Some people view jewelry as just an accessory. For Sami Nakishbendi of Bendi Jewelers, each of his handcrafted pieces tells a story. From rings to necklaces to earrings, his work embodies those sentimental moments of life into physical pieces of art.
“Things in life inspire me to create pieces, whether it’s people or even places I visit,” Sami said. “I could look at a cable on a bridge and be inspired to come up with something that would look like that experience I have lived. This is the beauty of my work. I see things differently.”
Born and raised in Aleppo, Syria from a family with Turkish roots, Sami came to the United States in 1983 to pursue a degree in pre-medical biology at Temple University. At 17 years old with no interest in becoming a doctor, he initially intended to study architecture. But coming from a family with a history in the medical field, Sami didn’t really have a choice.
Reluctantly, Sami switched focus on his studies toward dentistry. In his mind, the idea of using his hands to manipulate wax and precious metals for patients was the closest thing to being an artist within the medical field. After graduation, Sami spent two years as a practicing dentist before he decided to call it quits.
“Dentistry was just a bridge to get me to the art world. As a result, I decided to use what I had learned in dentistry and apply it to jewelry making. It was a long and costly way to get to the final destination, however I guess it made me who I am.”
In 1994, he started wholesaling gold and silver with his brother on Jeweler’s Row but decided to search for a place with a more cozy, artsy flair to establish his business. In 1997, Sami stumbled upon Manayunk. He admired the artistic scene, the safety of the community, and the atmosphere around Main Street, which reminded him of towns in France and Germany. He purchased the building at 4339 Main Street 11 years ago and in the last 20 years, Bendi Jewelers has become a Manayunk institution.
The most gratifying part of his business is the ability to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Sami’s pieces of jewelry are physical symbols of love, inspiration, and hope, and his craftsmanship has resonated with his clientele.
Not only have several residents and business owners gone to Sami to make jewelry for their special occasions, he’s even given handmade necklaces to the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Alicia Silverstone. His warm, open, and empathetic personality make it easy for him to befriend many people around town and his attention to detail have truly made him a guru in his field. He focuses more on human interaction in a low-key, stress free way than on hard-selling products.
When he’s not crafting new jewelry, Sami enjoys cycling, Latin dancing, playing the piano, practicing Krav Maga (Israeli Martial Arts), and visiting his four daughters who live in Germany. Sami also likes to offer consulting advice for friends and customers who aren’t quite sure what they’re looking for or where to even start. He sees it as an obligation to provide his talents and services whenever possible.