Fateful journey leads custom jeweler to Bainbridge Island

It’s been a long journey for Alina Korotkina. But she’s arrived at just where she needs to be.

Korotkina is the owner of Korotkina Jewelry in downtown Bainbridge Island. She is an award-winning jewelry designer and maker, and is just beginning to return to work full time from her small office near the ferry dock.

“I came to Bainbridge with the hopes of relocating my business from Chicago,” Korotkina said.

“I was just planning for my grand opening when I found out I was pregnant with twins. I had to put my plans on hold.”

But now, as her twins are getting more independent, and because she has help from her husband and a nanny, she’s ready to fulfill her dream.

She didn’t start out wanting to be a jewelry designer. In fact, she has a degree in accounting and spent time in the financial world at Merrill Lynch in Chicago.

Korotkina was born in Irkutsk, Russia and came to the United States as an exchange student, living with a family in Montana. She stayed to attend college at Carroll College in Helena, Montana.

From there, she moved to the Windy City. It was while she was working in finance that she began to feel she needed to do something more creative.

“I think like an artist,” she said. “I knew I needed to do something that let me be creative.”

So, she began designing and making custom jewelry of all kinds, using all precious metals and a variety of stones, pearls and diamonds. She showed her work at trade shows all over the world.

“If you can dream it up, I can make it,” Korotkina said.

Every customer is unique, but the process can be similar. She meets with the customer in a private setting and gets ideas of what he or she wants, be it a necklace, ring, bracelet or watch. She designs something on paper and, after approval by the customer, creates a 3D computer image.

Then, using a 3D printer, she creates a wax form of the piece which customers can try on to make sure it is what they want.

“Anything can be tweaked,” Korotkina added.

From there, she makes the piece using the metal and the stones that the customer chooses.

The time and expense is dependent on what the piece is made of, Korotkina explained.

“That is something we talk about when the customer first comes in,” she said. “We talk about what their budget is and what can be done within that budget.”

It was about five years ago that Korotkina’s husband, an attorney, got a job offer from Amazon in Seattle. They had traveled here when he interviewed and had a reunion with her sponsor family from Montana, who had moved to the Hood Canal region.

“They told us on our way back to Seattle we should drive through Bainbridge Island,” Korotkina said. “Once we saw the island, we knew that’s where we needed to be living.”

They moved to Bainbridge shortly after.

Her work is done in an office environment by appointment. By not having a retail store, she said she can save her customers money.

“And in this setting, it is more intimate,” she said. “We can have a glass of wine and talk freely about what kind of ring or necklace you want, and about what your budget is. My attention is all on that one customer.”

She stresses that any first-time customer can get an hour of consultation without any fee. All she asks is that you be serious about your interest in jewelry. She also offers free cleanings, polishings and battery changes.

Her customers come wanting a number of different things. Popular are new jewelry items using family pieces that need to be remade or modernized. Many of her customers are couples looking for engagement rings.

“They want to know that the ring they decide on is one-of-a-kind, that no one else has,” Korotkina said. “They want it to be their unique piece.”

Most popular right now — besides diamonds — are pearls, sapphires and turquoise.

“The husbands and wives may have different likes and dislikes, so I like to work with both of them for engagement rings,” she said. “I can tell them what looks good, because of the experience I have.”

One of the most interesting aspects of her work is that she is the actual jeweler who controls all of the work on metals, stones, diamonds and pearls to create each piece. Currently, much of her work is still done in Chicago because she hasn’t yet found a local location for all of her machinery. She does have a watchmaker on staff who is an expert at working with watches as well.

She’s created for celebrities, and helped couples who buy a ring with a 1-carat diamond, but who come back years later, able to afford more. She will remake the ring, adding a larger diamond. In 2008, she won the “Jewelers’ Choice Award” — a highly prestigious international competition sponsored by JCK Magazine of New York — for a diamond ring she designed.

Korotkina has had repeat customers who first came in wanting jewelry made in a certain way, but with her knowledge she’s changed their minds. She has helped them see the possibilities.

“It’s a process,” she said. “I listen and make suggestions and, even though they may have come in wanting a bracelet, I will say, ‘Did you think about a ring?’ And they’ll say, ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought about that.’”

But the best part of what she does, she said, is getting to hand the finished piece off to her customer.

“Just the surprise in their eyes,” Korotkina said. “Even though they knew the design, when they see it for the first time, it’s better than they could possibly have imagined.”

To learn more, go to www.korotkina.com, or call 206-605-1510.