With his fine gold creations, celebrity jeweler George Khalife is challenging the old saying that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. The Detroit native widely known as George the Jeweler has adorned many big names with his jewelry over the years, including supermodel Ashley Graham, actress Sanaa Lathan, and singer-actress Christina Milian. Khalife has jewelry design in his blood; his family owns and operates the Oak Park-based wholesale and retail jewelry store GoldCorp Inc. He’s gained notoriety recently for the matching evil-eye bracelets he made for expecting couple Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik. Khalife spoke with Hour Detroit about his upcoming projects, his love for Detroit, and what it’s like to work with his celebrity clientele.
Hour Detroit: What makes a piece a true George the Jeweler creation?
George Khalife: I find a lot of inspiration from my clients; they give me the greatest ideas. I only make pieces of genuine 14-karat gold from Italy, and everything is made here in Michigan out of my Oak Park store. I did this interview with Christina [Milian] a couple of years ago, and she said, “Jewelry is the cherry on top — it completes a look. It’s the final piece that you put on. It’s the piece that makes you feel good about yourself.” That’s been my mantra ever since she said it. It’s a good feeling when you’re able to provide somebody with something that they really want.
What’s it like working with celebrity clients and having them trust you to create jewelry that represents such personal parts of their lives?
I always treat them like friends before a client. I try to make everybody comfortable. I also try to check up on my clients and see how they’re doing. Gigi Hadid, for example: I found out that she was pregnant. I reached out to her like, “How’s everything going? I’m so excited for you.” I ended up making her these bracelets that everybody’s talking about now. I made this pendant for Khloe Kardashian. Her dog passed, and her assistant reached out to me. She says, “Khloe was looking to make something memorable. Maybe we could do something with the footprint?” I was like, “Yeah, let’s take the footprint and turn it into a pendant.” I sent it to her, and she loved it. I made Christina a necklace with her two babies. And then Jenna Dewan saw that and was like, “Oh, my God, I love that. Can you make me one?” So, a lot of that is how it starts. I’m so humbled by all of this. When I was little, I listened to Christina Milian. I danced and made music videos to her songs. Now she’s not only one of my business partners, but one of my best friends.
Any upcoming projects?
I’m working on something for The Pussycat Dolls. I’m excited about that one. I’m working on a hanging PCD charm. I always work with Ashanti. We always go back and forth with ideas. She’s so sweet. I would love to take my brand to the next level and really narrow down all my branding. That’s a long-term goal. Everybody knows David Yurman; I’d love one day to have my name be a household name like that.
How have your Michigan roots influenced your work?
I love the industrial side of Detroit. I love going downtown. A lot of people ask me, “Why don’t you move to L.A.? You should be in L.A.” I personally will never leave Michigan. The fact that I’ve been able to achieve what I have out of Detroit makes it even more significant. I love home. It’s very humbling; I feel very fortunate. I think there’s so many creative people here that go unnoticed. To be doing what I’m doing out of Detroit, it’s a good feeling.