It doesn’t look like the headquarters of a style icon. The first building on the otherwise trendy Shabazi Street is dilapidated, with paint peeling from its light-turquoise walls and electric wires hanging in a mess from its rooftop.
But this is where jewellery worn by the likes of Carla Bruni and Gal Gadot comes from. Full of glittering cases, it is the headquarters of Tel Aviv jewellery designer Keren Wolf.
Widely considered among the most influential women in Israeli fashion, Wolf accessorises celebrities, brides and jewellery lovers everywhere.
Her new collection includes super-thin gold rings with diamonds and other gems, which cost £85 to £150 each, designed to be stacked up on the finger. Keren Wolf says you can wear up to 15, and together they will still be narrower and lighter than a standard-sized gold ring.
“The inspiration for these rings comes from childhood jewellery pieces,” she says. “There’s a story behind each item of jewellery — this one is from my mother, or my aunt; this one was a batmitzvah gift; this is an heirloom from my grandmother; this one I saved up for. Every item of jewellery has a story. With this new collection of rings, I’m trying to say, ‘Let’s tell our own story.’ The story changes depending on how you organise the rings and which ones you wear together, when.”
Some of the rings have small gems or room for engraving. Others come in shapes or symbols, such as an eye to ward off evil or a five to represent the hand-like symbol, the hamsa.
“The people here are some of the most creative in the world,” she says, talking about the variety of styles in this ring collection. “There’s Jewish jewellery like Judaica. And, there’s jewellery for beauty, something that tells a story — and we all have a story.”
Wolf’s jewellery shop is just the beginning of what Shabazi Street, in the fashionable Neve Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv, has to offer.
Further up the street, Agas & Tamar — designers Einat Agassi and Tamar Harel-Klein — have been creating unique gold pieces for 20 years. Their jewellery blends precious stones with antique brass and silver coins from the Roman and Byzantine periods; and parts of old rings with ancient engravings with new gold burnishing.
“We’ve always been about trying to do something going outside the rules. We’re not afraid of taking risks,” says Harel-Klein, who met her studio partner when they were students apprenticing together at a local goldsmith.
“When we first started 20 years ago, we chose to work with 24-carat gold. All the people told us it was too soft and not good to work with. But we love it. We love the colour, the material; we can do whatever we want with it because it is so soft.
“When it hardens, it keeps some of its rough, real appearance. It’s not so overly elegant that you feel you cannot touch it.”
Ivshin is another boutique on this designer-oriented street — an urban runway of sorts. Orit Ivshin and her partner Giora Ivshin also blend old with the new in their stunning jewellery pieces.
Orit Ivshin, who studied at the acclaimed Bezalel Academy for Arts and Design, says Jerusalem’s old and new cities are among the main inspirations for her works. Her pieces are unique. She works with 18-carat gold and precious and semi-precious stones, including diamonds. She says she prefers a matte finish and chunky gold, and at the same time uses modern settings and stones cut via modern techniques.
“I love the roughness of the gold and it always stays beautiful,” she says, drawing a parallel between the durability of gold and the way that Jerusalem, known by Israelis as the golden city, has stood the test of time.
Turn the corner to Pines Street, where Shira Gabay’s storefront, She-Ra, is the place to go for customised rings that embrace elegance with a vintage touch.
Not far from Shabazi Street, Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street is another thoroughfare lined with fashion boutiques, jewellery storefronts and eateries.
Israel is not only known for its creativity in jewellery design but for its diamonds as well. Today’s Israeli jewellery designers all use conflict-free diamonds.
In February, the Seventh International Diamond Week brought hundreds of buyers from around the world to the Israel Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan, part of the Tel Aviv district. Israel is among the world’s top diamond exporters and considered the most advanced in diamond polishing.
With tweezers at the ready and big magnifying glasses to hand, sellers set up tables and stalls on the trading floor at the “boursa”, as the diamond exchange is called locally, beckoning buyers to take a closer look at their tiny sparkling stones, coloured diamonds, polished 10-carat rocks, and rough diamonds waiting to be shaped into something beautiful.
Many of the diamond sellers create their own jewellery, as well as selling loose stones.
“Jewellery manufacturing is a natural complement to our core business,” according to Yoram Dvash, president of the diamond exchange. “Many of our members have created remarkable jewellery lines, sold successfully the world over. This is another example of the dynamism and ingenuity of our industry.”