In the Middle Ages.

The earliest descriptions of productions of the goldsmith's art refer to the work of Jewish goldsmiths. The Bible, which contains these descriptions, gives also the names of the workers—Bezaleel b. Uri and Aholiab b. Ahisamach (Ex. xxxi., xxxvi.). Important as were their achievements, the Jewish goldsmith's art did not reach its height until the time of King Solomon. Although he used foreign skill to a certain extent in the making of the utensils for his house and for the Temple, yet Hiram, the overseer of the whole work, was of Jewish extraction, at least on his mother's side. Even after the downfall of the Jewish state Jewish goldsmiths were heard of everywhere. Thus the Talmud relates that the synagogue of Alexandria had a section reserved for gold-and silversmiths, just as for the other trades. It is also related of the Jewish tribe Ḳainuḳa' in northern Arabia in the sixth century, that it engaged in the goldsmith's trade and in money-changing (Grätz, "Geschichte," v. 84). In the eleventh century the Jewish goldsmiths in Languedoc bought the church treasure of Narbonne, and the tombstone of the goldsmith Joseph b. Joziz (1100) evidences the existence of Jewish goldsmiths in Spain ("C. I. H." No.175). In the thirteenth century Jews carried on the goldsmith's craft in England (Jacobs, "Jews of Angevin England," p. 207; Levy. in "Jew. Chron." April 4, 1902), and toward the end of the fourteenth century there were Jewish goldsmiths in Avignon, in the county of Venaissin (Bardinet, in "Rev. Hist." 1880, Sept.-Oct.), in Navarre, where in the larger towns like Tudela and Pamplona they had their own shops (Kayserling, "Die Juden in Navarra," pp. 59, 73), and in Lyons, whence, however, they were expelled. The refugees from Lyons settled in Trevoux, whither they carried the art ofrefining gold and making it into wire (Depping, "Die Juden im Mittelalter," pp. 250 et seq.).

That there were Jewish goldsmiths at this time in Castile may be seen from the decree of John II. in 1443 (Lindo, "Hist. of the Jews in Spain," pp. 221 et seq.). In Italy also, in the same century, there were Jewish goldsmiths, one of whom (Solomon) Ercole dei Fedeli of Sessa, after he had gone over to Christianity, made a name for himself by his rich ornamentation of weapons, one of which was the famous sword of Cæsar Borgia. In the sixteenth century there were skilful goldsmiths among the Jews who migrated from Rhodes to Constantinople and Salonica (Baudin, "Les Israélites de Constantinople"), as there were among the original inhabitants of Kremsir (Frankl-Grün, "Geschichte der Juden in Kremsier," i. 10); there were many also in Poland ("Debatten des Galizischen Landtags," 1868, p. 72). Pedro Teixeira (Kayserling, in Benjamin, "Acht Jahre in Asien und Afrika," p. 44) states they were also in Aleppo, and Leo Africanus ("Africæ Descriptio"), that they were in Morocco. There were goldsmiths also in Venice, and Lecky declares that many of those who cultivated the art of carving were Jews ("Rationalism in Europe," ii. 237, note). In Rome, however, Jewish goldsmiths are first mentioned in 1726 (Vogelstein and Rieger, Geschichte der Juden in Rom," ii. 321).

In More Recent Times.

There were numerous Jewish goldsmiths in Prague, where they formed a separate gild until the middle of the nineteenth century, just as did the Jewish shoemakers, tailors, and butchers (Jost, "Neuere Geschichte der Israeliten," i. 341). According to the gravestones in the old cemetery of Prague, twenty-one goldsmiths were buried there in the years 1601-1700, and twenty-six in 1701-80 ("Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland," v. 351). In 1847 the Prague directory gave the number of Jewish gold-and silversmiths as twenty-one. In the seventeenth century the French ambassador St. Olon found in Morocco "a comparatively large number of Jews, most of whom were goldsmiths" (Schudt, "Jüdische Merckwürdigkeiten," i. 90). In the same century (1664), Jewish goldsmiths are spoken of in Poland, six of whom—among them a woman, Jozefowa—met with a loss of more than 26,000 gulden by plunder at the time of the Jewish persecution in Lemberg (Caro, "Geschichte der Juden in Lemberg," pp. 74, 168 et seq.). In the eighteenth century the Jews of Bucharest seem to have included many skilful goldsmiths (see Jew. Encyc. iii. 411-412).

In Germany for a longer period than in any other country Jews were strictly forbidden to practise any trade, and Jewish goldsmiths are mentioned only as living in Berlin, at the beginning of the eighteenth century (Geiger, "Geschichte der Juden in Berlin," i. 26, 43); beyond Berlin they were found only in the former Polish provinces, in Posen as early as the seventeenth century; but they do not seem to have been very numerous, since they did not have a corporation as did the Jewish tailors, butchers, furriers, and haberdashers of that town (Perles, in "Monatsschrift," 1864, p. 420, and 1865, p. 84). Nevertheless, one Jewish goldsmith, Baruch, does appear in East Franconia, who, on being received in Schwarzach in 1537, promised to live only by his craft ("Monatsschrift," 1880, p. 463).

At present there are many Jewish goldsmiths in Russia, who, according to Rülf ("Drei Tage in Jüdisch-Russland," pp. 55 et seq.), are highly skilled workers. The number is still greater in Rumania, where in 1879, in Bucharest, out of a total of 212 goldsmiths, 164 were Jews (Jacobs, "Jewish Statistics," p. 26). In Jerusalem, where in 1865 L. A. Frankl found only five Jewish goldsmiths and silversmiths, the number has recently increased to twenty-seven (ib.). According to Andree ("Volkskunde der Juden," p. 191), Jewish goldsmiths and silversmiths are found in Benghazi (Barca), Jebel Ghurian, Bagdad, Arabia, and Persia. In 1898 eleven gold-workers belonged to the Jewish community in Berlin, forty-four to that in Vienna.

For illustrations of the goldsmith's and silversmith's art, relating to Jewish ceremonial, see the following articles: Amulet; Betrothal; Binding; Circumcision; Crown of the Law; Cup; Esther; Etrog; Habdalah; Ḥanukkah; Laver; 'Omer; Passover; Rings, Engagement and Wedding; Sabbath; Scrolls of Law (for breastplates, mantels, and pointers); Seder; Synagogue.

  • A. Wolf, Etwas über Jüdische Kunst und Aeltere Jüdische Künstler, Hamburg, 1901.
A. A. W.
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