Making jewelry is in Liza Shtromberg’s blood. Growing up in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and ‘80s, she watched as her father, a stone carver, worked out of their family home in Moscow.
“He had this illegal underground business,” she said. “There were all these rough, uncut stones that we had on a shelf in our living room. I’d spend hours arranging them. My father taught me to polish amber when I was five years old.”
Shtromberg, who owns Liza Shtromberg Jewelry on Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz, loved Play-Doh and taking sculpting classes as a child. Her grandmother showed her how to make crafts using beads and how to knit. “It was part of my upbringing,” she said.
When she was nine, Shtromberg and her family made aliyah and lived in Ashdod. “That was the best time of my life,” she said. “I was in a youth movement and had really good friends and assimilated super quickly. My Hebrew was so good that within three years, people thought I was born in Israel.”
Her father opened up a gallery in Jaffa, where she would work starting when she was 12. Then, when she turned 16, she and her family moved to L.A. Her father began dealing antique and vintage jewelry and watches, and her mom moved back to Jerusalem.
Now, Shtromberg, inspired by her visits to Jerusalem to see her mother, has opened a second location of her store in the Old City. It’s called The Western Wall Gallery, and it features her signature Western Wall collection, which she introduced 10 years ago.
“I’ve always wanted to sell the Western Wall by the Western Wall.”– Liza Shtromberg
“It’s been a longtime dream,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to sell the Western Wall by the Western Wall.”
The way she makes her jewelry in the collection is by sculpting pieces that have the same texture as the stone of the wall.
“I always go to the wall whenever I visit Jerusalem,” she said. “I feel very connected to it and emotional about it because it’s withstood the entire time we were exiled. It mirrors the fact that the Jewish people found a way to stay a people, too.”
The designs include stars of David, a coin with chai on it, a hamsa and a tree of life. Each item comes up with a bio card that includes a few sentences about it and its significance.
“In Judaism, there is so much wisdom for everyday life and how we conduct ourselves in the world,” she said. “There is so much value in it for people. My collection is a vehicle to enable people and encourage them to learn more about Judaism.”
Whether someone purchases a piece in the Old City or at her Hillhurst location, she said that it can connect them to their heritage.
“What I love about these pieces is that you can keep the Western Wall close to your heart every day. It is a symbol of faith and a reminder that you are always connected to something bigger than yourself.”
Shtromberg opened her store in L.A. 21 years ago. Along with selling her Western Wall collection, she also does custom projects, restores family heirlooms and creates pieces for TV shows like “How to Get Away with Murder,” “The Voice” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” She makes everything from rings to earrings to necklaces.
“My brand is all about encouraging people to be individuals and express themselves and not wear things because a celebrity wore them,” she said. “People want to be their own person. They feel like my jewelry is something they can wear all the time.”
Still, with everything she’s created, what she’s most proud of is her Western Wall collection. “The Western Wall is my big-time passion project,” she said. “I hope one day, if there’s ever anything I’m known for, it’s this.”