Jewelry is a physical object with time-based added value. As an artistic concept, it also reflects both the spirit of the times and humankind ideals that transcend time. It is easily the most stable segment of the luxury market as people continue to prioritize long-term investment in precious metals and rare gemstones. The marketing strategy for the industry has been built on the ideas of cultural heritage and intergenerational legacy. Diamonds are forever, as the adage goes. In 2018, an improbable turn of events changed the history of jewelry arts and mineralogical sciences. From the invention of the wheel and the sail to the printing press and the cotton gin and now into the virtual reality, fashion-at-large has been an integral part of safeguarding socioeconomic progress. However, rarely has it made such earth-shattering (literally) discoveries. Meet Holy Gems, the world’s only jeweler with extremely rare gemstones from the Holy Land.
This family saga reads like a twist-prone plot of a hit streaming series. After World War II, Hanan Taub, the only of 12 siblings to survive Holocaust, opened the first diamond polishing factory in Netanya, the first officially designated city in the newly established nation of Israel. With time, it would become the heart of diamond trade in the region. His son Avi Taub developed one of the first international chains of jewelry stores and then bet his family reputation and life savings on … a prophecy. The late Lubavitcher Rebbe once spoke of gem deposits in the Kishon River and Mount Carmel areas in Israel. The idea went against every scientific knowhow at the time. For nearly two decades, Taub invested in exploration and excavation. Lo and behold, the quest revealed hitherto known and unknown types of gems nestled deep in the Holy Land. The new Carmel Sapphire was chosen by the International Mineralogical Association as its Mineral of the Year 2018. The state granted the company exclusive mining and manufacturing rights to honor their commitment to science and faith. Tali Shalem Taub and her brothers, Yosef and Mendy Taub, took over the management of the business after the passing of their father and launched Holy Gems. Then COVID-19 wreaked havoc on supply chains and consumer confidence.
Now the brand is reentering the post-pandemic luxury market with a renewed sense of purpose. I connected with Tali Shalem to find out more about launching a global brand amid the global pandemic, why style functions as an interfaith ambassador and what’s it like to be a woman in an orthodox industry historically represented by men and how this fits into Israel’s tech-savvy fashion diplomacy strategy.
Not many brands can cite “a miracle” as their origin story! Tobi Rubinstein in her book The House of Faith and Fashion suggests G-d as “the first and foremost couturier”. What role does spirituality play in your design business?
It is an interesting question to ask. “G-d almighty did a wondrous thing, he concealed them [the gems] in the depths of the earth.” When our father heard these words in 1988, he began a scientifically incredible journey for one reason only – faith. Now our venture scientifically demonstrates a kind of divine intervention in this land. For twenty years, we pioneered exploration techniques, lobbied for new and advanced regulations, and changed common perception of what’s possible in this field. We are great believers in positive thinking and in divine providence. What motivates us to pursue this mission with full force is the understanding that we were privileged to be the ones to reveal to the world these precious gems and to control the way they are positioned in the market.
Beyond the Jewish diaspora, who is the audience for your creations?
When you wear a jewel that originates from the depths of the holiest land in the world, it is all about tangible spirituality. This direct physical connection to divinity needs no explanation to all believers in the G-d of Abraham. Our current customers who share the Abrahamic faiths tradition come from the USA, European Union, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Holy Gems is the luxury jewelry maker working with stones much rarer than diamonds and priced accordingly. Our mother, Michaela Taub, is an internationally recognized jewelry designer. She gives these rare gems their proper “stage” in a classic luxurious style inspired by ancient texts. The pieces also appeal to those who appreciate the historic nature of this unique investment asset.
How can a fine art jewelry brand engage with the digitization of creative and business practices?
We are constantly developing our ecommerce expertise. In terms of production, we use the most advanced 3D imaging and printing technologies. Since each of our pieces has a gemological certificate confirming with unparalleled transparency the source of the exact gemstone embedded in it, this helps promote and develop blockchain traceability. We are exploring NFT options for our tech-savvy customers while searching the right platform experienced with extremely rare and unique products.
What other jewelry designers influence and inspire your work?
The prestigious Bezalel Academy of Art and Design was established in Israel in 1906. It is named after Bezalel ben-Uri, the first Jewish designer in history, who is also mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Exodus. According to the Torah, he was able to understand the divine will and translate its immense holiness into something practical and tangible.
What has been your professional journey in a historically conservative industry?
When I first joined the Shefa in Israel (G.M.) Ltd mining company to apprentice under my father, I spent all my time learning, learning, learning. About jewelry, about gems, about business, about life and faith. I became his “right hand” and after his passing the shareholders approved my leadership position. Now the CEO (me), the chief designer, and the flagship store manager are all women. Working in perfect sync with Mandy Taub and Yosef Taub, responsible for mining and operations and business development, respectively. The company prides itself on integrating and diversifying our teams with people from all backgrounds, including those from the Arab sector. We highly value all our employees. We are trying to move forward faster as the new generation. Our role is not about inventing something new, but about preservation of the visionary legacy of this land and its peoples, the value of the gems and their stories. The future requires the highest degree of authenticity in our commitment to the rich and storied history of craftsmanship in the Middle East.
How did the brand support its creative and business talents during the pandemic?
First, thank G-d none of our workers were harmed health-wise. Secondly, the State of Israel is to be commended for helping to compensate all workers during the forced lockdowns. On our part, we ensured that our staff received all the rights and benefits they deserve in full. Immediately after the removal of the last restrictions, our fifteen full time workers (and several dozen part time employees) were happy to return to work onsite. The epidemic was a shocking surprise, but we affirmed very quickly that everything was under divine supervision. We invested the time to exact our strategies to reflect the fact that in situations of global uncertainty people turn to mobile, tradable commodities that give them economic security. Now that the world has finally “opened”, we are seeing the growing international interest in our intriguing story.
To succeed in the creative industries, what is the ratio of technical knowhow, creative acumen, and luck?
Every high-quality business needs good luck or divine blessing, especially in the complex and competitive world of luxury goods and services. Without detracting from foundational principles, success now depends mostly on your ability to stand out and be easily identified with what you represent, because customers want to align consumer choices and their core values.
What is the most pressing question on your mind right now?
Personally, my only question as a believer is when will the Messiah come to solve the world’s real problems. At the business level, we are focused on making sure we expand the awareness of the existence of precious gems in the Holy Land in a way that respects everything they represent for so many people throughout time.