- Travel Healthy
- TEN OF…
- Contact Us
People & Jewelers
By Barbara Kingstone
Valencia, Spain is a small-ish city but with great suprises. None more than my meeting with one of the most talented, imaginative and important jewelry designers in Spain. Vincente Gracia is getting ready to leave for London where he will launch a book about his artistic jewelry designs. He is one of Spain’s true treasures, known as the jeweler of jewelers. Another jewel to add to Valencia.
However, it will be somewhat of a rush, since he was still sitting with a client when I arrived and there are two more waiting to meet with him. But I didn’t mind waiting since it was truly a magnificent old palace. (In Spain’s heyday, palaces sprung up like the condos of today!)
Up the two curved flights of stair with the heavily carved railings, I was invited into one of the waiting rooms like no other I’ve seen. Vitrines, naturally, surrounded the room and were filled with tempting gems which have been made into exquisite objects. But it was his mastery of decor that had such a great edge that made me gasp. A gilded framed antique sofa has been recovered with a most unusually beautifully multi colored, most contemporary mixture of stripes and swirls.
Gracia, was born into jewelry since his father was one and Gracia recalls playing with the gem stones as though they were toys. And it was when he was in his teens that he decided that fire opals and blue turquoise (Le Bleu de Perse) were his favorite stones.
Although there were all the precious and semi precious stones, the turquoise is treated with the greatest honor, clean with not an imperfection but now designed with streaming hanging diamonds and ending with small rubies. There were many items featuring coral which works with all the other stones. Gracia sees all these as “routes of our country”.
It is quite usual to see a gem -stone bird sitting on top a ring or another small animal set within a cluster of magically colored jewel settings and other objects placed in a gaggle of bewitching, colorful gems. Many of his designs include flowers, small animals and who wouldn’t want to have one of his huge cuff bracelets often including the unusual mixture of colors and even rough stones. It’s here that history meets the present day.
With his 14 craftsmen nearby who work as goldsmiths and the enameling is done in Barcelona, while many stones for Gracia are cut in Germany, and pearls come from the Orient, it’s no surprise that many of the gems come from India. All this leaves time for the casually, but perfectly turned out man, to concentrate on designing.
“I love the woman who wears my jewelry and realizes that there’s history and historic facts in each,” says this 60ish suave, gallant man, who doesn’t seem to be hurrying off or too concerned about getting to the airport and his plane to London.
“It’s so Spanish not to hurry but to make time for what seems important ,” he says as he fondles a wonderful heavily gem-encrusted neckpiece.
No only was this late afternoon meeting an experience and not knowing that when I walked into what seemed like a very modest entrance I would soon realize that this is more than just another shop as I started up a regal staircase. If only the walls could talk since this was once an ancient in-city palace. And suddenly I was aware but couldn’t fathom how people looked and lived in the old days of splendor of Spain. And then to meet a most charming man, his helpful son and be besotted with shining, stunning, original, one of a kind brooches, neckpieces, rings, bracelets and all things rare and splendid became my idea of a fine day in Valencia.
By Barbara Kingstone
I was in Sarasota, Florida, on a completely different assignment and staying at the Sarasota Bay Club, a condo complex where a few suites are available for guests who come to this lovely, cultural centre for a few days of work or play.
I certainly wasn’t expecting to see a vitrine filled with unusual, beautifully designed, ethnic jewelry which was hard to resist. I felt I had visitation rights as I made my daily pilgrimage to that window filled with exceptional designs. I decided to make time away from my focus on Medical Tourism at the very efficient and necessary Florida Retreat Centre and get in touch with Kati, the one name she goes by for her jewelry.
Off subject for a moment, there is an aging population in Sarasota and often there’s a ‘concierge need for post and pre operative clients to fulfill their requests for everything from food to transportation, accommodations and caregivers. This retreat has partnerships with various well located five star hotels and complex accommodations and most importantly, have a team of highly educated, research oriented, top university trained doctors. So to say I was surprised to see this window of exotic intricately designed jewelry in silver and gold plated,and large bronze detailing, stopped me in my tracks. It was certainly not what I expected to find in this senior citizen condo complex.
It would have been a great oversight not speak with Kati Bognar. A quick phone call and we made time to meet early on a Saturday morning before I left for my return trip home.
What a surprise when I opened the door to my large suite. There was the most attractive, smiling couple of ‘a certain age’ but with the sophistication and charm that only the Europeans seem to carry off so very well. It was difficult not to like the Bognars with their wide breath of experiences and their fun-loving take on life.
Both born in Budapest Hungary, their work had been in completely different areas.
They escaped during the revolution in 1956.
In New York where they landed, she attended university and studied literature. Much later she worked as a research scientist for several years. So how did these careers bring her to making one-of-a-kind, impressive, statement-making jewelry?
On a trip to Rio de Janeiro Brazil with Desi, it seemed to widen her horizons as she took notice of the bravado of the locals and how they loved large jewelry.
After that Desi, won a Fulbright assignment to Nigeria, West Africa, to implement a new broadcasting and film programs at the University of Ibadan, located in the oldest academic institution south of the Sahara. They stayed for three years. It was there that it “all came together” and the fruition of that stay whetted her appetite to think about a more artistic career change.
After befriending a few traders, in the traditional markets, she saw some beads which she had never seen before. Chevron beads or Aggry, as the are called, are very much like the Italian mirafiori and it was an instant love affair. “I was bedazzled,” says the friendly, smiling designer.
Luck and good timing are the best options in life and she had both when the traders decided to let her select their top quality beads before the took them to the big city marketplaces in Lagos and in Ibadan.
The trading beads were made in Murano, Italy, and as history shows, they found their way to West Africa from Italy across the Sahara Desert to Timbuktu and were used as money for other goods. These beads were what was then considered like gold.
So with her stash of marketable, colorful and wondrous beads, she started designing ornaments. After the three year stay, the Bognars moved to Peacham, Vermont, where Kati mastered ceramics and hand painted pottery.
Now the couple are living “happily” in charming Sarasota and as we spoke, she thought back to the time she was living in West Africa and says, “ I inhaled the gift and variety of colors and although I never understood why I collected the beautiful trading beads, I knew there was a reason.”
Still awestruck and linking her literary past, she says, that each piece she designs is like “creating poetry”.
All designs are original and one -of-a-kind since it’s now impossible to obtain duplicates of the trading beads. And it’s not surprising to hear her stay, “I find such great pleasure in making the neckpieces and a few earrings, it’s as though I’m making them for myself.”
But anyone with an inclination or a love of different, bold, wonderfully unusual jewelry, that is really more like art wear, they would certainly want to own, wear, continue to add to their collection of Kati Bognar’s fine items.
For more information, email Barbara3@Rogers.com
by Barbara Kingstone
On a recent cruise on one of the small exclusive, Seabourn ships, the Seabourn Spirit, my two passions met…cruising the Adriatic in complete luxury on this marvelous liner and their boutique filled with terrific jewelry.
However, this is most unusual since most top-end ships I’ve been on usually have low end boutiques which has always been a puzzle to me. Where else could one find an affluent, captive audience especially on sea days, and offer unfashionable, dull merchandise? Plus the fact many items have the cruise name splashed across the front, side or back. I always feel that that the wearer becomes the ship’s walking advertiser or the announcement that they are ‘flush” enough to have taken a special cruise.
Knowing this, I avoided going into the small boutique the first day. But on closer inspection in the display windows, there were several truly marvelous piece of jewelry.
One designer in particular, held my attention enough to make me cross the threshold and find out who he/she is.
Christine Escher, is a most elegant Parisienne, with soft blond hair (twisted in the back in a French roll held by one of her own designed accessory) and very azure blue eyes. One would suspect she was one of the elegant guests, which she was in a sense. But she was also the hard working businesswoman and had, for this trip, brought some of her cache of glorious designs, there to discuss the stones, inspiration and quality of each of the dozens of chic precious and semi precious items.
“I never give my jewelry on consignment so I must be here to discuss each piece,” says the soft spoken woman with the compelling French accent.
Once or twice a year she leaves her atelier on the rue de la Paix near the Place Vendome in Paris where she has a private clientele for whom she designs one of a kind items and floats on one of the Seabourn cruises with the pricey collection. She sells to small exclusive boutiques in Paris, St. Tropez, Toronto and other major cities.
“ Before I worked 80% for shops and 20% for private collection, but now that’s reversed.” She admits the economy has changed but not her bottom line.
That said, she’s clever enough to also add some of her considerably less costly sterling silver and electroplated designs which still have top-end creativity and are tremendously successful.
I ask about the gem stones and listen as she recalls that she studied economics at university but never finished, instead had a change of heart. “Even as a child I loved jewels.” So she learned this trade by herself before taking a jewelry course for 4 years after which she received a gemology diploma.
And for the last 35 years, she has had great success. Right off, her talent was acknowledged and become an exclusive designer for the renowned Van Cleef and Arles in Paris and New York where her specialty was an exotic collection in wood studded with gems
“These pieces are very expensive now,” she shows a bit of pride, although too restrained for her success. “I know this because of auctions where the prices for them have become very high.”
But wood isn’t as easy at one would think. She learned about the shrinking in various weather conditions and various other aspects of this material. As she became more knowledgeable, Escher realized that the bottom of the shank could easily split, hence she began using gold in that area of each ring.
“But I’m still learning all the time about the art of making jewelry.” she tells me in the quiet Library Room on the ship. “I have a lot of people working for me. For example there is a special man who does my ebony wood jewelry but I have a lot of workshops throughout France because I have big production,” she states, en passant.
Firstly, she sketches the designs for the craftspeople and then edits if need be, when she sees the first piece completely finished.
She mentions Rene Boivin, a famous jewelry designer from the 40s, who is certainly her great inspiration as much as is sea life which appears throughout her collection. As a matter of fact, she is wearing a fabulous Boivin ring with inset rows of triangular pink sapphire set in gold. As for the her other inspiration, she works around the star fish which seems to be her signature since this shape is seen throughout. One caught my eye, a stunning round large brownish moonstone where the star fish is set in diamond on the top. Also noticeable on earrings plus she diversifies at times with snail-like designs on her earrings and rings.
Luckily, Esher loves to travel. This gives her the opportunity to find fine gem stones . “I love aquamarine, tanzanite, opals, so I often go to the destinations where they are mined.” She also now has contacts in Germany and India and China.
“I don’t want my jewelry to be cheap. I like them to be heavy which raises the price since they are 18 karat gold, but although they have weight, they are easy to wear. Of course, now with the raise of the price of gold and the poor economy, cost is an issue and I don’t want to lower my standards, so yes, the sales are slightly lower. But on liners like Seabourn Spirit, there is not too much resistance” says the savvy woman.
As I look through her album of her designs from now and the past which she has on the ship, I see some exquisite creations. One is a dark blue sapphire and white diamond flower ring and a pink beryl with yellow gold ring “a range between orange and pink”. As for her own favorite, it’s aquamarine especially in her cache of earrings.
“I’m very stupid, I really should add all my mentions and photos from famous fashion magazines,” she says then adds, “I will when I return to Paris.”
In the meantime, the small boutique has a few interested travelers who seem to want her attention. She must go. But not before she insist I try on my own favorite, the brownish moonstone ring, which is most tantalizing. It isn’t as much fun as owning but it’s a start.
by Barbara Kingstone
Many love stories are associated with jewelry. In recent times, one immediately thinks of Richard Burton’s constant offering to his wife, Elizabeth Taylor’s already overflowing cache. Go to any museum with jewelry areas from ancient Egypt, Greece and Roman times for starters and you’ll see armload’s of gold hand crafted jewelry and in many cases, they were also gifts to their beloved. And as old as they are, there are so many beautiful designs that many designers still take inspiration from them.
Now to recent time. During a visit to Dubai, I went to the showing at a small boutique in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) where Aliel, a small, bijou of a boutique is located among the art galleries and fine restaurants.
It’s quite unusual to see the Expats and Emirati intermingling at these soirées, but this night was special.
Designer and owner, Amynah Hassanali, born in Pakistan, was brought up and went to university in Dallas Texas, studying in the IT field but always loved jewelry, always looking at the various colored stones, and the possibility for their designs to suit their shape.
A few years ago this dream materialized when she moved to Dubai with her husband and two sons. She opened a small boutique with her more youthful, less pricey designs in a location where young, affluent business people work.
Amynah is a believer that on special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, a very special stone of high quality, in time, is less of a liability than the constant ups and downs of stocks and bonds. She suggests that the stone which may be unset, be kept in a security box for as long a possible and see the prices rise.
Much of the craftsmanship is done in Italy and in Thailand for the best jewelry work. but the designs are done by Amynah in Dubai. But to make sure that all is done properly, she does spend time a few times a year, overseeing the craftsmanship in the other countries
The night of the DIFC Art Nights (Dubai International Financial Centre) event I attended at the small very sleek, with dark wood and glass boutique, were some of the most elegantly dressed women, many accompanied by their husbands. What is so unusual, is that the majority of women were of ‘a certain age’ , not young twenty-thirty year olds, although some did come in and carefully selected designs, walking out with perfectly wrapped pieces. The somewhat older women were delighted to see new, original designs instead of the still fashionable but not unique, large precious stones surrounded by other semi and precious stones. Her items were simply elegant. and original. However, there is a certain amount of discretion among this age range and although not much was sold to them that night, next day there was a rush to try on and buy the items they eyed the night before.
Quality is most important to Amynah and although she may be designing with semi precious stones like crystal, tourmaline, aquamarine, topaz, citrine, amethyst and more, she does also have one vitrine filled with amazing baubles. One piece that stands out isn’t original but with diamonds of the highest quality in all categories. except for the incredible size and quality of the stones. It’s still referred to as a ‘tennis bracelet’. But since the deep yellow centre stone is about 5 carats and the smallest is over one carat, it’s hard to imagine any one wearing this for a game of tennis. The price tag, $345,000.00. Also, another showpiece, was a three carat emerald cut, D graded, VS 1 solitaire set with four bands in three coloured gold inset with diamonds- by micro pave – a breathtaking item for $84,000.
“For some , this stones may be considered small,” says the stunning, exotic, dark hair, 40 year old designer. “But here, quality not size, counts. While in America, the larger the better but the quality isn’t important.”
However, less costly are other designs such as her signature creations which are semi precious stones inserted on other semi precious stones. Earrings and pendants were some that featured beautifully. Also, wood bracelets studded with small diamonds and colored stones were also outstanding. “I see women spending so much on expensive, fashion designer costume jewellery while for a bit more, they could have genuine stones with very fashionable designs.”
What is so interesting about this woman is that she’s a contradiction. She loves jewelry, loves designing, enjoys seeing her clients ,now friends, enjoy their purchases,adores her boutique yet “it’s not my personality to wear a lot of jewellery”. That said, this evening, each earlobe had the most glorious dangling diamond earrings ending with a drop at the bottom, each approximately three carat diamond.
Also, for security and secrecy reasons, behind her counter and the shop’s displays, is a closed-off private room for clients who want discretion, She also realizes that although her fame was all from word of mouth, no ads at all, people have come to trust her and “are clients for life”.
And to add to her philosophy Amynah sees jewelry as an investment in emotions, too. “When buying jewelry, whether you are spending $1000 or $1 million, it’s important that you buy something that has value, whatever that value may be… something that can be passed down to your children.”
It’s been over 18 years now that she has been married. “My husband and I have raised our two accomplished young sons. When they get married, the special thing I can give them is their late mother’s jewelry. Though it may not be worth millions of dollars, to them they will be worth much more as the items are beautiful and still have her smell, her feel and her personality. When they look at the jewelry, they will always smile,” says the sensitive young woman.
And one thinks that each of her clients will always and also gets great delight when they put on one of Aliel’s glorious, not overpowering, youthful and original jewelry designs.
by Barbara Kingstone
I’ve had a love affair with pearls since I was 16 when I was gifted my first strand, and that was many decades ago The spell is still there, but admittedly the pearls are larger and in a range of colours. So, I was thrilled to see a shop window filled with these lustrous gems.
Danny Eliav’s shop in Jerusalem seems small, but that may be because there are clients sitting at a glass cases, deciding on size, colour, shape, to purchase. Decision made, Danny and I start discussing our mutual love affair with the oysters’ by-product from around the globe – Australia’s large South Sea pearls, Akoya pearls seas around China and Japan and Tahitian black pearls.
“Round is still the favoured shape,” Danny says. However, we discuss the new trend of keshi and baroque which have become so popular with North American and European clients. They are less expensive and equally beguiling but obviously the perfectly round, pit less, pricey perfect pearls are far rarer.
t be ignored. They are exquisite.
Jerusalem is an incredible city but when it comes to jewelry, there’s little doubt that Tel Aviv is the centre. Here there’s a major cutting-edge diamond industry, and economy speaking, up there with hi technology and pharmaceuticals.
In this “bubble city”, designers let loose their imagination and create pieces for the very savvy consumer.
One of many designers stands out. Oded Kashi, has a stunning shop on a small, elegant side street off the ‘uber’ boutique enclave, Kikar Hamedina.
A silver/black colored band of silk holds various brushed gold shapes topped with bezeled diamonds. And leather and gold seem meant for each other.
There is a freedom of form with the intricacy and exquisite finishing and exceptional gem stones expected at Oded’s shop.
The designs are so unique and expectedly costly, that there’s no wonder that he’s becoming a success in the USA.
Jewelry making come naturally to Oded, HIs Persian grandfather was a top jeweler who fled to Palestine in 1923. Oded’s father was also a goldsmith.
While at Oded’s boutique, a delighted couple who had commissioned a large pink cabochon tourmaline surrounded with small diamonds, were there to get the finished product. As I looked around, it was clear Oded’s creations are much bolder and forceful, definitely for less conservative collectors.
ir designer “I also have stones cut to order from rough material. And I see a woman, I have the urge to dress her up with my jewellery. I can see exactly what a plus it would be to her appearance,” Oded smiles.
But most of the time, he plans the designs specifically for the stone, hence his one-of-a kind pieces. “I buy stones like a child buys candies..just for the sake of having something that is delicious and beautiful.”
On the other side of Tel Aviv in Neve Zedek, at the old train station, HataChana, is a treasure trove of chic shops among them of course, jewellery. It’s a young, throbbing area. At Hella Ganor’s jewellery boutique which she shares with Dorit Gray, there is definitely something for every gem lover. Each has their own side of the airy, modern white gallery. Their designs, so completely different from each other.
Bold and gold, is Hella’s forte. In the business for over 25 years, she hasn’t allowed modern technology to by pass her and has made the most of a new technique. Her latest line “the NETLINE’ shows her computer design skills and 3D Rapid Prototyping knowledge. She creates jewels with shapes and forms that could never be reached with traditional methods. The system is based on geometry and architectural vision.
“It isn’t easy to create and manufacture but I get sheer enjoyment seeing the end results,” she says.
Now her working bench is the computer and her materials include gold, silver, stainless steel, wood, felt, porcelain and other industrial materials.
“Some of my models are hand made in the old school way,” says Ganor.
But now she sends a file to a 3D printer, out comes her piece using a plastic material. It’s then cast in any metal. Rapid Prototype has given her more freedom. Especially appealing are the stretching gold, rings, bracelets and neckpieces.
On the other side of the room are designs by Dorit Gray who joined Ganor four years ago and relocated here for two years Gray’s designs are lovely…and if there’s one word to describe them, it would be ‘polite’. Very genteel and ladylike, perfectly crafted with semi precious and precious stones, they are simply gracious. Her signature is a one carat round diamond set into a circle of gold with almost invisible inscriptions such as health, happiness etc. surrounding the outer circle.
Certainly there’s no competition between the two designers. If you are “bold at heart‘ , you’ll find Hella’s work on the left side of the room. For those who like easily understandable baubles, then the right is your direction. (Hella Ganor and Dorit Gray, Hatachana, Neve Zedek #15 97236040855
It’s difficult to leave this country without a souvenir, so just buy jewellery, a forever memory of a fascinating country.
by Barbara Kingstone
As a jewellery journalist who loves her work, nothing cheers me up more than seeing incredible, new original works of art which include precious and semi -precious stones. But I could be jaded since few have excited me as much as what I was seeing.
Folding my very wet umbrella under the shop’s canopy, I made a quick decision and entered although I did have a lunch appointment shortly.
Resisting this shop was not an option as I was so taken with the few items I saw. What especially drew me into the store was a rough, oxidized, muted coloration square ring held together with a hunk of and unpolished gold bead and an usually cut diamond. Beside it was a wooden cuff studded with diamonds all on a gold base.
So as I walked into this small but incredibly well designed shop, as fate would have it in ‘Israel speak’, there was Boaz himself. He had just the night before, arrived back from the USA where he showed his designs in Los Angeles, New York and a few other cities with well heeled, savvy chic women who love the newest looks and top quality.
Boaz and his assistant were unwrapping these valuable items as his father, sat at one of the desks. It was at his knee that Boaz learned the trade which started with his grandfather over 100 years ago.
“My father made wonderful jewelry and I also recall seeing a Van Cleef and Arpels design. It wasn’t just a piece of jewelry but a dream. I decided I wanted to make others as excited as I was to make art and no just jewelry,” says the shaved headed, 40-ish, charmer and as with all Israelis, casually dressed.
He was keen to show his wares…and I couldn’t have been happier. He is also a philosopher who truly believes that “one should stick to what you believe in even if every one else is against it. Alway try to fulfill your dreams.”
It wasn’t long before I realized that from looking at his designs that diamonds were a major features. “ Shiny or not, clean or not, white or colored, perfect and imperfect, as long as it’s a diamond,” he smiled
Large red, fiery corals surrounding a large round diamond, the shank filled with various colored stones, was only one of the many that shocked me into reality However, there was a cache of more jaw dropping designs being unfolded from their jewel cases. Toto, this was not Kansas.
A ring with a textured black hunk of domed silver, and a furled gold strip encrusted with pave diamonds, was detailed with a gold edged band. Another was swirls of gold, crisscrossed each other as bezeled diamonds flashed and who couldn’t swoon over the square ring completely covered with various size bezeled diamonds on gold. Then a pure white oval domed coral ( never to be repeated due to this endangered species) ring had triangular pave pattern on the sides. All this was just a sampling, an appetizer.
Earrings had an over whelming presence but not as evocative as the rings. The treasure trove includes pendents which are also opulent and interesting but no competition for rings, earrings and bracelets.
As for earrings, a pair of oval looking, greyish colored silver with diamonds, a gold bird’s nest where a precious stone resided inside was one of the amazing creations. One dangling with links with encrusted jewel top at the earlobe started at the lobe with an imperfect gold matte square and ending with a ruby, while a hanging grey bird’s nest ended with a ruby. Then there was a sword-like hammered gold, again with stones, swaying loosely from a rounded top. A most interesting working of tangled intricate gold links featured a rectangular ear lobe top in brushed gold, finished with, in this case, a colored tourmaline although any of these large semi -precious stones could be chosen by the client.
The rain still hadn’t stopped, I was late for lunch so with apologies, I explained the conundrum. My friend understood. She shops at Boaz Kashi, often, too often, she confessed. Boaz Kashi is considered the leading jeweler among the connoisseurs and jewel collectors. And just like his favorite city, Hong Kong, he adores the power of humanity and human action seen throughout his collections
With her great talent and stash of gems, youthful designer Dana Rebecca Levy has created a growing and envious enterprise
By Barbara Kingstone
It just couldn’t be helped that Chicago born, Dana Rebecca Levy was going to be a jeweler. It’s in her DNA. As a child Dana learned a lifelong discipline from her jeweler father, Israel .
“He’s a total inspiration and my hero and taught me to roll with the punches,” says the statuesque 26 year old young woman. She’s keen to talk about his successes from his native Morocco to Israel and the USA. After leaving Casablanca, as a young lad in Israel he went into the army. When he moved to the States, he was drafted into the Vietnam War. “He never complained. He’s my total inspiration for never looking back,” says the enthusiastic daughter. Subsequently, Israel, has become a very successful diamond merchant in Chicago.
And she admits as the youngest of three children, she was a ‘pest’, always insisting on traveling with her father on business trips and loving the glitz and shine of gem stones. “It was always, can I come please?”and of course, he couldn’t say no,” she laughs.
The baby of the family learned at the knee of her successful father with whom she credits her success and knowledge. She was 15 years old when she first accompanied him to India. “While there I told my dad that I didn’t really like what he was designing. He actually took my advice realizing how very interested I was in the jewelry business. At his suggestion I met someone he knew who could assess my talent,” she states. And, to everyone’s amazement, Dana produced an entire collection in five days, had it made up for her and the items shipped back to the States.
She recalls how she and her sister would go through her mother’s jewelry box dismissing many of the very dynamic and exotic diamonds , gifts from her father and evaluating them as not being for everyday wear. That’s her thing -timeless, classic, wearable jewelry for day or night but all wonderful and noticeable with new and edgy detailing e.g. small diamonds (certainly not new) surrounding newly intricately carved exotic and unknown stones made in China. Her memories continue going back to her grandmother…”who IS (she is alive) so glamorous and I’ve always kept in mind her stacking rings, well ahead of her time. So beautiful. “
Although their businesses and offices are completely separate, they are on the same floor in the same building. But Dana is she firm about her independence although admits that she does occasionally ask for advice.
Taking her ability seriously, she did one charity event and then a golf outing where she had set up a live auction room. And within a few weeks the entire collections was sold. From then on she held a showing every summer during school break.
“ Then I was using a lot of rough cut diamonds and stones and I was lucky enough to grow up in this family so that I had an entire factory to get the best basis of the jewelry process. And the evolution was incredible since I went from funky beads to diamonds,” says the black clad, dark hair woman. Soon she was off to college but had already sold an entire diamond collection.
” When I finished college and decided I needed to know more I took many courses at the Gemological Institute of American in California. I studied in their applied jewelry department where I learned to draw and paint. Then I went on to study how to make a wax sample, casting and molding, all the manufacturing technology one should know in this business.”
She ended learning the computer side and graduated in May 06. Shortly afterwards Dana opened her doors for her business, Dana Rebecca Designs.
She launched her company with two very clever twists. Each collection was named for a close family member or friend and only then would she created the designs which suited that particular person’s personality
The second brilliant twist was this savvy young woman quickly started to focus not so much on designing but the spine of the business- accounting, setting up the office and keeping staff as small as possible.” I felt knowing all aspects of any business is essential . I heard of too many who had started a business, hired too many staff members and losing sight of the bottom line.”
Not long afterward she realized that with the fast turnover, she would have to go to Hong Kong and find an extremely fine manufacturer who could do the various creations she had designed. It’s here Dana buys her stones twice a year at the Hong Kong fair and then heads back to Hong Kong to get her creations finished to her very particular demands.
“I find it very easy to go to Hong Kong and work there since they know me and I know and appreciate their attention to detailed work. I stay for several weeks and then when I leave, they email or fax sketches of the final work, for my approval.”
“When I started, I didn’t have the confidence for one of a kind items. In the last year, I’ve been focusing on only one –of- a –kind and it’s been an amazing eye opener.”
She’s created a very impressive specialty… carved stones. Rubelite, coral, tourmalines, that she “searches high and low” for is what she’s finding her clients want and love.
“I’m not a designer who does one or two collections a year but work continuously because I’m always inspired and can’t hold back my thoughts.”
Her own favorite stone is a surprise…Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, the ones with no veins and great color which “makes everyone’s skin look remarkable.”
Without hesitation she also adds tourmalines and rubelite in the garnet family to her list and admits to that jeweler Irene Nuwirth, who shows at Barney’s in Chicago is one of her favorite jewelry designers.
Dana is now working with a lot of pave in rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants and a small collection of cuff links. In fact, one of the pave earrings was shown in Self Magazine. “Carved pink opal, lemon quartz, white agate in shapes that I want are the fastest sellers. A carved rubelite pair of earrings was seen on the cover of Michigan Avenue – never had a Michigan Avenue cover but these are expected to be on Oprah’s cover. A disco ball is made with fancy blue or yellow sapphires with diamonds. Her “eighties throwback” includes mixing metals. And one way to keep down her prices, is her use of 14 k gold. “Americans don’t know the difference. Europeans appreciate the higher gold content. I did work in 18 k and 22 K but it shot up the price of each item so this is the way to lower the tag without skimping on the gem.”
Rose gold , which Dana finds very chic, is part of her collection and Dana admits that working with different metals sets her apart from other designers. “I like to use rubies in black metal, or rose gold or sapphires in black metal. I like to play since I think that’s what my clients want and like. The entire collection is evolving. The newest is from an Indian jeweler who carves the stone from underneath and was seen in Women’s Wear Daily’s Ultimate Accessories Guide.
Diamonds come from her father or his contacts and a 6 carat black diamond bracelet is truly a work of art as seen on the arm of actor Selma Hayek who wore it on a TV show.
She cites one client who has 12 bracelets which she stacks. “I have to find new colors for her. Often she’ll wear a few at one time but with two of my pave diamond bangles.” I’d prefer not to mention her — I dont want her to think I’m talking about her. Is that okk??
Another favorite are black diamonds and a rudilated quartz or as she calls them, Super Seven. “Even In this economy, my clients want pieces that are unique and the carving is so fine and unusual”.
And she’s no slouch when it comes to publicity. Dana has had a second Oprah cover on “O” magazine — soon to have 2 covers. Imagine getting the most powerful woman in American to embrace your designs? That’s heady, no matter how old or young one is. Singer Carrie Underwood wore her earrings for a CMT Announcement . Another pair of earrings –scalloped and edgy blue topaz- was featured shown in Elle Magazine. .
As for outlets, the well known 80 year old establishment in Chicago Marshall Pierce, has her jewelry on show as does, Frances Hefferman, Sophia Vintage on famous Chicago’s, Oak Street.
Dana has recently opened the door to a new boutique in California. And she’s well known enough to Hollywood Red Carpet stars and their stylists to get requests for that big walk down the carpet. Although on loan for that evening, many land up purchasing the jewelry.
He goal? In 10 years she expects to have it all. Not only will have earned great status but be married and have a family. With Dana Rebecca Levy, it is more than a possibility, it’s a probability. Who could believe that this youthful woman would already be such a successful entrepreneur with a great future?
by Barbara Kingstone
Being featured in The Sunday New York Times’ style section just confirmed what jewelry fashionistas already knew. Australian born Samantha Wills is not only trendy and popular with celebs and savvy shoppers ‘down under’ but she’s also taken the Big Apple by storm. New Yorkers love her jewelry designs.
Born in North Sydney, the glamorous lanky, blond, always wanted to be involved with jewelry. What makes her designs so desirable is that they may look terribly pricey but in fact, they are unbelievably affordable.
Although Wills did take beading and craft classes during her childhood, she never had a formal jewelry- making education but looking at her designs, one would imagine that she’s been at work for years with an output of a scholarly jewelry thesis. But it’s only been since 2004, then 21 years old, Wills took the bold step, and opened her business, obviously with the right stuff at the right time.
From fragile chandelier earrings and delicate pendants, she now has a bolder collection of not-for-the-meek-of-heart which includes rings and bangles featuring huge stones in the most creative electroplated (silver covered with gold) designs. Wills currently employs staff and silversmiths internally in each country.
She works with antique/burnished silvers and golds, gun metal silvers and now rose gold plating. And it’s small wonder that the “colors and shapes, from landscapes to door knobs” are inspired by her travels.
These ‘fake’ stones are sourced in from various parts of the world,depending where this peripatetic young woman is on the globe-could be India or maybe China. But now that she has an atelier in New York City and still keeps her headquarters in Sydney, bouncing from coast to coast, from ocean to ocean doesn’t seem to be a problem.
Although one would think Mills would have a stand- alone boutique in Australia,
she makes life easier and sells wholesale to Australia’s leading department store, David Jones, plus various national boutiques and also in New Zealand and Japan.
In New York, it is only logical that the important fashion-forward major stores are now carrying her various collections. Think Barney’s, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Ave and you immediately know she’s the “flavor of the year”.
But if ever there was a pivotal year for Wills, it was 2010 when the ‘uber’ fashion maven, Patricia Field, of Sex in The City fame, called for her samples. Then there was the collaboration with the designer of Luca Luca for the very successful New York Fashion week parade.
And when you’re in demand, the reality is that the demand only gets greater since Wills was soon working closely with an ever growing celebrity client list.
But the business woman has another side. Philanthropy. As of 2011, Wills become active in The McGrath Foundation and has created a limited edition of pink pieces for breast cancer awareness. All the proceeds go to the fund. She also supports REDKITE, a youth cancer charity.
Jeweler Samantha Wills, has taken a big bite out of the Big Apple and with her great style and energy, she’s in the perfect place- in the city that never sleeps and loves shopping