Yossi Harari says he is a student of ancient Ottoman, Etruscan, and Hellenistic art, and those influences are readily apparent in his jewelry designs, including his new collection, Yossi Couture. The pieces were made by layering 24-karat gold with oxidized silver to produce a matte black finish. It is a technique, he says, that was used widely during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Harari’s jewelers then set the pieces—blackened cuffs, drop earrings, and lavaliere necklaces—with mosaics made from rose-cut diamonds of various sizes.
Like many contemporary designers, Harari prefers the subtle glow of rose-cut stones to the intense sparkle of brilliant multifaceted stones. Yet Harari’s production methods require patience. A recently completed oxidized gold cuff embedded with diamonds passed from gem cutter to gem setter to metalsmith over a period of three months.
Since 1992, Harari has operated a factory store in Istanbul, where 20 jewelers craft the 24-karat gold pieces using primitive tools—in much the same manner as craftsmen made jewels for the Turkish sultans as long ago as the sixth century. “I love to keep the authenticity of the way things used to be made, but reshape the designs into beautiful, fashionable jewelry that is more contemporary,” says the 42-year-old Harari, a small, fit, and energetic man who wears simple, hand-hammered 24-karat gold bangles on his wrist.
Harari, who divides his time between Istanbul, Tel Aviv, and New York (where his collection is sold at Bergdorf Goodman), was born in Israel and spent much of his childhood in Istanbul. He frequently traveled between his family’s homes in Tel Aviv, Istanbul, and Lugano, Switzerland, with his grandfather, a prominent art and antiques collector. “My grandfather took me with him on his buying trips to Paris and around Europe,” says Harari. “I went to Paris flea markets with him and the grand bazaar in Istanbul and many antiques stores. When my grandfather came into their shops, the dealers always went in their back rooms and brought out something special to show him.” Those encounters proved so influential on Harari that, at age 11, he suggested a redesign for his mother’s diamond ring, which his grandfather had made to the boy’s specifications.
The day after Harari completed his three-year service in the Israeli army, he departed for California to attend the Gemological Institute of America, where he studied gemology, design, and manufacturing. He later attended Tel Aviv University, earning a degree in art history and gaining exposure to some of the designs and techniques that now appear in his gold pieces.
“Once a woman buys 24-karat gold jewelry, she becomes addicted,” says Harari. “It’s such a warm, flattering color against the skin, and it immediately takes on the body’s temperature and becomes something very personal.”
Also available at Bergdorf Goodman