By Design

Every piece of jewelry Zoltan David makes is hand-forged—and he doesn’t make copies. 
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At first glance, Zoltan David’s jewelry store in the Hill Country Galleria, just outside Austin near Lakeway, is reminiscent of Bulgari: gleaming glass cases display millions of dollars worth of diamonds and platinum beneath Fortuny chandeliers and high barrel ceilings. But the massive ottoman upholstered in steer hide that sits in the middle of the gallery reminds us that we’re in Texas. “I could easily work in New York, Paris, or London,” says David, who was born in Hungary and immigrated to Vancouver when he was six. “I chose Austin because I like the vibe here. I like trees and dirt more than concrete.”

David also likes the independence of his own store and refuses to work for large design houses such as Cartier and Tiffany. Every piece of jewelry he makes is hand-forged, and he doesn’t make copies. Most pieces take about twenty hours from start to finish, although some of his more complicated work has taken nearly four hundred hours. He’s  won fifteen industry awards and holds two U.S. patents—one on a shaped pattern of metal inlay, and the other on his “dangelier” earrings, hoops with a teardrop gem suspended in the middle. In an ingenious feat of engineering, fitting for the economic slump, the earrings can be taken apart and worn three different ways. But he’ll always remember the one that got away. In 2003, David was the first designer to decorate the metal underneath a ring’s center gemstone, but he didn’t bother to apply for a patent. The design appeared in jewelry stores nationwide the next year. He’s a trendsetter, although he disagrees with the semantics of the word. “I don’t like to call myself a trendsetter,” he says. “That’s just another egotist asshole trying to make a name for himself. But

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