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Lester Lampert with a sculpture of his own design
The 97.45-carat “Blaze” was designed by Lampert for the permanent collection in The Granger Hall of Gems at the Field Museum.
The Oracle of Oak
The multitalented Lester Lampert takes on a new passion: sculpting.
Korey Huyler | Photo: Jim Newberry | November 27, 2012
Here’s a fun fact: Lester Lampert, owner of the eponymous Oak Street jewelry boutique, designs 70 percent of the pieces in his store (and also paints portraits in his free time). When you look at his unique designs, it’s no wonder celebs like Kanye West, Michael Jordan and Angelina Jolie have purchased his creations. In another notable achievement, Lampert also has 27 pieces on permanent display in The Grainger Hall of Gems at the Field Museum. As you can imagine, when we heard he recently started sculpting, we had to get the scoop.
We hear you’ve started sculpting.
I’ve collaborated with my in-house sculptors to create original jewelry designs throughout my entire business life. And I always wondered if I could sculpt as well. My grandfather sat at his bench and became a master jewelry craftsman, my dad and brother had great natural artistic ability, and my kids and now my grandkids have followed suit. So the Lampert artistic genes have always been there—through four generations and over 92 years.
Tell me about your first project.
I wanted to do something that had an emotional spirit to it. One of my favorite plays is Fiddler on the Roof. Tevye was always toasting to life: ‘L’Chaim.’ I liked the enthusiasm that he projected, so I decided to sculpt that image. I had an uncle who looked like Tevye, so I took his portrait and tried to sculpt his likeness.
How long did it take?
About 320 hours. I must have used 1,000 different pictures, photographs and books. I really studied every detail—whether it’s the vein in the arm or the musculature in the neck or the expression in the eyes. He’s wearing the prayer shawl underneath his shirt and vest, like the religious Jews have always done. Then I decided—because I have an actual Rodin bronze sculpture in my office called ‘Man with the Broken Nose’—I decided to give my character a little more earthiness, so I broke his nose, too.
What happened when you showed people?
It was displayed in my office, and people would compliment it. Then friends and customers asked if they could buy one; I was honored. It’s a series of 18, and 13 are already spoken for. The number 18 translates into the Hebrew expression of ‘Chai,’ which means life.
After you do these 18, what will be next?
I’m working on a new sculpture idea as we speak—it’s not totally defined yet. It has the heartfelt elements and emotional feelings, as well as an uplifting joy about it.
What else is new at the store?
My son David and I have created new designs for women who want more casual pieces with the ‘dress down, diamonds up’ attitude. Black diamond accents, sapphire slices and very long chains that can be doubled up are being emphasized with us. We continue to create spectacular jewelry right on our premises featuring our new ‘skallop’ designs.