Artist Profiles

Artist:

Ben Zion David

Region:

Near East

Country:

Israel

Organization:

Yemenite Art

Media/General:

Jewelry

Medium of Work:

Yemenite jewelry and Judaica formed from silver filigree

Year(s) Attended:

Santa Fe: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

About:

Jewish Yemenite fine jewelry, based on gold and silver wire filigree, is the highly specialized type of artwork that master jeweler Ben Zion has made for decades. When the majority of the community in Yemen immigrated to Israel in 1948, the poor economy had little need for goldsmiths or silversmiths and consequently, only a small number of artisans managed to keep their art alive. Yemenite silversmiths began creating Judaica-styled fine accessories to meet the needs of modern clientele. Soon, this finely crafted, handmade filigree became a beloved item of the newly formed country of Israel. Being an eighth generation jeweler, Zion felt the overwhelming responsibility to preserve this wonderfully distinctive artform.

Zion’s Judaical accessories begin with twisting and interweaving fine sterling silver wires into traditional Yemenite filigree motifs using ancient primitive tools alongside modern technology. Many of his works include semi-precious stones as well as lava and coral. The art of Yemenite filigree must be created by hand because it is made with very fine wires: five in total, each created with its own special tool.

Designs are inspired by Yemenite bridal jewelry. At the age of ten, Zion began helping his father prepare and interweave the silver filigree threads. He still uses ancient methods to make jewelry, and today, Zion’s sons Nadav and Yoav often come to the workshop to help him, just as he did with his father before him.