Relying on the old adage that there’s strength in numbers, a group of independent Israeli jewelry designers have banded together in an attempt to penetrate the vast American jewelry market.
Showcasing prominent designs in sterling silver and gold jewelry, the recently formed HLG Jewelry LLC kicked off its American promotional campaign at the New York International Gift Fair last week.
Jewelry exports from Israel have long been a lucrative business – with $390 million in jewelry being exported in 2006, a 2.5 percent increase compared to 2005. The majority of Israel’s jewelry exports were to the United States: 77 percent of gold jewelry exports, 56 percent of diamond jewelry, 23.6 percent of gem set gold jewelry, and 66 percent of all fashion jewelry exports.
But smaller individual designers have often met an impenetrable wall when trying to break through to the American market. HLG’s strategy is to keep established and up-and-coming designers’ focused in the studio while HLG promotes the designs with an aggressive sales and marketing program.
“The designers are what it’s all about,” said designer Ari Kuperman, who also helped put HLG together. “Our goal is to find collections by artists whose style is distinct enough to make their work stand out and become recognizable.”
Kuperman is a self-taught artist who started making jewelry at an early age. From gathering shells at the beach and making them into necklaces and earrings, he has evolved into an accomplished goldsmith and jewelry designer.
Kuperman recruited an array of other Israeli artists into the HGL fold – including Ruth Anchelovitch, Lily Perry, Ofer and Ruth Hotomlanski, Limor Gefen, Ruth Finkelstein, and Pam Moss. The designers’ work crosses over into the realm of fashion jewelry, and many of the collections include a mix of silver with colorful stones and beads, as well as fusion and glass jewelry line.
According to HGL sales and marketing director Jay Kohn, the concept behind HGL came directly from Kuperman.
“It was really his idea. He’s been designing jewelry for 20 years in Israel and wanted to create a mechanism which would expose him and other Israeli designers to the American market,” Kohn told ISRAEL21c.
Kuperman and Kohn approached the Israel Export Institute with their idea, and they in turn directed the duo to a number of like-minded artists. Kohn says that all of the designers who were approached jumped at the opportunity.
“We found everyone to be very receptive. We weren’t asking for any exclusivity, we’re just trying to help them get established in the US. Our goal is to establish relationships with retail stores and galleries. We’ll be traveling around a little after the show visiting shops themselves in the New York area and in Florida,” he said.
According to Kohn, HLG’s advantage for American retailers and galleries is to provide a chance to carry the moderately priced jewelry collections.
“By featuring several artists, we give the shop owners the opportunity to choose collections that will most appeal to their customers. We hope to establish a relationship with a number of retail shops. The buyers who view the designers’ collections will realize that we are working with a serious group of talented and versatile artists,” he said.
Jewelry maker and HGL contributor Lily Perry says that despite their different styles, there’s something that binds the Israeli designers involved in the project.
“I definitely think there’s a commonality among Israeli designers – our work shows where we came from and where we’re going. We didn’t create from thin air, we have roots,” she told ISRAEL21c. “I see the purpose of HGL to expose the little piece of Israel in each designer’s art which comes from his or her point of view.”
Perry, who has been creating jewelry for five years, specializes in works with an Israeli motif – usually centered on the pomegranate.
“In my opinion, the pomegranate is the basis for all design because of what it represents – wisdom, gentleness, beauty and health. They say that the number of seeds in each pomegranate is 613 – the number of commandments observant Jews need to follow,” she said.
“But beyond the elements and motifs of the pomegranate, my jewelry focuses on the 2000 year old history of the Jewish people. I’ve included a number of ancient coins embedded in my pieces and they all symbolize something – security, livelihood, peace of mind, sex.”
Perry became interested in jewelry design while editing books on Jewish history for the Open University in Tel Aviv.
I was interested in how women decorated themselves through the ages – and my conclusion is there’s nothing new under the sun. The only change is how we continually renew the ideas in different ways.”