Passion Points: Style
UPDATE: Jaalbér closed in March 2009.
Rita Cinque Kriss found her calling in Istanbul, on Nuruosmaniye, a side street behind the Grand Bazaar where she discovered century-old jewelry workshops run by artisans whose families have been making handcrafted pieces in pure gold for generations. “Walking into these small shops was like stepping back in time,” says Kriss, who now travels to Istanbul several times a year. “The craftsmen fashion exquisite pieces with what look like caveman tools. Every piece is made entirely by hand, so they’re effectively one-of-a-kinds.” After bringing back some necklaces and rings to New York and realizing that they were immediately coveted by numerous friends, Kriss began working with four Turkish artisans, organizing trunk shows and building a loyal clientele.
Last summer, she opened Jaalbér in Nolita, a lovely showcase for the work of artists like Burtacin Balkan, who draws inspiration from ancient Roman and Hellenistic motifs, and Sevan, whose intricate rings with painted gemstones take several months to craft. The designs range from dainty necklaces studded with teeny stones and thin bangle bracelets to bold, hammered-gold rings and multi-tiered pendants. Everything is made with pure, 24-karat gold; the artisans also welcome private clients who want to turn an unworn old piece into a fashionable new design. Kriss herself refashioned a ring into five stunning round bands, each bearing a single glittering diamond, which can be stacked on top of another.
After years of working with these workshops, Kriss has become an expert in all things Istanbul and is happy to share her experiences with clients while they peruse the well-edited collections over a cappuccino in the serene boutique. Stressed-out spouses hunting for a meaningful gift will appreciate Jaalbér’s “Wish List” system, in which customers can compile a running list of items they would like to receive, which is kept on file at the boutique. Engagement rings and wedding bands can also be custom-made. Call the boutique for details. Closed Monday.
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