Master Silversmith Yehuda Tassa
A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit master Yemenite filigree smith Yehuda Tassa at his home in Palo Alto, California. We interviewed him about his early life, learning filigree from his father, and later on as he tries to revive this nearly lost art.
I first contacted Dr. Tassa when I returned from Yemen in 2008. I was very interested in Yemenite filigree, and was searching for as much information about it as I could. Dr Tassa is a veritable wellspring of information, as it is he who is spearheading the fight to save it as an art form.
See, in Yemen, Jews made their living as silversmiths because they had few other options. Yes there were Jewish bakers and butchers, but they served the Jewish community almost exclusively. It was a tight-knit and insular group, and so filigree was passed down from generation to generation within the community.
In Israel, these restrictions no longer applied. Yemenite kids could basically do what they wanted to do. So Dr Tassa learned filigree from his father as a child, and then went on to become an aeronautical engineer, earning a PhD and working for NASA. It was only after he retired did he discover that the craft he learned as a child was nearly a lost art.
If you are interested in learning the basics of silver filigree work, I highly recommend his two DVDs (the first two of four) that are available on his website, Sabra Jewelry Design.