The Padani Jewelry company has been in existence for a year longer than the state.

The founders of the company, Malvin and Henri (Uri) Padani came to the Land of Israel in the spirit of pioneers, but preferred the urban environs to those of the kibbutz.

It is a fact that Henri Padani, who died on Wednesday at age 92, was among the pioneers of Israel’s jewelry manufacturing and silversmith industries. Malvin is the daughter of Joseph Reicher, a prominent member of the Belgian Diamond Exchange, who established his own highly successful business in Belgium in 1897.

Malvin married Padani, the talented young jeweler and silversmith, and looked forward to the day when he would be as important in the industry as was her father.

When World War II broke out, the family fled from Antwerp to France, leaving the bulk of their fortune behind.

The young couple did not feel at home in Europe any more after the war, and moved to Tel Aviv at the earliest opportunity. Economic conditions were harsh, and not exactly conducive to a jewelry business, so Henri Padani had to initially put his dream on hold while working as a fruit picker in an orchard. When the harvest season was over, he found employment as a hotel barman.

When he wasn’t on duty pouring drinks for hotel guests, he worked at home using his minimal resources to produce one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry.

Tough as the situation was, the young Henri Padani, who continued to nurture the dream of owning his own studio, was undaunted. In 1947, although it seemed as if he had been waiting a very long time, he opened his first design studio, which eventually grew into a sparkling empire dealing only in the best quality merchandise and working in accordance with the highest European standards.

In addition to his own handcrafted designs, Padani began selling jewelry, watches and gift items bearing some of the most prestigious brand names such as Chopard, Cartier Bvlgari, Patek-Philippe, A. Lange & Sohne, Jaeger-Lecoultre, Officine Panerai, Raymond Weil, Chanel, Emporio-Armani, Burberry, Tiffany and others.

As Israel’s economy improved and Padani’s workmanship and courteous service became known by word of mouth among connoisseurs, wealthy tourists from abroad and affluent people in the developing state, Padani began to open more stores in addition to his flagship store in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Street, diagonally across the road from the Tel Aviv Hilton. The Padani stores are well placed across the map of Israel and there is also a Padani presence in England.

Henri Padani knew that one should never rush anyone buying an item of jewelry. He was always kind and courteous and frequently provided coffee and cake for his clientele. The coffee was never served in paper cups.

Every Padani store in Israel and abroad has an ambience of quiet sophistication, as did Henri Padani himself.

In 1970, Henri Padani’s son Beni, who had been a fighter pilot with the Israel Air Force, decided to fold his wings and joined his father in the family business, which continued to develop under his management.

Even after bowing out from the day-to-day running of the business, Henri Padani liked to come in and look at the beauty of creation and to take stock of what he had built.

He is survived by his wife, Malvin, his sons Beni and Ilan, his daughter Anat, grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Padani was buried on Thursday at the Kiryat Shaul cemetery in Tel Aviv. Padani galleries throughout the country were closed for two hours both as a mark of respect and to enable staff to attend the funeral.

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