In the moment

Jorge Adeler is a philosopher-jeweler. From his perch in Great Falls, Virginia, which he says is “17 miles as the crow flies from the White House and 5 miles from CIA headquarters in Langley,” he creates jewelry sold in Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and independent boutiques that not only adorns the body but touches the soul.

“My pieces are not statements of fashion but statements of emotion,” he says. The way he sees it, jewelry is like art or faith — something that is perhaps unnecessary to daily sustenance but that sustains the individual on a different plane, something that lasts.

Such sustenance does not come cheap. But Adeler says when you explain to clients what it takes to source, authenticate and craft coins and stones, when you chronicle the origin story of the pieces they’re looking to buy, they understand a $5,000 — or more — price tag.

And each Adeler creation is one-of-a-kind. “A designer has to make up his mind early on whether he wants to have mass-produced appeal or one-of-a-kind appeal,” he says. “I’m more of a lone wolf.”

Adeler’s work first caught our eye when we spied his antique coin jewelry — adorned in leather, 18-karat yellow and rose gold — in Neiman Marcus’ 2019 “Christmas Book.” The pieces, part of his “Gods & Heroes” Collection, were initially designed for men. He wears a ring with the eagle of the Roman legion — the eagle remaining an important symbol today as America’s national bird — as well as a bracelet with a coin depicting Alexander the Great.

“I admire people who accomplish things out of sheer intelligence and courage,” Adeler says of the Greco-Macedonian conqueror of the Persian Empire. 

Though “Gods & Heroes” started out as a men’s line, 30 percent of its wearers are women, though they approach it differently. “The women are more interested in the design and beauty of the coins; the men, in the stories behind them.” 

The stories so intrigued Adeler that he traveled to Greece, Italy, Turkey, Israel and Jordan as well as to all the places where Spanish galleons, laden with treasure, were shipwrecked. And then he went to auction houses to authenticate his finds.

“When I open a coin, it’s like I open a file to history,” he says.

The coins and the rings, bracelets, necklaces and cufflinks in which they’re set are sculpted and irregular in shape, which is part of their allure. So are the stones — everything from pearls and opals to diamonds — that make up other collections.

Adeler did not set out to be a designer. Growing up in Mar del Plata (“Sea of Silver”) in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, the young Jorge intended to follow in his artisanal family’s footsteps into the hotel and restaurant businesses. But a three-month stint at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., upon his arrival in America quickly convinced him that he did not inherit the hospitality-industry gene. Here the story takes on a Hollywood-esque quality. Armed with $198, which closed his bank account, and a $1,000 line of credit from Woolworth’s, Adeler persuaded a banker to give him a $600 loan to trade trinkets for imported stones.

“I think he looked into my eyes and made a gut call,” Adeler says.

It was, as it turns out, the right one. After five years and 19 trips abroad, he had 7½ tons of stones and 45,000 figurines covered in sawdust that he and his wife had to clean in their basement. 

“The sawdust was from a tree called ‘quebracho’ that produces a dye used to dye leather,” he says. “The sawdust mixed with rainwater and created a very intense liquid that permeated all the figurines, requiring immediate drying, otherwise the damage would be permanent.”

Clearly, he needed a store, and he found one in Ocean City, Maryland, in 1976. There he hit on the idea of allowing clients to select from 5,000 amethysts, citrines, garnets and topazes and 220 pounds of silver settings that he would fashion into pieces as they waited. 

The DIY approach proved popular. “When they found something that matched, it was like a treasure hunt.”

Four years later, he opened a second location in Great Falls in the days when it was still farm country and people arrived at his store on horses, shuttling back and fourth — Ocean City in summer, Great Falls in winter. He left Ocean City in 1995, though his daughters kept it going. Valentina is the gemologist and designer. “She designs better than me,” he says. Wendy is the marketer. In 2001, they all moved permanently to Great Falls, where they have a 6,000-square-foot store, studio and workshop. And there Adeler’s business and personal lives flow into each other.

“As I talk with my customers, I’m having an experience,” he says. “I like to feel every moment I’m being myself.”

For more, visit jorgeadeler.com.

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