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In 2016, Al Sandimirova launched Automic Gold, a queer, size-inclusive jewelry brand bent on disrupting the hyper heteronormative jewelry industry. Sandimirova, a gender-queer refugee from Russia, arrived in the States in 2009 when they were only 20 years old. Only a few years later, in 2012, Sandimirova began their own business buying, repairing, and reselling old jewelry. From there they began tinkering with their own designs, trying to create jewelry that both transcended and affirmed the wearer’s gender.
Along the way, Luna, aka @AutomicDog, showed up and began running the show at Automic Gold (according to their website, Luna is Automic Gold’s “big boss and security detail” with the pronouns That/Bitch). Luna, a jet-black long-haired Dachshund, is as stunning and playful as Sandimirova’s designs — many of which aim to blur the line between the feminine and the masculine, or erase it altogether. I sat down with Sandimirova to chat about design, Pride, and laboring under the watchful eye of the Big Boss.
On Automic Gold’s website you’re listed as the founder and Luna as the “Big Boss.” So, what’s it like working for her?
Amazing. She’s the best. Demanding, of course; she likes to micromanage me every second.
How does Luna fit into a typical workday at Automic Gold?
First thing in the morning when she comes into the office, she has to say hi to everybody. After that she tries to calm down, tries to sleep, but she can’t sleep because she thinks of herself as full time security. We have a camera that shows the screen of who is outside so when people ring we can see who is there and open the door. If it’s me, she’s fine, she’s not bothered. But if it’s someone else, she really barks.
What motivated you to start a queer-centered jewelry brand?
I have been working in the diamond and gold jewelry industry since 2009. And because I’m an immigrant and I didn’t know English, I couldn’t work for anybody else, so I was working for solely Russian speaking people. The conditions weren’t so good, so I began my own business in 2011 just to have better working conditions. I started by selling on eBay, just buying pre-owned jewelry and repairing them. When that took off, I expanded and went to jewelry shows to sell to other designers. Around 2016 I realized how toxic the industry is and I thought, Well, I have good sales, I think I’d like to represent myself as a non-binary person, because everything is so gendered and there’s no transparency. So I started making jewelry just for myself. Then my friend bought like 15 pairs and I was like, Oh, maybe I should really think about starting my own brand.
Automic Gold is queer-owned and focused but the brand equally emphasizes the importance of body positivity and sustainability. How did you decide to focus on these values when starting Automic Gold?
I didn’t even claim to; it’s just easier for me to get materials here, even if it costs a little bit more. Commercial brands with huge investments will set out to try and find the cheapest gold, so they will go to different countries and see if it’s cheaper here or cheaper there, but I don’t have those investments. I was only able to buy small batches, so it’s naturally better to buy from small businesses locally because I just can’t afford the quantity to buy from someone overseas.
As far as extended sizes go, people always ask me this question. I don’t understand the question. For me, the question is why doesn’t everyone do all sizes? People come in all sizes, so why not include all sizes? It doesn’t make sense to me. I, myself, am a small size, but I prefer more masculine rings and they don’t really come in my size. That’s why I make my own. At the same time, other trans people will come to me and say “I want something very feminine but I’m a very large size” and I’m like, perfect. I will design it. I love it.
Your pieces for Automic Gold are so playful when it comes to Queerness (like these scissor earrings); where do you get your ideas?
I just want it to be something I would wear for myself as a non-binary person — especially because I found that there wasn’t really a lot of fun jewelry or jewelry without any gender out on the market. So what do I want to wear? I want something cool. I’m a lesbian, so I want the lesbian symbol. I want to wear a chain with scissors on it. But mostly, I want my jewelry to do something a little extra; I want it to move or be something that you can’t find on the market. So if I design something, it’s what I want to wear and something I haven’t been able to find.
What’s next for you, Luna, and Automic Gold?
Well, Luna just got a sister, so now we have two doggies, two kids. For the brand, I’m very excited to introduce more wedding bands and our engagement ring collection. It’s a step away from the classic big diamond engagement rings, it’s a step away from the classic wedding band — with a large emphasis on mixing the genders.
Finally, being a queer-owned and centered brand, what does pride mean to you (and Luna)?
For me, Pride Month is is my Christmas. During regular Christmas I’m like, Oh, it's nice. I love the lights. But Pride is my real Christmas — I like to dress up, I like the decorations, I like all of it. It’s holy for me; it’s like salvation for me.
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Rebecca Caplan is a writer based in Brooklyn whose work has been featured in The New Yorker, Reductress, and Vulture. She lives in Brooklyn with her perfect, toothless dog Moose.