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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Remembering Gordon Aatlo - A Giant Among Jewelers

I apologize that this has taken so long to publish - Gordon and his family are dear to me and this has been in the works for a while...starting and stopping each time the memory overwhelmed me...I encourage you to leave your last or favorite memories of Gordon in the comments.   
Memories friends left in the Guestbook on his Obituary have been added...

On  January 18, 2012,  at the beginning of what everyone hoped would be a great New Year, Alma Aatlo passed away following a prolonged illness.

While you may not know that name, I am sure you would recognize the name of Alma's esteemed husband...Gordon Aatlo.  Alma's death set into play a number of circumstances that led, in the end, to the death of one of our Industry's most talented and prolific Designer/Makers.

If you knew Gordon, you know that he was a giant in more than mere stature - he had a giant heart and his talent was gargantuan...

"Gordon did things in a big way.  He took chances, he was a gambler, he had a confidence and an innate trait that everything was always going to be fine, a real optimist.  That's what made this all so hard, he was finally going to have his time and he was looking forward to it."  Christine Thoresen, Gordon Aatlo Jewelers
"Gordon was an incredible presence as an Artist and I loved his stories of San Francisco…nobody knew the history of that place like Gordeon…you will be missed by so many…rest in peace…. your art will live on..painting by Byron Aatlo"   Liane Langford
Today the emphasis is on "Made In America" and hand crafted, hand fabricated...Gordon has embodied these terms for over six decades.  If you lined up his designs with other jewelers of his era, even the untrained eye could identify an Aatlo piece. 

His work was distinguished by bold, clean, almost architectural pieces designed in high carat gold and platinum around a variety of Custom Cut Gemstones.  Gordon was one of the first to use unique colored stones, not only from the legendary Munsteiner Family (above) but also from the independent U.S. Faceters  cutting, each gem by hand on their back porches and basements (photo below) .  

Gordon was proud of his long association with the gems of Arthur Anderson
These relationships were important to him to the end...and his involvement with the Green Gem Foundation was testament to his kinship with custom Maker/Doers.  As a result of his relationship with Green Gem, he was, in fact the first Jeweler to work with the new Nigerian Phenakite to any great extent, producing a fabulous engagement ring with a Phenakite focal, and a stunning ring (below) with a Chrome Tourmaline cut for Green Gem by David Dawson.

Something you may not know about Gordon and one of the really exciting events that he was privileged to be involved in a couple months prior to his passing was his role in marrying Jean-Noel and Eva Soni.  Gordon performed the wedding rites as well as creating a fitting ceremony based around the subject of the eternal symbol - the ring!

Gordon & Alma will be sorely missed by us. Gordon married Rosemary and I with Alma as the Matron of honor Gordon and I have been friends for nearly 50 years. The loss of them both is devastating. Our best wishes for the family.             Troy & Rosemary
My last memory of Gordon was at the AGTA Gemfair at the 2012 Tucson Gem Show - we talked about Alma and discussed how tired he was and I could tell then that this tired was not just lack of sleep - this tired came from his soul.   I don't know how I am going to do Tucson this year with no Gordon Aatlo booth to stop was at my first Tucson Gem Show in 2007 that I first met Gordon and Christine. 

Now Gordon is re-united with his bride of 35 years. RIP Gordon & Alma Aatlo.

Gordon was our friend and we love him and are looking forward to seeing him when it is our time to go to God.      ~  Ben & Margareta

The Future:  Today, through the training of Gordon Aatlo, the tradition continues with Kelly Allen!  From the European craftsmanship - the eye for detail, proportion and quality materials from some of the best gem artists in the world - the tradition of Gordon Aatlo Designs continues...visit the shop in San Rafael, CA - view their latest on Facebook or on Farlang.

So if you see the Gordon Aatlo booth at a future AGTA Gemfair at the Tucson Gem Show stop in and say Hi!  ....and don't be surprised if you see Gordon standing behind the counter in one of his trademark jewel tone shirts...we know he is standing beside us as we continue his heritage.

"The first time I saw Gordon Aatlo's jewelry designs many years ago at the Tucson Gem and Mineral show, I was struck by the creative imagination of his pieces.The simplicity and elegance of his designs shows the complexity of thought and originality that goes into each of his creations. I knew immediately that his jewelry designs were a perfect match for my carved gemstones. This was the beginning of fifteen years of our collaborating together. "
...more from Master Gem Cutter, Glenn Lehrer (of Torus Ring fame). Glenn has posted a beautiful Photo Journal Tribute to Gordon on his Facebook do not have to have a Facebook account to view the photo album

About Gordon Aatlo:  Born in Minnesota, he moved to San Francisco at a young age. With his uncle as jeweler to the King of Norway and his father an accomplished bench jeweler, it was only natural that Gordon would follow in their footsteps. 

As a ten year old, I would go to my dad’s shop after school to work and play, making simple sterling silver jewelry including sand cast signet rings for some of my school friends. I did this off and on for less than a year. As a kid I found the outdoors much more exciting. That ended my jewelry making until I needed a gift! 
Gordon is known world wide for his creativity, ingenuity and for the inventiveness of his designs. His designs are recognizable throughout the industry, although no two are ever the same.

He is one of the few recognizable designers to produces his own work, from concept to the finished piece, all accomplished in his studio in San Carlos, California.

Obituary from Legacy where you may leave a note for the family: 

"Gordon was a renowned jewelry artist and designer with a career spanning more than seven decades in the San Francisco Bay Area, most recently as president of Gordon Aatlo Designs in San Carlos.

Gordon began his career at 830 Market Street, San Francisco's jewelry epicenter, where he apprenticed with his father, Hilmar. There he learned all aspects of the jewelry trades. As his skills developed, he began his design career. Known for his superb technical skills, inventiveness, artistry and love of colored gemstones, Gordon was twice the recepient of the American Gem Trade Association Spectrum Award, the highest accolade a designer can achieve in the United States.

A kind and generous man, Gordon possessed skills outside of his work and always offered encouragement to others to pursue their passions, interests and dreams. Together with his late wife Alma, they owned Norma Jewelers in San Carlos for over 28 years, where they met many friends who became part of their family.

Gordon is preceded in death by his beloved wife Alma, parents Hilmar and Lilly Aatlo and brother Bruce Aatlo. He is survived by his sons, Thore and Byron Aatlo, Kelly Allen and Kim Eric Lilot; daughters Grace Montijo. Christine (Robert) Thoresen and Sarah Lilot; sister Lillian Miller of Lucerne; grandchildren Gwendolyn, Holden and Nash Aatlo, Claire, Rieve and Erin-Marie MacEwen, Daniel and Gina Allen and the late Elyse MacEwen. Gordon is also survived by many nieces and nephews and his sisters-in-law Marie Volano and Christine Ward.

Gordon leaves a legacy of beautiful designs in jewelry as well as a loving family that will carry on their father's work."

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