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Swed Masters Workshop

Swed Masters Workshop

214 East 82nd Street
Downstairs
New York, NY 10028
212 644 8822
swedllc.com
Hours:
By appointment is best; M-Th 10am-6pm; F 10am-3pm; Su 10am-6pm
Established: 1973
Other Locations:
Jerusalem

I was impressed by the unique, brightly polished Judaica made by Swed Masters even before I discovered the secrets contained in each piece. Eli began my introduction to the work of the Israeli-based silversmith by showing me a small silver and gold platform. I had no idea what it was until Eli removed the central dome and spun it on the table, showing it to be a dreidel. He then flipped over a silver base in the platform to reveal nine shallow slots. I assumed the piece had to be a menorah, but could not find the candleholders. In response to my unspoken query, Eli unfurled a middle section of the dreidel containing nine small holes that he fit into the silver base. I was amazed by the ingenuity contained in the decorative contraption.

The dreidel-menorah platform was far from the only piece with hidden secrets. Eli says that the first thing people ask when they see something crafted by Swed Masters is, “What does it do?” He admitted that he sometimes likes to joke around, answering the question when directed at simple candlesticks with “They form an espresso maker!” Though Eli did show me a few single-function objects, including a set of candlesticks made using a combination of modern design and traditional decoration, he also brought out many pieces with hidden compartments and structural surprises. I stood mesmerized as he completely took apart a Kiddish cup layered in gold and silver. “What makes us special is our technique,” Eli explained, demonstrating how each ring of the cup could be separately cleaned, polished, or replaced. Because each part of a finished item can be individually cared for, the final product does not lose value in the same way something welded together or painted gold might. As Eli put the cup back together, he was pleased to tell me that one gentleman has ordered a cup for each of his children and grandchildren with their names engraved on the rings.

Swed Masters has been in business in Israel since 1973, though the Swed family has worked in silver and antiques for far longer. The New York silversmith shop opened on 58th Street in 1991 and moved to the current location in 2010. Eli explained that this location is temporary and mainly functions as a place from which to take orders, not a full-service sales store. While they do have a tiny workshop in the back of the office for repairs and small jobs, most of the work is done in Jerusalem.

Before I left, Eli was eager to take out a few more impressive pieces. He placed a series of wine stoppers on the table, representing different holidays and themes (an apple for Rosh Hashanah, a dove for peace, etc.). By pressing a button, Eli opened the apple on top of the cork to reveal a Hebrew phrase. Similarly, the other symbols had hidden compartments that could be used as spice boxes. In a surprise move, Eli placed another apple stopper on the table and pushed the top. This one opened to say “New York,” a sign that anyone, Jewish or otherwise, can find a beautiful treasure at Swed Masters.