Yemenite Silver Fit for the Queen
Tucked into the ancient walls of Old Jaffa is Ben-Zion David's legendary Yemenite workshop and gallery. An eighth-generation Yemenite silversmith, Ben-Zion was the first of his family to be born in Israel. His parents fled Yemen as part of Operation Magic Carpet — when there was a vast migration of persecuted Yemenite Jews to Israel, between June 1949 and September 1950.
His parents carried on their craft out of their modest house in Jaffa, doing “only traditional designs, mostly for other Yemenites and some Americans who found out about them,” says David. There was no shop. They worked with simple metals and semi-precious stones, weaving the humble materials into spectacular and elaborate filigreed bridal crowns, jewelry and Judaica.
Virtually all Yemenite jewelry is made of filigree, which requires a variety of different tools and weaving with various diameter silver wires. Every precious jewel is designed with "five strands"; each thread has a name of its own and, to Yemenites, is filled with sacred meaning.
Photos by Eliran Dahan for FT&V.
David applied the traditional methods to more contemporary designs, including candlesticks, menorahs, and other Judaica. "I try to make a modern shape using an old technique," he explains. "This is what is special about my work. Yemenite people are very humble, They don't have menorahs or shabbat candlesticks in sterling silver but you can find them here."
David's is considered a master in the creation of Jewish Yemenite art. He has won several awards and his unique designs are exhibited in galleries and museums across America, Australia, Russia and Europe -- as well as appearing on international fashion runways. Most famously, a pair of “crown" shaped candlesticks he made were presented in Buckingham Palace by the late Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres as a gift to Queen Elizabeth II of England.
Behind the glittering glass showcases of his elegant shop, visitors may watch David creating new pieces at his desk or stroll his gallery for an education in the art of Yemenite craftsmanship while sipping on a cup of deeply strong and fragrant Yemenite coffee.
I never escape this gorgeous den of temptation without a piece or two of original jewelry for myself, and usually gifts for others. For my youngest daughter’s bat mitzvah gift, we bought the same “crown” candleholders that were created for the Queen with it’s matching kiddush cup; they are like jewelry for Shabbat itself, small and exquisite, beautifully worked. They can follow her wherever she goes in the world.
Thus I’m pleased to announce that these candleholders and other extraordinary creations are now part of an exclusive collection of David’s jewelry and Judaica curated by Fig Tree & Vine. We've carefully selected pieces that can serve as heirloom gifts for weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs as well as affordable but unique earrings and rings. We are thrilled and honored to be able to bring this special collection directly from Ben-Zion David’s shop in Jaffa to our subscribers. You can view the whole collection here. As with all FT&V products, shipping is included to North America.