Tuesday, July 7, 2009


There are over 3,000 species of trees and plants in Tel Aviv University Botanic Gardens in Israel, and there is some interesting trivia to learn as we stroll along its paths.

Amidst 750 species of eucalyptus, we learn that the cinnamon tree is not only closely related to the avocado tree, but the outer bark lacks a cinnamon aroma. Israel is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Yossi Harari.

Born in Israel to Turkish parents, both cultures play a large role in Harari's design approach. As a youth, Harari was fascinated by the jewelry his grandfather purchased for his mother and grandmother.

"He was a very big antique and art collector. I grew up surrounded with beautiful things and a beautiful environment and jewelry really attracted me."  Consequently, at 8 years of age, Harari knew he would be a jeweler.

Around 1984, he attended The Gemological Institute of America (G.I.A.) in Los Angeles receiving degrees in Jewelry Design and Gemology. He then returned to Israel and attended the University of Tel Aviv where he received a degree in Art History.

Like fellow Turkish jewelry designer Gurhan Orhan, Harari's primary interest is to incorporate centuries-old techniques to handcraft 24-karat gold jewelry. "I wanted everything to be made all 100% handcrafted, no machine, no wax carving, no casting; everything from pure foils of 24-karat gold."

By 1992, Harari traveled to Istanbul to establish his workshop where he continues making jewelry to this day. Harari considers the Mediterranean his "nest" of influence.  The area's distinctive Byzantine art and architecture are a source of constant allure and inspiration.

In 1999, his breathtaking mixture of modern and historic aesthetics caught the eye of executive, and Ithaca College graduate, Jennifer Shanker.  Shanker, a New Yorker who lived in Israel at the time, fell in love with the easy charm and carefree mentality of the Mediterranean.

While searching for wedding rings, she stumbled upon Harari's luscious, textured gold jewelry. When she returned to the United States, she wanted to market Harari's elegant jewels and in April 1999, Shanker founded Muse Imports Ltd.

Harari's designs, many named for women, are alternately minimalist and opulent, but the luminous 24-karat gold remains Harari's focal point. His elegant Melissa Vine Bracelet and Butterfly Bracelet feature gorgeous, dangling, textured gold discs.

Then there is the sumptuous Sara Mosaic Pendant made of 24-karat gold and embellished with round-cut citrines, garnets, rubies, tourmalines, and diamonds, while lustrous pavè diamonds illuminate the Roxanne Cognac Pendant.

The key emotion Harari hopes to evoke with his jewelry is happiness. "It's the happiness I can bring to the person, the appreciation of the art behind it, and the love that I have about what I am doing."

In 2007, Harari's lush, handcrafted Helen Necklace, composed of 41 carats of cognac, rose and white diamonds, 24-karat gold, and gilver, won the Couture Town and Country Design Award in the Haute Couture category.

Gilver is Harari's personal creation, an oxidized combination of 75% silver and 25% gold giving it a rich, black color that slowly wears over time; but serves as a strong base for setting gemstones.

In 2009, Harari repeated his magic by winning the same prize for his ring, The Wild Rose, composed of 24-karat gold, gilver, and a single 97-carat fire opal surrounded by 120 carats of emeralds, sapphires, and cognac diamonds.
A bevy of celebrities including Keyshia Cole, Oprah Winfrey, Cameron Diaz, and Leighton Meester wear his designs.

Publications highlighting Harari's creations in ads or photo shoots include Vogue, Redbook, Glamour, Allure, Self, Jane, and Ocean Drive.
Photo 1 (top right): 18- and 24-Karat Gold Helen Diamond Necklace with Oxidized Gilver
Photo 2 (mid-left): 24-Karat Gold Oval Carmen Citrine Ring
Photo 3 (bottom right): 24-Karat Gold and Oxidized Gilver Large Libra Mica Hoop Earrings
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