It's not every day that you get the chance to travel abroad to learn from fashionistas from another country, but Clevelander Jamie Synenberg got just that opportunity this summer.
Synenberg, along with 34 other Jewish fashion industry mavens from around the world, was selected to travel to Israel and meet wtih fashion leaders there, as part of a trip organized by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) and Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. The group visited key spots on Israel's fashion map, including the TLVstyle fashion boutique tour, the “Fash-Tech” co-work space WMN for women entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv, and jewelry and fashion designers in Jerusalem.
Synenberg, a gemologist, jewelry designer, and jewelry trend forecaster, is a native of Beachwood, where she also currently resides, after having lived in New York City, Miami and Columbus. You might say that jewelry is part of her heritage; her family owns Cleveland-based Gottlieb & Sons, specializing in bridal and luxury jewelry.
She has been interested in jewelry since she was in the fourth grade, when her class studied gems and minerals in school. "I was obsessed!," Synenberg said via email. "I would beg my mother to take me to gem shows at the I-X Center and other locations around Ohio. I would save my birthday, Hanukkah [money] and allowance to purchase different gems and geodes."
Her father encouraged her interest and took her along on business trips to New York and Israel to learn more about the industry. After graduating high school, Synenberg went on to study fashion marketing at Lynn University, and then continued her studies, focusing on diamonds and colored stones, at The Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
Synenberg had trouble finding work after graduating from GIA because of her family's business. "Seriously, no other diamond company or jewelry company would hire me because they all knew my family name and thought I would steel their secrets and be a spy for my family," she said. "At first I didn't know why everyone in my class was getting jobs and I wasn't, until one man I interviewed [with] explained to me, 'I can't hire you like your family can't hire my children.'"
Unable to find experience with another company, she went to work at her family's jewelry manufacturing factory in New York City. "While at the factory, I learned so much about jewelry making and the process that a piece of jewelry goes through, from the beginning designs to the finished product," she said. "I learned about quality of jewelry and how to make a piece of jewelry that is of the highest quality standards ... I started to work with the model makers. I would sit down with them and draw out and explain to them what exactly I wanted the piece to look like."
One unexpected perk of working for her family's jewelry company? Unknowlingly designing her own engagement ring. "My favorite piece I designed was my engagement ring, and I had no clue it was for me," she said. The order came in with a store name (not her soon-to-be fiance's name) on it. "When the ring was made it was soooo beautiful! I remember thinking I want this ring when I get engaged one day," she said. "On New Year's Eve, my husband proposed with the ring, and the first thing I said after of course saying 'YES,' was, 'I designed that ring, and it was the prettiest ring I ever made.' Ten and a half years later, it is still one of the prettiest rings I've ever designed."
Since moving back to Cleveland from Miami, Synenberg has begun designing jewelry under the name JS Jewelry LLC. She had been looking for a women's trip to go on, not having been to Israel in 17 years. She saw the opportunity on Facebook, and "immediately, without thinking or talking it over with my husband, I applied for this amazing and wonderful opportunity to see and experience Israel through a fashion lens while being inspired and getting the spiritual experience all at the same time."
"I also plan on being inspired and bringing back different aspects of the experience, from a Jewish and Israeli aspect, to my Jewelry design work," she said.