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Pittsburgh jeweler designs bold accents for personal adornments

| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2001

Designer Caesar Azzam caters to the glory of gemstones.

He fashionably sets them in rings, necklaces and earrings, all crafted by hand, in spare, artful settings.

"Simple, clean lines," says Azzam, 38, a third-generation jeweler from Lebanon. "Where I come in is with the creation of the metal that holds the gem."

Azzam works with platinum, 18-carat white and yellow gold, sterling silver, and combinations of those metals.

He often juxtaposes brushed sterling and yellow gold, for example, to showcase single, colored gems, such as green tsavorite garnets, Mexican fire opals and pink tourmalines. Azzam also works with large, exotic pearls, including the new faceted variety.

His understated new studio - Caesar's Designs - opens Friday at Oxford Center, Downtown. Prices open at approximately $225 for a sterling-silver ring with a colored gem.

"A nice piece doesn't need too much fussiness to make it beautiful," says Azzam, a slightly built, unassuming artisan with an eager-to-please approach.

A graduate of the Gemological Institute of America and the American University of Beirut, Azzam previously worked for a Los Angeles-area jewelry firm and locally based Citron Jewelers.

At his studio shop, Azzam, a Dormont resident, specializes in making and marketing one-of-a-kind rings, with matching earrings and necklaces.

Azzam says he also enjoys making pieces that incorporate the kind of gems people might purchase on trips to exotic places. He welcomes prospective customers with such raw stones.

"The most important thing is for me to make them comfortable enough for me to work with them," Azzam says.

Some locals first spied Azzam's artistry displayed at Venetia's City Boutique, Downtown, and Gallerie Chiz, Shadyside. He still displays a collection at Gallerie Chiz.

"I think the stuff is dynamite," says Lori Carpenter, president of Carpenter Legal Search, a headhunter firm in Oxford Centre.

Carpenter bought a blue topaz pendant necklace and earrings from Azzam after noticing his work in Venetia's City Boutique. Carpenter purchased the pendant with a trio of interchangeable chains.

"I get a ton of compliments," she says. "The stones he picks are just spectacular."

Word-of-mouth referrals also lead customers to Azzam.

"I saw a ring on an individual at Saks," says accountant Kimberly Stein, recalling how she was referred to Azzam by the ring's wearer.

Stein eventually purchased a blue topaz ring, plus a matching pendant necklace and earrings, from Azzam. She alternately strings the pendant on a silver rope chain or a braided, black necklace.

"I get a lot of compliments," says Stein, director of financial services at CDS Administrators Inc., Downtown. "I've had people come up to me and say, 'I love your ring.' ''

When Stein lost one of her post-style earrings, Azzam replaced it.

"I saw his work and just loved it," says Jennifer Pesci-Kelly, a South Side resident. "You can get what you want."

Pesci-Kelly eventually asked Azzam to create her diamond-and-platinum engagement ring. It features an angular, cathedral setting.

"I wanted something that was classic and contemporary," she says. "It's traditional with a modern twist."

In addition to such custom projects, Azzam appraises jewelry and enjoys making new settings for heirloom gems and sentimentally valuable stones from old jewelry.

"I think it's terrible to have people hiding their gems and jewelry in some safe deposit box," Azzam says. "They should consider redesigning the piece, so they can enjoy it again."

Caesar's Designs, Level Two, One Oxford Centre, Downtown. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and by appointment. Details: (412) 553-1733.

Grand Opening at Caesar's Designs


  • Gemologist Caesar Azzam will introduce his jewelry amid servings of champagne and confections by St. Moritz Chocolatier, along with an informal fashion show by Venetia's City Boutique
  • 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday
  • Level Two, One Oxford Centre, Downtown
  • (412) 553-1733

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