By  on November 26, 2007

Eli Halili, creative director of Israeli jewelry brand Agas & Tamar, wanted one NoLIta storefront so badly that he sat on a lower Manhattan bench and watched it for part of each day for more than a year until the owner went out of business.

"I waited and waited," Halili said. "And every day, the same thing. It was a handbag store and no one was shopping there. I knew it was the perfect location for our brand and only a matter of time."

And it was. In September, Halili opened Agas & Tamar's first U.S. store on a tree-lined block of Elizabeth Street, steps from neighborhood hipster-haven Cafe Gitane and other accessories shops. The boutique features the 10-year-old label's Eastern-inspired pieces, mostly in 22- and 24-karat gold and ranging from $500 for a pair of studs to $12,000 for a pink diamond rope chain.

Halili discovered Agas & Tamar three-and-a-half years ago after walking into its only other store, in Tel Aviv. He knew immediately that the antique coin rings and gold teardrop earrings belonged in the U.S. market.

"I was buying earrings as a gift for a friend," he said. "I went in and couldn't leave."

A veteran in the jewelry and diamond business, Halili met with Tamar Harel-Klein and Einat Agasi, the founders and designers behind the label, and knew the partnership was fated after hearing their names.

"The word tamar is Hebrew for date and agas means pear," Halili explained. "There is a saying in Israel where every two fruits and every two vegetables go together and bring a symbol of nature and life. I knew it was a good sign right away."

The 500-square-foot store features elaborate window and jewelry displays that Halili changes regularly. In many ways, the shop is also an homage to the brand's home country. Hebrew letters span one wall, spelling out a verse from Ezekiel.

"It says, 'I put a ring on your nose, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head,'" Halili said.

In addition to the jewelry, Agas & Tamar sells handbags by fellow Israeli Gal Feldman that retail from $250 to $700. Every trunk, cabinet, chair and display piece is also an Israeli export, with the exception of a chest Donna Karan presented to Halali when he opened the store.It didn't take long for Halili to get Agas & Tamar on the right hands, necks and ears. Since its U.S. debut, the jewelry has been featured in "The Women," a movie due out next November starring Meg Ryan and Annette Bening, as well as on the ABC show "Dirty Sexy Money." Patricia Field also called in pieces to accessorize the stars of the new "Sex and the City" movie.

Debra Messing is also a fan of the jewelry, which sells at ABC Carpet & Home. Halili said the two had a chance meeting in the Vogue offices. He got Messing's number and eventually went to her house with the collection.

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