Jewelry Designer Spotlight: Walt Adler

I met Walt Adler Chefitz of Walt Adler in Las Vegas at the Couture Jewelry Show. His jewelry stopped me in my tracks (literally), but his story is even more fascinating…

Walt Adler Menage a Trois ring

Walt Adler’s somewhat scandalously named Ménage à trois ring, with three stones floating in bezels at the top, then all joined fluidly by the band.

Walt has studied engineering, psychology and studio art. It’s not surprising then that his jewelry is an alchemy of all of those elements. He designs jewelry in silver and gold, with a deft awareness of how jewelry works on the body. Some pieces are highly structured with geometry in the angles. Others carry a repeating pattern that draws the eye. One thing consistent in all of his collections: a passion for form, design and function.
Walt Adler Created Ruby Marquise Ring

Walt Adler created ruby marquise ring in gold, love the horizontal orientation.

During the week, Walt designs and runs the jewelry business in Miami. On the weekends, he and his fiancé Adena make 125 pounds (!) of their highly addictive guacamole and sell it from a stand in the Miami farmer’s market. They make it that morning from avocados just picked from one of Adena’s family’s farms in Florida. What does guacamole have to do with jewelry? Walt’s approach to jewelry is similar to how they approach the making and selling of their guac. Everything is made by hand using the best quality ingredients, produced with love, and then offered to the public—once you try it (or try it on) you’re hooked!
Walt Adler Bond Bracelet

Walt Adler Bond Bracelet in silver and black, you can choose from 13 different hides and wrap and tie to fit your wrist. When it stretches, you tie another knot, and make a wish. An ingenious clasp design allows for other links to be added in.

Walt’s passion for food and travel figure heavily into his work. In addition to Miami, Walt and Adena spend part of the year in Mexico City, and travel pretty much every where in between times. You can read about their travels and adventures in food in their entertaining newsletter, Hey Walt!
Walt Adler Circle Pendant

Walt Adler Circle Pendant

There is a dogged pursuit of quality in all of his jewelry as well. Every piece I picked up or tried on was silken-finished and invited touch. His gold jewelry is all made in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, long considered the seat of premier gem cutting in the world. Walt travels there to have the gemstones he uses in jewelry cut specifically for him. He skillfully incorporates clear created-sapphire (usually used to cover watch dials in Switzerland), cut in Germany, set by his artisans.
Walt Adler Dome Earrings

Walt Adler Dome Earrings in sterling silver with diamonds (also available with other gemstones).

Walt started out in software, but love for jewelry was just waiting for a chance to express itself. He got that opportunity, through sheer determination, by working for David Yurman. You could say that he cut his jewelry design teeth working for David Yurman for several years. After a major life event (more on that below), Walt decided to pursue his independent ideas under his own brand. And Walt Adler was born, figuratively and in some ways, literally.

Interview with Walt Adler

I spoke to Walt very recently to get his perspective on life, food and jewelry. The full interview is very entertaining and you can read the entire conversation at The Contemporary Jewelry Design Group’s website, where I am an editor and Walt is a member. You really need to read the whole thing here to understand how artisan jewelry is very similar to handmade guacamole… So where are you based these days? I know you started out in NYC, but now I hear you’re in Miami?
Walt Adler: Yes, I have moved to Miami, where my fiancé, Adena, is from. We got engaged last November.

Walt Adler Drop Ring

Walt Adler Drop MoonQuartz ring in sterling silver with black sapphires.

Congratulations! Tell me about Adena!

I’ve known Adena since she was five, our families have done every holiday together as long as I can remember. So we sort of grew up knowing each other, but I left for college and didn’t see her until I was home a couple of years ago. I found her cooking—she’s a trained chef–in my parent’s kitchen for my Dad’s birthday. It was also the 4th anniversary of my brain hemorrhage.

[The sound of me frantically scrambling through my notes] Uh, brain hemorrhage? I…think you had better elaborate?

It was obviously THE defining moment of my life so far. I had launched the Waverly watch for David Yurman overseas, and then went to Barcelona for a weekend with friends. While I was there, the entire right side of my body went completely numb. I called a friend who was a doctor in New York City, who said to call him in ten minutes from an emergency room in Barcelona.
I was in the hospital for 8 days. My friend Danny stayed with me through all the diagnosis and discussions about treatment and surgery. On day three, I looked at Danny and said “This is a blessing.” Everything in my life had changed in an instant. It was a remarkable moment. I now have a sense of wonder, a gained perspective.
The Yurmans could not have been better through the whole thing, I had teams of doctors all of the world conferring on my case and what to do—the best in the world. It turns out that the Miami doctors called the Barcelona doctors right before I was to have surgery. That phone call to stop the surgery saved my life.

So it was a collective effort that saved you?

Then the recovery process started?
I had to regain the mobility and strength of the right side of my body. I had to wear an eye-patch for a year!

Wait! You were like a jewelry pirate?!

{laughs}Yes! I had an awesome collection of eye patches, including one for black tie events!

Walt Adler Opus One Bracelet

Walt Adler Opus One Bracelet, the one that started it all. The interlocking W and A pattern appears in all of Walt’s designs.

Was your recovery difficult?

My attitude from the third day on was that I was a survivor, with a second chance, and I was not going to be a victim. To regain my balance, I rode my bike around Manhattan. You have to understand that the doctors told me I basically couldn’t do anything to raise my blood pressure: no strenuous exercise, no stress. I eventually got to where I was riding about 150 miles per week around the city, aggressively.
I felt like I needed to push past the point of other people thinking I was sick.

Do you still bike?
I do a lot of biking and yoga—I’m healthier now than I was before. I just celebrated my 6th anniversary of surviving the hemorrhage: I always throw a big party.

So, when did you start your jewelry company?

I stayed from 3 more years at Yurman after my brain hemorrhage. The ideas in my head for my own designs needed to come out, so I decided to start in 2009.

Walt Adler Twist Ring

Walt Adler Twist Ring with diamonds in sterling silver.

Was there an epiphany that made you quit your software job in California and move to NYC to be a full-time jewelry designer?

I was so not challenged in software. I always had a desire to do something else. In 1999, I enrolled in my local college, and they had programs in jewelry or ceramics. On the first day of class, I knew this was it. I questioned the wisdom of starting all over again. I also had a lot of ideas in my head and didn’t have the skills to actually execute.
I taught myself CAD. I was very motivated: JCK had a competition for a trip to the JCK show. I designed one ring for that competition, and I won! So then I had to put together a bio, a headshot, and a whole package to get hired by Yurman.

You should read more at…it’s worth it.

Thanks, Walt! You can subscribe to Walt’s email newsletter here, see his incredible full collection here, or contact him here.

Walt Adler headshot

Walt Adler, photo by Emma Hopson.

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