and gemstones. I have a fondness for unusual exotic minerals and gems, as well as for the traditional precious gems — diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds. And I have a special fondness for natural fancy color diamonds.”

Kowalski's prices start at $59 for a silver pendant. Custom design is a large part of her business. She searches for interesting stones and personalizes each custom piece by talking to her client and learning about her fashion style.

“It was an absolutely wonderful process,” Oresti says. “Gail will even take items like one earring or a pin you don't wear anymore and incorporate it or them into a new piece of jewelry for you. That is really something special. She is honest and will dissuade you from something if she thinks it isn't right. Everyone can feel like a star when they walk out of the store wearing a piece of her jewelry.”

Details: 800-272-9817 or jewelrybygail.com

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-853-5062 or jharrop@tribweb.com.

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