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Israeli Yemenite Silver Chess Set, circa 1950

Israeli Silver and Silver Gilt Filigree Chess Set. The King stands 3-1/2” tall. The chess pieces are hand-woven strands of metal. On one army, silver wire is used, while the opposing pieces are solver gilt. Each of the chess pieces is studded with a semi-precious turquoise stone. The chessmen are housed in the ornately embellished Asian Sandalwood box shown. Also included with the Israeli Silver and silver Gilt Filigree Chess set is a mid-19th century Anglo-Indian Sadelhi-work Chess and Backgammon game box, with fine bone fretwork, set within sandalwood grid. The chess and Backgammon boards have Bone and ebony squares and points which are embellished with Sadelhi geometric micro-mosaic work. The game box shows signs delamination of the inlays as well as minor losses. Circa 1950.

These sets have been made since about 1945. Israeli silver filigree Chess sets of this nature have been attributed to immigrant Yemenite craftsmen who settled in Israel. They combined their traditional methods of interwoven copper wire, later silver to produce chess pieces which have characteristics of Arabic and French Regѐnce shapes.

The modern state of Israel is of course much too young to have produced any antique chess pieces. However, having absorbed so many different cultures, it has been able to draw upon a variety of traditions of craftsmanship and design, and apply them to present day handicrafts.

The Maskit organization in Israel encouraged arts and crafts among new immigrants and channeled their skills in a direction of marketable products, desirable for sale to tourists. One group of craftsmen, whose traditional skills have been fostered by the Maskit, are the Israeli Yemenite goldsmiths. Early chess sets from Yemen, now rare, were made of interwoven silver wire.

Description: Frank Camaratta

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