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Jewelry Designer Leila Tai Dies After Battle with Parkinson’s Disease

She designed fine jewelry for Van Cleef & Arpels and Jean Viteau.

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Jewelry designer Leila Tai passed away on April 2 after a 10-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Born and raised in Beirut during its golden years, Tai developed a passion for jewelry as an art form. After her bachelor’s degree in art from the American University of Beirut, she received her master’s degree in art education from the University of Wisconsin, with a specialty in metal work and jewelry.

Leila Tai obituary

Leila Tai

After several years in Beirut, where she made and sold her jewelry collections, Tai returned to New York and began a long career designing jewelry. She designed fine jewelry for Van Cleef & Arpels and Jean Viteau and fashion jewelry for Trifari, Monet and Liz Claiborne. In 2009, having produced several collections of her own, she received the grand prize of the American Jewelry Design Council’s New Talent Contest.

Tai never stopped learning and teaching. She studied ancient metalworking techniques at the Kulick-Starke Gallery. From Donald Clafflin, head designer at Tiffany, she learned his technique of rendering using inks. Tai taught rendering and design at the Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute and Fashion Institute of Technology. She taught at workshops and jewelry academies nationwide. She enjoyed traveling and visiting museums and was always out and about in New York, enjoying shopping, fine dining, art and culture, and the company of friends.

“I believe she derived her greatest creative pleasure and pride from teaching rendering and from working at her bench, crafting her fine plique-à-jour, silver and gold creations,” wrote Pam Levine, a friend of Tai’s and president of Levine Luxury Branding.

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Tai is survived by her husband, Peter Shenkin of New York, and her brother, Samir Chahrouri of Beirut, Lebanon.

Condolences may be sent via email to Peter Shenkin at shenkin@gmail.com, via Facebook or via mail at Peter Shenkin, 7734 Austin St. Apt. 6B , Forest Hills, NY 11375.

For anyone wishing to make a donation in Leila’s memory, one of Tai’s favorite charities is Hand In Hand, which runs schools in Israel that co-educate Arab and Jewish children.

Tai’s work can be seen on her website and in the article on her AJDC award here.

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