September 10, 2001 12:00 PM

When the folks at crystal manufacturer Swarovski tapped accessories designer Leeora Catalan to create a showpiece for an April promotional event, they had a handbag or tiara in mind. Instead, Catalan delivered a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-12R motorcycle encrusted with 50,408 clear, black and purple Austrian crystals. The bike sparked so much buzz, Mariah Carey used it in ads for her upcoming CD Glitter. “Leeora exceeded our expectations,” says Swarovski rep Kim Krikorian.

That’s business as usual for Catalan, 37, whose company, Noir, has bedecked stars such as Jennifer Lopez in earrings and belts studded with colorful rhinestones and crystals. Priced from $70 (rings) to $800 (halter tops), the sparklers are top sellers at stores like Neiman Marcus. “She has a pop edge,” says Sex and the City costumer Patricia Field, who has featured Noir’s oversize hoop earrings on the HBO show. “Music is a huge influence,” explains Catalan, who just opened her first store, in New York City’s SoHo. “I go to clubs to see what people are wearing.”

The future crystallized for the Israeli-born former stylist in 1993, when she began making jewelry in her Manhattan studio apartment with husband Mash, 39, a contractor. In ’98 her first big seller, rhinestone butterfly hairpins, inspired a rash of imitations—something Catalan, now settled in a Brooklyn townhouse, no longer minds. “When they stop knocking me off,” she says, “I’ll worry.”

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