The $1.5 million COVID mask from Motza

First it's a COVID mask made to FDA standards, then it's a piece of art.

The Motza mask valued at $1.5 million (photo credit: COURTESY OF YVEL)
The Motza mask valued at $1.5 million
(photo credit: COURTESY OF YVEL)
How much money would you spend on a COVID-19 mask? For most of us, the answer is about 30 shekels for a pack of 30. But when one Chinese businessman living in Los Angeles decided he was willing to pay a bit more – $1.5 million, in fact – for the most expensive mask in the world, Yvel, the Israel-based luxury jewelry brand, took on the challenge of creating this mask at its factory in Motza, on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
Isaac Levy, the founder of Yvel, worked with 25 of the company’s top artisans and diamond setters to create a fully functional N-99 mask, made of 250 grams of pure 18k gold and set with 3,608 natural black and white diamonds, with a total weight of about 210 carats. It features a slot to insert a disposable N-99 mask, which provides protection from COVID-19.
“First, it’s a COVID mask, which is made according to FDA and European standards. We made sure that it’s wearable. Then it’s a piece of art,” said Levy in a Zoom interview from Palm Beach, Florida, where he is planning to open a new boutique.
The project came about when Levy, who founded Yvel with his wife, Orna, 35 years ago, was thinking of creative ways to keep the company going throughout the pandemic.
“People are sitting in their homes in their pajamas,” he said. “The last thing they need is a piece of luxury jewelry to adorn their pajamas.”
So he reached out to some of his most loyal customers and one said, “I don’t need anything, but I could use a COVID mask.” The customer had three requirements: that it be a real COVID mask, that it be completed by December 30 and that it be the most expensive mask in the world. Yvel is on track to fulfill all three requirements. The mask is with Levy in the US now and he will deliver it well before the end-of-the-year deadline.
“He’s an art collector, so I think he will keep it for a few months or years and then sell it,” said Levy. “He could wear it to the supermarket or take out the garbage, though. He could wear it anywhere he wants.”
The customer asked for black diamonds, but Levy was concerned this would be too dark, so they added some white ones. The mask features white diamond swirls on a black-diamond background.
While some might be put off by the idea of a jewel-encrusted mask when so many millions are facing tough times, Levy saw the mask as a golden – or maybe platinum – opportunity to keep the factory going, as well as the Megemeria School of Jewelry & Art at the Motza factory which trains and educates Ethiopian immigrants.
The school was established by the Levys in 2010 to provide professional training and employment opportunities that facilitate these immigrants’ integration into Israeli society. Overall, 90% of all Yvel employees are immigrants from 23 countries. Among those who worked on the mask are Ethiopians, Russians and Argentinians. “They are the neshama (soul) of the place,” he said.
Thanks to the mask, Levy will be able to present his employees with a check on the first night of Hanukkah in December for the difference between money they received from the government and the salary they would normally receive for the year. “They won’t lose a penny this year, in spite of everything,” he said.
Asked whether he thinks Yvel, which is best known for its work with rare, organic pearls, will now specialize in jewel-studded COVID masks, Levy said, “I hope that this is the first and the last mask like this,” but he added, “We’ve never said no to an order.”