Coining Haute Judaica

So Money: This gold and silver necklace featuring a diamond-encrusted Magen David sells for $1,300.
COURTESY OF KESSEF
So Money: This gold and silver necklace featuring a diamond-encrusted Magen David sells for $1,300.

By Gabrielle Birkner

Published August 19, 2009, issue of August 28, 2009.
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At the intersection of Judaica and high fashion is a new jewelry line that features pendants made out of Israeli coins. The collection is called Kessef, which is the Hebrew word for money and a play on the last name of its 27-year-old founder and designer, Eve Lynn Kessner.

Two years ago Kessner enrolled in a metal-smithing class at New York’s 92nd Street Y, and began creating the prototypes for what would eventually become Kessef. She officially launched the brand earlier this summer with about two-dozen styles, ranging in price from $900 to $2,500.

The collection includes diamond-, ruby- and sapphire-encrusted Magen David and chamsa pendants, fashioned out of contemporary Israeli shekels and agorot, and vintage Israeli lira — the currency of the Jewish state between 1948 and 1980.

“Jewish and Israeli culture are a big part of my life, and are manifested in my jewelry,” said Kessner, a Jewish day school graduate and a Hebrew speaker. “The symbolism and the coin itself lend meaning to its wearer. If the symbol is a chamsa” — an amulet worn throughout the Middle East to ward off the Evil Eye — “it automatically has more significance if it is cut out of an Israeli coin, because the chamsa is so prevalent in Israeli culture.”

About half of Kessef’s collection could qualify as Judaica. Also on offer are peace sign-, heart- and Buddha-shaped pendants, made out of American and Chinese coins. All the pieces are handmade by New York artisans, Kessner said.

Currently, Kessef can be purchased exclusively at kessefbyevelynn.com. However, the designs will also be available at a series of fall trunk shows in New York, and Kessner said she is in talks to sell pieces from her collection to retailers in New York, Los Angeles and East Hampton, N.Y.


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