. A few hours later, bellies and hearts full, we were about to say goodbye when a glimmering shine had caught my eye, she wore a necklace with a bright Sapphire set in the center of a delicate evil eye pendant, a unique and elegant design that I loved. She told me about a jewelry store on Jaffa street, called Baltinester, a known Judaica store that I’ve heard of before, and decided to check it out, while i'm in the city.
The streets were unusually quiet, a surreal experience for those who know Jerusalem. The spiritual calm suited my mood as I thought about Sarah’s talisman. As an amulet collector myself, I’ve seen my fair share of designs, and they’re usually very similar. This one, though, had a special touch and I felt an immediate connection to it.
I was greeted by Yoram, the owner of Baltinester, a pleasant and modest man who clearly loved his craft, and knew how to guide me into finding an amulet with both the spiritual and aesthetic qualities I was looking for. Talking to Yoram, I got the feeling he really knows a lot about quality jewels and has a true affinity for Jewish ceremonial art – a fascinating man to talk with, and I couldn’t pass up an interview, to which he kindly obliged.
Baltinester has made itself a must-visit store for people with a spiritual connection to Israel, both Jews and Christians. Why do you think your jewelry is so special to them?
“I think they feel a connection to Jewish art and traditional Israeli artists. We have been working with Judaica masters since 1949. It feels like a large family of special people who put their heart and soul in the pieces they make. I think people see that, word travels and travelers want to visit us because they know of our diversity in collections and work methods, such as traditional designs and modern technologies for making custom jewelry.”
Wow, that explains the variety in these collections, I see how they differ from mass produced online stores.
“well, yes, mass production is usually made of inexpensive metals and low quality final products. It actually looks the same and is pretty easy to recognize. Same “Shtanz". The way we create authentic traditional Jewish jewelry, on the other hand, is by using precious gems, and high-grade metals, not to mention they are crafted by an experienced artist.”
Are you talking about personalized designs?
“People have different tastes. We make custom designs to fit the personality of the person ordering it.”
Can you tell me about a custom design you remember to be special?
His eyes shine as he tells me the story of a man wanting a unique design, and who trusted him to create the ring he imagined in his mind – “a Jewish man from New York sent me a photo of a beautifully crafted lion of Judah. The only thing was that it had a very dominant cross on it, a spectacular piece. He wanted me to incorporate a similar design in his ring, without the cross, which is usually revered by the Christian community.”
And you can do that? That’s incredible!
“It brings me joy, knowing my work is appreciated in such a way. A few weeks ago a woman called us about a special pendant belonging to her grandmother, God rest her soul, which was lost over the years. She wanted me to recreate it for herself because it held special memories for her. Fortunately, she had a good quality photo of it and we made the new piece for her, I don’t think even her grandma would know the difference between the original and the recreation.”
That’s beautiful. It seems that you’ve really made something different here, I’m surprised other jewelers aren’t doing the same.
“I believe it’s about forming personal connections with fascinating people and allowing them to tell their story. It’s part of the service I want to provide because it makes me happy to see people with tears in their eyes, as they see their desired jewel come to life. It gives my work a deeper meaning, and the person wearing it will have a long-lasting memory to pass on.”
Sounds like you’re less into just selling, but creating something special. It’s refreshing.
“Coming to Israel is the best way to connect to your identity, to who you are. Many value this special experience by connecting to their roots – spiritually and physically. By purchasing a unique piece like this, you gift yourself with a symbol that lasts a lifetime and reminds you of the impact Jerusalem had on you.
Most will come back for weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, anniversaries or birthdays, they even send me pictures, can you believe it? I am blessed and grateful to feel this love, I can’t describe what it means to me.”
Leaving Baltinester, I’d thanked Yoram for his time and walked back to my car, feeling the windy chill, yet so warm in my heart. This was a truly special man.
A few weeks went by and the world had changed. On the phone, Yoram tells me of how his business had been doing the same, he is selling online for people worldwide, who want to feel protected and blessed, by amulets made with love and spiritual connection to the holy land. You are welcome to check these fabulous collections here:
Address: 31 Jaffa Street, Jerusalem
For shopping online: https://baltinesterjewelry.com/