The Art of Jewelry-making

The Jacobi House of Jewelry from the early days of the State of Israel

The exhibit shows Israeli jewelry produced at the time in small workshops by jewelry makers and numerous producers who emigrated from different countries, vs. central and institutional factories such as Maskit and Wizo that were founded with the objective of offering a source of income for new immigrant artists and artisans, and in order to preserve special craftsmanship traditions of the Arabic-speaking ethnic groups. The jewelry-makers and the private workshop producers did not always exhibit a planned awareness of Israeli identity, but they doubtlessly expressed their spontaneous faith in the young country and the tireless effort to create jewelry and objects that expressed Israeliness, its quest for modernism on the one hand, and its links to the Arabic-speaking world, on the other.
These factories were diverse and comprised small industries, as well as jewelry-makers’ workshops, where they produced their jewelry as a unique work of art. Many of the artists and artisans came in the early waves of immigration, but it may well be that some of them came in the 1950s as well. This type of jewelry was known as popular Israeli products, and appealed to many people in Israel and Europe and the United States. This type of jewelry was marketed by the Israel Production Institute as of the 1950s, and its photographs appear in commercial catalogues, some of which can be found in this book. The House of Jacobi Jewelry was chosen as the representative of this jewelry industry. Its diverse jewelry collections introduced a wide variety of jewelry from the early days of the State and offer a systematic way of learning about traditional, as well as new, jewelry-making. The latter constitutes a 50-year old significant chapter in the history of jewelry-making in Israel, as well as in the history of Israeli culture. In the first decade of the State the House of Jacobi was prominent as a original jewelry-maker that knew how to bring together different traditions and adapt them to the spirit of the time and place. From his workshop in Jaffa, thousands of pieces of jewelry were created – reflecting the Israeli melting pot and the process of creating a new Israeli identity, while using a variety of techniques and diverse ideational perceptions. Many pieces of jewelry were worn by public figures, among them Golda Meir and Beba Idelson.
Shimon Jacobi, a jewelry-maker and descendent of a family of jewelry-makers for generations, immigrated to Jerusalem from Ormia in Persian Azerbaijan in 1935 and laid down foundations for his jewelry workshop in 1949 on Bustros Street in Jaffa (today, Raziel Street). Numerous jewelry-makers worked in his workshop, many of them immigrating in the 1950s from the Jewish communities of the Arabic-speaking world. They worked alongside master jewelry-makers such as Shimon Jacobi the father, and Yakov his son (who is still alive), all of whom working together, harnessing their tradition to new creations.

The exhibit displays jewelry made by Jacobi and other jewelry-makers, as well as Bedouin, Persian and other ethnic group jewelry, which concretize the inspirational sources and the uniqueness and innovation of this work. In Israeli culture, this non-institutionalized jewelry (that sought in most cases to express the new life in the country and used the lexicon of shapes of the jewelry of the different Jewish ethnic groups in the Arabic-speaking world as a hallmark of their new crafts) were not perceived as a subject for research and study, or as objects that could shed light on the ideational perceptions of the creators and their audiences. Thus, for example, diverse types of filigree jewelry were identified as Yemenite work, while they in fact characterize jewelry-making traditions in both the East and West, and were made in the country by jewelry-makers who came from diverse traditions.
The exhibition and the book constitute fascinating chapters in the history of the Eretz Israeli visual culture – the jewelry of the early years of the State.

Curator: Prof. Nurith Kenaan-Keidar
Opens: May 4

Closes: October 30, 2008