Courtesy of Gabby Elan.
New York City’s Diamond District is filled with shops angling to be the go-to destination for the stars, but few have risen to the top the way Gabby Elan Jewelry has. The low-key, family-run business—Gabby Pinhasov, a 40-year dental and jewelry veteran, works alongside his younger son, Elan—is known for their specialty in eye-popping custom grills. Name an ice-obsessed celebrity, and they probably have a unique piece that directly references their legacy—like LeBron James’ lion head grill—or a flashy set that’s just leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in terms of craft, like J Balvin’s rainbow array or Pharrell Williams’ diamond-and-gem-stone set.
On Gabby Elan’s instagram account, the pieces are presented more like art objects than glorified icy retainers. The Museum of Natural History agrees; Elan says they’ve been contacted about an upcoming modern jewelry exhibit. “They're going to have a hip-hop section where they're going to have a lot of pieces of Pharrell's, and they're going to include a lot of the old vintage grills that we have, and then two or three of the more showcase pieces with full diamonds,” Elan says. “When I was younger, I used to think about this shit and now it gives me goosebumps to see how I’ve—what's the word? Manifested it.”
Recently, Elan just added a new satisfied celebrity customer to his list, perhaps his youngest yet: North West. With North following in her parent's footsteps by pursuing interests in fashion and music, Kim Kardashian commissioned Gabby Elan to make her eldest daughter’s first set as a belated Christmas gift, and worked closely with them on the design.
Below, Elan details how the order came together, what it’s like designing for Kim, and why Gabby Elan is the hardest jeweler amongst the Hollywood elite.
How did the idea of creating a grill for North West come about?
Kim’s [Kardashian] stylist reached out to me and said, "Kim would like to get her daughter North grills for Christmas." My initial thought was I don’t know how I'm going to pull this off, but we can try! I sent her straight to my dentist Dr. Nazy in Beverly Hills. North went there and did a 3D scan of her mold.
This is not the first time Kim or her team has reached out to you about making a grill, right?
We made a few sets for her. I made an all-opal with diamonds around it. I made a set for her that was emerald cut, one row on the bottom set. Then we made the KIM diamond set, the three stones. I made a set for her in yellow gold. It was 22 karat with rubies in the teeth and the last set we did for her was two opal bars with two little spacers, which was a Christmas gift from one of her sisters. I had a couple of sets [featured] on the show as well, which is pretty crazy.
What went into creating the grill for North?
So the dentist sent me her molds at 6:00 PM. I did everything the next day. I had to get it casted the same day and get the diamonds set the same day—which nobody does. It was just two teeth at that point. A few days later I got a text saying, "Kim loved it so much. She wants a bottom set too. Can you make that happen for Christmas?"I made it happen in about two weeks, and made the bottoms even nicer than the tops.
What was the design process? What did North and Kim request?
When she ordered the bottoms, we went back and forth over whether North wanted everything open-faced or if she wanted all solids. So we settled on four solids and then two open-faced. The diamonds in her teeth were all Natural D color, VVS round diamonds, all excellent cut. Originally, for the top, we were going to do the Yeezy Graduation bear and Hello Kitty, but that changed.
Your work is often very colorful and creative. Did you offer her any cool options once things changed?
I was going to offer her a couple of other things, like a two-tone design, to make it pop a little bit, but Kim said, "No yellow gold, no rose gold, no nothing. She dislikes a lot of colors. She just wants straight white gold and diamonds."
Your grills are shared on social media often, but this one was a different level of viral. I saw it on Facebook before I even saw your post.
Yeah, I was pretty surprised. I kind of knew it was going to go a little viral, because North and Kim love to make TikToks, and North is becoming iconic in her own right, from the fashion she is wearing to making songs with her father. It was the perfect storm and it caught on pretty fast.
How would somebody get a piece like this from you?
If you want to get something from me, it's not cheap, but if you want to pay good money for something good quality, something that's going to last you, it's worth buying from us instead of going to a lot of other people because you don't know whether you're going to get top quality, you don't know whether the setting is going to be perfect. We try to do everything to the best level. My father has dental expertise going back 45 years that a lot of people don't have in the industry. They have a jeweler's background, but that doesn't relate to anything with having to make grills—if the base is not well done, then the whole thing is kind of pointless. They put more effort into designing, into making it look like this and that, but at the end of the day, you can't even put it in your mouth. You can't wear it because it's not comfortable and it doesn't feel right in your teeth. So, what's the point?
Who else have you made grills for?
Any upcoming orders you're excited about?
We are actually working for a set for Kendrick Lamar right now, that’s going to be dope. It's kind of a late Christmas gift from his wife. She wants to surprise him, so I won’t give any details, but it's going to be something dope. She got it set for herself also. I'll put it like this: His girl's is going to be very understated, but [his piece] is going to define his finest points.
How did you get into the jewelry game?
I used to work in the summers helping my dad and then one fall Sunday my dad said "Get up, get dressed, you're going to work. You don't do shit all day, you're going to come work." From there, I just became part-time. Once I graduated high school, then it was full-time. I used to do college in the morning and then work in the store in the afternoon. This is when we still had a shop in Brooklyn, when it was a regular mom-pop shop, not an office. Everything was just public. So, I was just a salesman over there and slowly, but surely it went from salesman to a little more responsibility in the store and then I became manager. By that time we already were closing up that shop, so I ended up taking a year off, came to 47th Street to the Diamond District, and over here I had to put my big boy pants on and figure shit out for myself
I'm pretty sure you turn down work all the time now.
Recently someone called me looking for 10 karat. I said, "Sorry, we don't make 10 karat—14." I gave him the price, he said I was the most expensive person in 20, 30 phone calls that he made. And I'm like, "Why'd you make 20, 30 phone calls in the first place?" So, it's kind of good to hear that we're the most expensive, but I know at the end of the day we're probably the one that he's dying to go to and he's going to settle with any of his other 20, 30 places that he found.
How does it feel to be trusted by so many people in the industry?
It feels great. I feel much more relieved now that people actually put their trust in us. Before it was very picky for clients, everybody had their two cents to put in, they were always nervous when they were shopping because they didn't know what we could do, and they didn't know what was in store for their orders. Now when people shop with us they know they’re in good hands. Now the possibilities are endless, and I like that my customers are more open to experimenting with crazier stuff.
Do you know how North reacted to receiving the grill?
I have no idea, but I think she was excited because she wore it right away. She wore both of them and started tweeting about it, making TikToks from her mom's phone. Listen, I have a brother-in-law, he's also 11, and I could tell he was a little jealous.
Originally Appeared on GQ