Israeli jeweler ascends from kibbutz to Hollywood

What do Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys and Jane Seymour have in common, besides good looks, fame and fortune? All of these stars are fans of jewelry and accessories that are conceived, designed and manufactured in Israel, …

What do Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys and Jane Seymour have in common, besides good looks, fame and fortune? All of these stars are fans of jewelry and accessories that are conceived, designed and manufactured in Israel, by the reigning queen of romantic jewelry, Michal Negrin.

Although Negrin’s work is made without precious stones, and is extremely affordable, her work is too intricate to be pegged ‘costume jewelry.’ Each Negrin piece is intricately crafted from Italian metal and adorned with Swarovski crystals, beads, cameos and enameling.

“I always design my accessories first of all for me,” Negrin has said. “The women who like my jewelry want something that says they’re unique whether they’re in their 20s or 70s.”

Negrin describes her artistic universe as “a world of beautiful colors, dreams and the imagination that criss-cross my creations” She says that she is “not bound to any formal or classical forms, thus enabling me to combine and mingle colors and shapes boldly,” and is pleased to have “expanded my creativity into a line of special accessories including home decorations and various items, all based on my tender, romantic style.”

In recent years, it has become easy for the stars to find the jewelry in that style. Negrin’s creations can be found at the counters of the most prestigious U.S. department stores; Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Henri Bendel and Marshall Fields. She has dedicated boutiques in Israel, Japan, Australia, France, Madrid and Singapore.

In July 2003 the first Negrin ‘mecca’ in the U.S. made its debut. The first floor of ABC Carpet & Home at Broadway and 19th Street in Manhattan, is a veritable Victorian oasis encompassing everything in the Michal Negrin lifestyle, from jewelry to clothing to home accessories, such as decorative pillows and printed fabrics sold by the yard.

The company which has grown so rapidly had humble beginnings. Negrin grew up on a kibbutz, and when she began designing and selling jewelry, she had to do it quietly. After setting up a table in Tel Aviv’s Nahalat Binyamin street arts and crafts market and putting her earnings back into her business, she was violating the kibbutz rules that required her to turn her earnings over to the collective.

Her flower-laden, romantic styles were a hit from the beginning. As her designs became more popular, demand grew, and she expanded her business, moving it from her home into a workshop, with a small store attached.

In 1993, her first flagship store opened in the heart of Tel Aviv’s trendy Sheinkin Street. Since then, her empire has expanded by leaps and bounds, with twelve Michal Negrin stores at major shopping malls and centers in Israel, and worldwide locations that include Tokyo, Paris, New York and Sydney.

But the heart of the company remains in Israel. “Michal Negrin Designs Ltd” is located in a modern and specially adapted facility in the Tel-Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, which includes a design workshop, warehouse and production, employing some 160 people.

All the company’s workers are carefully chosen, with the artistic orientation and skills that are needed to be applied in the delicate process of mounting and hand painting the jewelry and decorative items.

Negrin has her own small studio at the plant, where her ideas are born and conceptualized into her products. Her philosophy of jewelry production combines technology and machine tooling together with accurate handicraft. Once the original design is created, certain parts are molded into casts, and thus, using accurate technology, the various components of the jewelry are prepared for the production process. All cast components undergo special coating and polishing, giving the items their unique classic style.

At the end of this process, hand painting is applied to the various items, and the components are then set according to the original model, followed by twinning, adding embroidery where needed and finally the inlay of crystals. This entire procedure is an accurate and manual one. All through the various stages, as well as at the end of production, items and materials undergo rigid quality control.

Her work couldn’t be more trendy at the moment – elaborate necklaces and so-called ‘chandelier earrings’ are the height of current fashion, making her pieces the choice of high-profile stars who can afford whatever diamonds they like, yet choose Negrin’s pieces. Reigning pop music queen Britney Spears, one of her most devoted customers, has even worn Negrin jewelry in her music videos.

Donna Kato, a California fashion writer, described Negrin’s work as “Victorian postcards turned three-dimensional. Using crystals, lace, antique glass beads and metal, she creates drop earrings, looping chandelier necklaces, cuff bracelets and chokers that look like bouquets of tiny spring flowers encircling necklines and wrists, and the versatile jewelry complements jeans and evening gowns alike.”