Luckily, I had a native Tel Aviv resident take me to jeweller Vered Laor’s shop since it would have been impossible to locate on my own. Not that the boutique doesn’t have presence which it does, it’s just that the l tree lined street in central Tel Aviv is located in a section that is both residential with a few small stores mixed into area.
Next to Vered Laor’s boutique is a very small hair salon. In true casual Israeli fashion, the clients seem to come and go from one venue to another, dripping wet hair or perfectly coiffed. No matter, they want to see what the latest Laor’s designs are and they want to be the first.
Even from the window display filled with small sand boxes there’s a creativity that’s obvious as heavy gold star fish and precious stone encrusted marine life look perfect in the beach setting. Just from that scene, I could see reason why her designs are the darling of TV presenters and the answer for gifts for visiting Prime Ministers and Presidents.
Most young people haven’t the faintest idea of what they want to do when they grow up. Vared, a thirty something sabra (someone born in Israel) didn’t need any urging. Her passion has always been for precious and semi precious stones, for unique designs and to be the best at whatever she does in jewelry design. She’s proved that she can do it all. This dream took her to the prestigious New York Fashion School of Technology where she lived for a while after graduating. Even now, Vered, a wire -haired, freckled face youthful looking beauty, seems more like a tom- boy than a world class jeweller.
Wearing her leather tool apron over jeans and a t shirt, the pockets filled with appropriate jeweller’s tools, she introduces me to her ‘right hand’ person, a young woman assistant who is delighted to be working with the famous Vered Laor. She sits behind a high counter hiding her work space from clients while she wields various tools while occasionally, Vered leans over to see that all is right.
It’s in this small space that Vered takes control of the shapes and forms with techniques that include the forging, sewing, soldering, hammering hand beating, cutting, polishing weaving, stone setting and stringing. From hammering, soldering, stringing, these hand crafted one of a kind items have been shown in various museums and exhibitions in Israel, Germany and New York.
Like the designer herself, these pieces are for women who are sure of themselves and want to make a statement. Certainly far from being gaudy, they are definitely bold; the designs are strong and feature some rare stones as well as the run of the mill from keshi and cultured pearls to aquamarine and citrine. But the weight and often the depth of these items demand attention.
“I actually love designing necklaces. I find them very challenging. To me they are like paintings,” says Vered with only a hint of an accent.
Her preference is for natural stones and although they may be large, they are balanced by the femininity of strands of various coloured pearls, delicate chains or silk ropes. There’s a softness and femininity in her craftsmanship which makes these bold pieces light but memorable. And her earrings are the perfect face framer.
Multi level stone pendants drop casually from heavy gold strands; starfish settle nicely near turquoise and coral. Smokey quartz seems to be a favorite with its drama and mystery.
“When designing, I like to see the upper body as an empty canvas where I can “paint” with my beads and metals. I see these designs as wearable pieces of art.”
She finds her lode of stones while travelling all over the world. In fact, she had just come back from Asia where she bought some incredible citrines and rubies which will soon be negotiated into tantalizing designs.
“My favorite stones though are light blue,” she says as she swoops down to pull out an incredibly lovely aquamarine. She calls them ‘swimming pools’. Also included as ‘favourites’ are the obvious aquamarine and multi colour blue tourmaline.
“I like to work with stones that are not highly polished so one can still feel the essence of the mineral,” she states as she fondles one of her triple set rings. As well, she tries to look for interestingly cut shapes that do not interfere with the natural beauty of the gemstones. ”In all my designs I incorporate metal with the natural stones. It’s my personal signature so the piece of jewelry becomes more personal and individual.”
And without any encouraging, she admits to her true passion. “I look for the natural stones which I handpick for their hues and textures.
They are the inspiration around which each piece is created. I search for both the essence of the stones and reach out to the aura of the woman who will be attracted to it.” It may sound too Zen but there’s nothing ditzy about these sophisticated pieces.
However, she does aspire to aesthetic harmony. “I see my role as the creator of each piece in providing the particular gem with a setting and composition that it commands,” she is now standing near her assistant.
The boutique, even with four people seems crowded but the clients keep popping in and don’t seem to leave without a purchase. The tussled reddish hair designer explains her reasons for the juxtaposition of various coloured gold and the gemstones she uses. “I just like the unexpected and the element of surprise.” Certainly this is one aspect which keeps her customers wanting a collection of Vered’s designs.
Back she pops to stand at the work bench behind the counter to make sure the soon- to- be- ready bracelet is pure perfection.
The door opens again, and this time a few trendy young women with designer togs, enter, their hair newly coiffed. They rush over to the vitrine with the bracelets and rings and within minutes, the two have selected a few pieces although the decision making seems difficult. They turn to me and ask my advice. I too have a difficult time since everything that has been chosen is so savvy, youthful, and classic at the same time and perfectly finished. I suggest, when in doubt buy both. And the twosome walked out happily with their small parcels.