Made in Israel

Israel wants you to get better acquainted with its growing design community, including some bold and innovative jewelry designers. The showcase for Israeli jewelry is the Jovella International Jewelry Exhibition, which celebrated its fifth annual edition in Tel Aviv this past summer.

Quintessential Israeli design is direct, rough, improvised—and sometimes in your face. In jewelry, this means oversize and organic pieces that incorporate nontraditional materials such as silk cord and rough diamonds.

Avital Scharf, manager of the design department for the Israeli Export & International Cooperation Institute, says Israelis are natural-born entrepreneurs who know how to improvise and create on-the-fly solutions. “We don’t know what the next day will bring,” says Scharf. “In Tel Aviv, we want it here, and we want it now.”

Reli Stav, an executive with the consumer goods division of IEICI, explained that the perceived roughness of Israeli jewelry is explained by Israelis’ forthrightness. “Israelis are direct,” she said. “We don’t wear masks.”

Nearly 200 Israel-based jewelry designers exhibited at the Jovella fair, which was organized by Stier International Trade Fairs & Exhibitions Group. Sponsors were the Israel Diamond Institute Group of Companies; the Israel Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor’s Administration of Diamonds, Precious Stones & Jewelry; the Administration of Foreign Trade and the IEICI; and the Israel Jewelry Manufacturers Association.

“We are pleased to be partners in Jovella 2008,” Moti Ganz, chairman of the IDI Group of Companies, told the press. “This exhibition has proven to be an excellent showcase for the superb creativity and craftsmanship of Israel’s jewelry designers and manufacturers.”

Israel’s precious-jewelry exports are on the rise, and the Jovella fair serves as a platform to support international business. Government statistics reveal a 25 percent increase in karat gold jewelry exports between the first quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008. Since 2006, there has been a 30 percent increase in exports of jewelry with diamonds and precious stones. The United States is the top importer of Israeli jewelry, accounting for nearly 70 percent.

Jewelry isn’t the only design arena receiving official support. The government is promoting Israeli design in general—from T-shirts to medical devices—through a year-and-a-half-old design department within IEICI, which believes that rising domestic demand for Israeli-designed products will enhance the country’s international reputation for creativity. To that end, the three-year-old Israel Community of Designers kicked off an annual Designed In Israel exhibition (www.designed-in-israel.com) in 2007 to publicize the country’s originality. An international traveling exhibition, unveiled this year, aims to advance the organization’s goals.

As Israel’s jewelry-industry players attempt to increase their exposure abroad, some are diversifying. For example, rather than dealing only with loose stones, an increasing number of diamantaires are partnering with domestic design talent to produce more finished goods. That helps diamantaires evolve—an important consideration as new stone-cutting markets in China and India continue to affect Israel’s polishing industry—and also enables fledgling Israeli designers to gain recognition.

Since Israel is a relatively young country, it has few jewelry traditions, according to industry members. However, a healthy creative spirit and a lot of chutzpah—Yiddish for supreme confidence—are helping the country carve its niche in the world market.

“[Israel] used to be a center of agriculture and textile [production],” says Shmuel Mordechai, with the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor. “Now our economy is evolving. You can not stay in the same place.”