A pioneer of Canadian Modernist jewellery, Rafael Alfandary came to his career almost by accident. Born in Belgrade, much of Alfandary’s family was murdered in the Holocaust. He trained in Israel as a mechanical engineer before an uncle brought him to Toronto in the 1970s, where he found work as an electrician. Looking to improve his English, Alfandary enrolled in an ESL class at George Brown College. Impressed by his teacher, he decided to make her a gift once his semester ended—a necklace made from copper wire, the material he spent his days working with.
The necklace was a hit, and word began to spread around campus. Alfandary began making more jewellery, and the business took off. Within a few years he had a staff of 50 people, with his designs sought after by celebrities and local fashionistas alike. Margaret Trudeau, Lorne Green, Liberace, Muhammad Ali, Redd Foxx and Paul Anka were all fans, as was Prince, who wore one of Alfandary’s creations to the People’s Choice Awards. Alfandary also designed the crown for the 1973 Miss Canada Pageant, which garnered significant attention at the time.
Alongside a reputation for creating coveted jewellery, Afandary was also known for throwing lavish parties. He resided in a large condo in the Manulife building in Toronto’s tony Yorkville neighbourhood. This served the backdrop for his big, Bohemian parties, which he hosted amongst piles of pillows, having removed all of the furniture. Socialites and celebrities flocked to these gatherings, which often made the society pages.
By the 1980s, Alfandary had sold close to one million pieces, but the demand for bold lines and strong textures was ebbing. Alfandary decided to look for new pastures, and relocated to Austin, Texas. In the early 2000s, Alfandary was diagnosed with cancer. This sparked a move back to Toronto, where he began selling his jewellery once more. He passed away on May 24, 2005.
Alfandary’s pieces have become true collectibles, emblematic of Toronto’s swinging Seventies scene. Murano glass, brass and kinetic elements are all signatures of his designs. We are pleased to offer five lots by Alfandary in our Silver & Costume Jewellery and Luxury Accessories auction, including necklaces, bracelets and earrings, alongside a clock by the artist.
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