The ethnic jeweler

Sarah Einstein always felt she was creating an artifact, an image of history. Like her jewelry, she was one of a kind.

Everyone knew her as the ethnic jeweler. I knew her as a very dear friend, and she called me her "soul mate" because we shared birthdays - mine on April 24 and hers a day later in the same year, 1931; but she maintained that since I was born in Australia and she in America, the time difference meant we could have been born at exactly the same time. Sarah Einstein passed away on March 1. I got to the hospital just one hour too late to say goodbye. She was one of the bravest women I knew. For many years she had undergone a countless number of medical procedures, but she never complained. She had studios in various Jerusalem locations over the years, but wherever they were it was like stepping into Aladdin's cave. You could find all the jewels that were on the High Priest's breastplate, in their modern names of carnelian, topaz, emerald, garnet, black sapphire, diamond, zircon, agate, amethyst, aquamarine, onyx and jasper. Even before Einstein came to Israel from New York in 1973, she loved collecting old jewelry and refashioning it; but in Israel it became a passion as she became an expert on the history of jewelry in the countries of our dispersion. She researched the traditional Moroccan, Beduin, Persian and Yemenite styles and, while reflecting these styles, created pieces suitable for the modern woman to wear. Using Yemenite tube shapes, Beduin beads, ancient Persian and Moroccan silver combined with amber, onyx, coral and garnets, every piece was unique. Her creations were also well known in America, and she regularly exhibited in prestigious venues. A tiny silver or bronze charm with the letters shin and alef - her Hebrew initials - were attached to every necklace as a sign of her distinctive workmanship. In recent years, as her fingers became crippled, she was helped by her daughter Tammy, who has inherited her creativity and artistry. Einstein found the materials for her ethnic jewelry in the homes of Jews who have come from Arab lands, in the market in Jerusalem's Old City and the Beduin markets and bazaars of Beersheba and Ramle - wherever there were discarded ornaments, coins, brass bells, beads and trinkets, each one originally fashioned by craftsmen as a labor of love. When I was writing my novel The Pomegranate Pendant and I needed information about Yemenite jewelry-making for my heroine, Mazal, she would lend me books and explain various procedures to me patiently and in great detail. Sarah Einstein's distinctive creations are worn by many women here and abroad. She always felt she was not just making jewelry but was creating an artifact, an image of history. Like her jewelry, she was one of a kind.