The newly opened Yvel Visitor Center on the outskirts of Jerusalem offers a brilliant insight into the story and jewelry of Yvel, one of Israel’s most prestigious jewelry brands which is sold in some of the world’s most well known stores. Yvel has a fascinating history, told comprehensively through the visitor center, alongside the factory, showroom, and a wine tasting room.
Yvel: the story
Israeli-born Orna Levy grew up in a well-known Bukharian family in the jewelry business. Her mother had the jewelry store in the King David Hotel. After the army, she met Isaac Levy, whose family had immigrated from Argentina when he was a toddler, and they decided to make pearl necklaces to sell. They took an office, and the manufacturing business grew. They moved to the Talpiot neighborhood in the south of the city before, in 2009, finding a unique building that had been an inn for travelers, then the home of a family and then a winery, in Ramat Motza, a suburb of Jerusalem. They renovated all but the winery part and established the Yvel factory.
Yvel is Levy spelled backwards. Today, this dynamic company is internationally known in jewelry manufacturing, with more than 100 artisans, a visitor’s center, a showroom and a wine tasting room.
Yvel jewelry has a unique look, and its high-end collections are one-of-a kind. Yvel fine jewelry collections are sold today in 650 retail stores, primarily in the U.S., such as Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenie and Neiman Marcus; in London, Yvel is sold at Moussaieff.
Isaac and Orna are the primary designers and every four to six months, they design a new collection.
Knowing the difficulties of being an immigrant, in 2010, Orna and Isaac created the Megemeria School of Jewelry and Art (megemeria means Genesis in the Ethiopian language of Amharic). The school, founded in September 2010, offers a program to 21 Ethiopian students each year, over the age of 35, to learn jewelry design, setting and manufacture, using Ethiopian motifs. Classes in Hebrew and math, a monthly stipend and employment opportunities after graduating the program are part of the program.
After a briefing in the reception room, visitors are treated to a movie about pearls and Yvel and the awards the company has won, partially viewed with 3-D glasses. Then there is a movie on the Megemeria school.
The 20-minute tour provides a glimpse into the factory, divided by stations. Approximately 90% of the workers are immigrants. Among the departments are: design, sorting of pearls and gems, cleaning, goldsmiths, masters and quality control. The showroom represents the Yvel and Ethiopian student Megemeria jewelry.
Off the showroom, in a stone-walled building with wood floors and arched ceilings, is a display room of the high-end jewelry. VIP rooms and the wine cellar are also in this building. Wine barrels can be seen through the glass floor; a wood bar has glasses hanging above; a barman offers 14 different wines from the Judean Heights for tasting and buying.
Tours can be arranged either by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 02 673 5811. Tours are held daily from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, food writer and cookbook author who lives in Jerusalem and leads walks in Machaneh Yehudah, the Jewish produce market.