Byline: Amanda Meadus

NEW YORK — After nearly three decades of designing for two of the world’s most prestigious fine jewelry houses, Omar Torres is ready to show the public his own signature style.
Torres, 47, will make his retail debut Tuesday night at Bergdorf Goodman here at a cocktail party to benefit the Madison Avenue Christmas for Children Fund.
The designer opened a firm bearing his name eight months ago, at 654 Madison Ave., between East 60th and 61st Streets. Prior to going solo, he spent 14 years designing for Bulgari and 14 years before that with Van Cleef & Arpels.
He has started his own jewelry house in conjunction with Forschner Enterprises, a venture capital company here. Forschner owns 40 percent of the house and Torres 60 percent.
While all of his pieces are crafted in 18-karat gold and set with gemstones ranging from aquamarines to diamonds, Torres said affordability is one of the key features of his line. Prices start at $500 and top out at about $12,000. All the jewelry is made in Italy by small production houses.
“I want to appeal to a wide range of people, not just wealthy people who can buy whatever they want,” Torres noted. “To me, jewelry is one of the most basic forms of adornment and self-expression there is, and what I’m interested in is teaching people how to appreciate it in that very personal, almost mythological sense.”
Torres said he has not yet determined a first-year volume projection, but noted that he does plan to keep the distribution of his jewelry fairly narrow at first. In New York, for instance, Bergdorf’s will carry it exclusively. He said he has yet to finalize other accounts but plans to work with upscale specialty stores and independent jewelry stores around the country.
He said early next year he will start expanding into a wide array of products, from leather goods to housewares and possibly even shoes and apparel.
“At this stage, I’m concentrating mainly on the design aspects of all the various lines,” he said. “That’s where I see the biggest gap in all these markets: a lack of very well-designed goods that can be sold at moderate prices.”
Torres, a native of Cuba who came to the U.S. when he was 12, noted that he keeps his design perspective fresh by dabbling in a number of other cultural pursuits, including writing fiction, poetry, plays and music. He has also acted in stage and television productions.
“I don’t believe in confining myself to one thing, because I think that leads to uninspired, stale work,” he said. “If all I did was design jewelry, after a while everything would look the same, but fortunately, I do not have that problem. The only problem I have is finding the time to sleep.”

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