We created this category so that you can see the many designs that have entered the private collections of happy women all over the world.

If you see a design you just love, call us. No two original Jewelry by Gail pieces are ever identical, but Gail is adept at incorporating the elements you admire into a piece made exclusively for you.

It was 45 years ago this year

  • 5 min read

It was 45 years ago this year

A long time ago, at a beach not too far away, a ninth-grade girl who lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania decided that she wanted to live and work on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where her family visited every summer.   

“I used to tell everyone that I was from the Outer Banks but lived in Pittsburgh part time.”

That girl was Gail Kowalski, the owner and driving force behind Jewelry by Gail. Decades later, she is proudly celebrating the 45th birthday of her creative vision coming true this year.   

She still smiles when she recalls the origin of her journey and her decision to sell jewelry for a living, many years before 1977. It all started with a handmade bracelet inspired by and depicting the bright summer sun she saw so much of while on beach vacations as a young girl.   

“That bracelet started it all. A copper bracelet with a brass sun and somebody saying, ‘I’d like to buy that.’ It was like, ‘oh, okay. That’s what I’m going to do now,’” says Gail.   

The locale of her workspace is crucial to the integrity of her design. Creating every piece by hand in her workroom in the shop, she pulls inspiration from the movement of the natural world, and here on the Outer Banks, that means wind, sand, sunshine and, of course, water.   

“I have to be near water. I love watching the ocean move around. So, there are a lot of water elements in what I do. Or, at least, it looks that way to me.”   

She utilizes both cut and uncut gems, often combining the two. A sense of motion based on what she terms “asymmetrical balance” often completes a piece. Each work is one of a kind, and none of her designs are mass-produced, so there is an exclusiveness that the wearer can feel confident about.   

“Many of the stones we use in our jewelry are so interesting and unique that you could go into hundreds of jewelry stores across the country and never see any of them. We use well-known gems for sure, but our showcases stand out as being different,” says Gail.   

But the different stones and gems she chooses for the rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings that she creates are just the tip of the iceberg for Gail’s work and only a small element of the singularity of her art.   

Nothing is limited by sketches, giving her the freedom to listen to the stones and metals she handles and interpret them as such.   

Gail says of her intricate jewelry design, “It’s very fluid, not static. It’s asymmetrical, not architectural. Technically, it’s an almost organic style. I like my settings to have as much to say as the stones themselves. There must be a mutual conversation between the metal and the gems, each with something to say.”   

Jewelry by Gail has two showrooms in their Nags Head shop at Milepost 10 ¼. When you first enter, the eponymous Jewelry by Gail collection greets you, along with two national bridal collections from Ostbye and Daviani. Selections by Gailis a collection of national designer brands that includes enamel jewelry, granulation jewelry from Bali and a wide variety of sterling silver jewelry. Additionally, Jewelry by Gail has the largest selection of pearls and pearl jewelry on the Outer Banks.   

Jewelry by Gail also features the work of other designers and has established a reputation for expert repair work and insurance appraisals so that customers can take proper care of their valuables.   

A visit to Gail’s shop will quickly reveal the intricacies of her style and why that style has won so many people over — one look at her jewelry explains her longevity. The fact of the matter is her handcrafted jewelry isn’t a piece to be worn a couple of times and then lost and forgotten to the recesses of a trinket box. The designs by this award-winning jeweler are works of art used to adorn those who dare to be different.   

This creative approach has served Gail well since 1977 when she first moved to Nags Head permanently.

She began working at R & R Junction, a jewelry and gift shop, as a designer and goldsmith. Artists of all types worked there, and the building featured a “little rabbit-warren of rooms,” as Gail remembers it, and it wasn’t long before Gail’s designs began to stand out.   

In 1979, Gail achieved her first major award, the Johnson Matthey Platinum Award for excellence in platinum design with her submission of the Wave Pin. The piece was included in a special platinum exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York. In 1980, she won again for her Bow Pendant and Ribbon Collar, the former of which is now copyrighted.   

In 1982, Gail opened her own design studio and shop on Gallery Row in Nags Head, North Carolina, and in 1985 earned the prestigious DeBeers Diamonds Today award, one of 20 designers honored for excellence and originality in diamond jewelry design, for her saber-style earring Slips.

Jewelry by Gail moved into an expanded studio with two showrooms in the spring of 1988. That same year the World Gold Council selected several of Gail’s designs for an international fashion show held in Basel, Switzerland. Shortly after, a woven platinum and diamond ring created in Gail’s signature style called Beauties and Beasts received special honor as a finalist in the 1990 Diamonds International competition.   

In the early 2000s, Gail’s jewelry was selected numerous times by Platinum Guild International USA for inclusion in fashion editor luncheons. Her designs also became a regular part of Hollywood celebrity jewelry suites hosted by PGI and celebrity stylist Michael O’Connor for the  Emmy Awards, the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards.   

“I didn’t have the typical entry – my designs aren’t loaded with diamonds and symmetry – but I picked my prettiest stones and designs and entered,” she says. O’Connor called her his wild card and put her on his shortlist of designers he would always invite to show their work.   

Now, years later, you’ll find pictures in Gail’s showroom of celebrities garnished with her designs. At the PGI-USA jewelry suite for the 2006 Academy Awards, actress Nicollette Sheridan received a platinum and ruby Bow Pendant. Between 2011 and 2012, Angela Kinsey, Vanessa Williams, and Minnie Driver all acquired original designs by Gail. TV Guide channel host Nikki Boyer wore Gail’s Champagne and Diamonds ring at the 2008 Emmy Awards. In 2013, Retta wore Gail’s Tropical Tidepool ring to an Emmy’s party.   

In 2014, two rings designed in Gail’s studio were selected for permanent display in the Wertz Gallery at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA.   

The 45 successful years of Jewelry by Gail have been decorated, but through all of the awards and accolades and decades of running a flourishing business, Gail most of all marvels at how it actually happened, the unlikeliness of a dream she had in ninth grade coming true.   

“Jewelry is not a necessity like water, food and breathing, “Gail says. “It’s an aesthetic necessity. It’s for the soul.”