August 29, 2018
Itzhak and his son Raz Gnat believe in the power of storytelling. But rather than taking a pen to paper (or a brush to canvas, as the elder Gnat did in his early days as a painter and sculptor), the Gnat men pride themselves in their ability to use diamonds, gemstones and metals along with a strong eye for design to create unique jewelry that threads a tale of its wearer. Whether they’re creating a piece made in homage to a family member or a gift in celebration of a life milestone, Gnat Jewelry Atelier is one of Colorado’s most renowned custom jewelers for their ability to convey meaningful sentiments through thoughtful design.
The Gnats began their story over three decades ago with their first store on 3rd Avenue, Gnat Jewelers, and just last year expanded their business to establish Gnat Jewelry Atelier, a second location on Columbine Street that serves as a headquarters for the brand’s custom designs and couture jewelry.
“Thirty-six years ago, my father had the vision that this is the right spot for us,” says Raz of Cherry Creek North. “Cherry Creek is different from anywhere else in Denver… Even though we’ve thought of expanding to the mountains or elsewhere, I think Cherry Creek is always going to be our hub.”
After moving from their native Israel, the Gnats launched their business in Cherry Creek in 1983 with a focus on design work for other jewelers throughout the metro Denver area. As the years went by, more and more people started coming to them directly for custom designs.
“It wasn’t our intention in the beginning to have two stores,” explains Raz. “We wanted to have a more favorable spot and move to a store that we could build from the ground up (to establish) our image and our reputation. But we had a lease over there (on 3rd Avenue) with a landlord that’s been great to us for a long time, so we didn’t want to break the lease.”
This led to an opportunity to create two brands to serve a range of clientele. At the new location, red carpet-worthy designs sparkle in glass cases displayed throughout the modern yet intimate showroom. But if you’re looking for a quick gift or statement piece at a lower price point, you can simply walk a few blocks to discover a beautiful array of classic and contemporary pieces at more affordable prices.
Raz says his favorite part about the business is getting to know his customers and people who live and work in the area. “The rapport that we have, I think it’s unlike most retail stores,” he says. “It’s a lot warmer, friendlier. It’s about relationship building. We go to our clients’ homes, they sometimes come to our homes. We really try to get to know each other.”
His excitement for sharing his business with others is exceeded only by his dedication to deliver the highest quality experience possible—from conception to the final product.
“We work like a diamond broker,” he explains, adding Gnat Jewelry only sells Gemological Institute of America (GIA) certified diamonds. “We do nationwide searches to bring in the right stone for the customer, then we bring in a handful for them to look at side-by-side. It really is a VIP experience when you get here.”
The Gnats recently designed an extraordinary custom piece to commemorate two major milestones for a local husband and wife: the year of their 70th birthdays and their 50th wedding anniversary. The husband told Raz his wife loved the color green and that the number 5 was significant to their relationship, and Raz was given artistic freedom for everything else.
“We searched all over the country for a 5-carat emerald in a heart shape,” Raz says. “For their 50th anniversary, we put 50 individual diamonds around the center stone.”
All of Gnat Jewelry’s custom designs are guaranteed—if you change your mind about a design even after it’s completed, they will start again from scratch. Additionally, they also guarantee you’ll be the only one wearing any of their custom creations. “A commissioned piece, I would never repeat,” Itzhak says. “If you said, ‘I want exactly that,’ (I would say,) ‘No, I will do a new design.’”
“Besides making jewelry that’s master-crafted, a lot of what we make is very sentimental,” Raz explains of the policy to never replicate a custom design. “When you’re making a piece of jewelry, it’s so much more than just jewelry. It’s not just metal and stones. There’s a story.”
Itzhak, who studied art and also has a technical background as a machinist, instilled a passion for great design in his son from an early age. When the Gnats were living in Israel, Itzhak brought his young son to work with him at his jewelry manufacturing company. “Jewelry’s always been around for me,” Raz says. “We moved to the United States when I was a teenager, and when my father first started the business, he had a workshop in the basement of our home and that’s when we started doing work for other jewelers. As a way of giving me some sense of purpose and keeping me out of trouble as a teenager, he said, ‘Come after school and I’ll train you and make you my partner. You can learn a skill.’ And it was kind a of a natural progression.”
The Gnats have now been in Cherry Creek North so long they are starting to see third generation clients. Raz says all of this can be attributed to the support of the community, which is why he likes to support a variety of primarily Colorado-based charities as a way to give back, including the local American Heart Association chapter and the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, which is now headquartered in Cherry Creek.
“We’re immigrants to this country,” he says. “We didn’t come with much of anything and we’ve done well. We’ve done well because the community has embraced us and supported us. We greatly appreciate it… Wherever we can, we try to keep our involvement local.”
Just like he learned from his father, Raz says he hopes one day his young daughters decide to continue the tradition of jewelry making. “Both of my daughters are artistic, so it must be in the genes,” Raz says. “We’ll see what happens.”
Gnat Jewelry Atelier
250 Columbine Street
Denver, CO 80206
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