This brooch from Esther Knobel’s Immigrant series expresses the artist’s playful side. The brooch features colorful figures, a circus performer and an ancient emperor, both cut from tin boxes of Chinese tea that Knobel found in an old shop on Jaffe Street in Jerusalem. The figures themselves serve as a metaphor for an immigrant, arriving in Israel on an imported box of tea.

The brooch has been designed to tell a story, and it is reflective of both Israel’s past and present, as represented by the chariot and the sailboat upon which the figures ride. Israel, like the United States, is a nation of diversity and this too is implied by the differing scales and activities of the figures on the piece. The colorful characters on this brooch and others in the Immigrant series create a joyful, lighthearted mood. Making the series provided Knobel with an escape from the seriousness of creativity.

This piece, and her Mind in the Hand  brooch, together exemplify the varied techniques that Esther Knobel has mastered, and the many forms she uses to express her moods and thoughts. Be it metalsmithing, embroidering or enameling, these skills present the technical versatility and range of this contemporary jeweler.

Esther Knobel was born in Poland in 1949, and like the figures on this brooch, she too immigrated to Israel. She received her BFA from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, and her MFA from the Royal College of Art in London. Knobel’s work spans a range of emotions, from playful to poignant, and she frequently designs her jewelry to tell a story. The experience of the immigrant is a shared one and this engaging, dynamic brooch relays this experience to both the wearer and the viewer.

This brooch is one of more than 150 pieces of contemporary jewelry featured in Jewelry of Ideas: Gifts from the Susan Grant Lewin Collection, now on view.

Susan Teichman is a design historian who specializes in jewelry history and the architectural history of synagogues.

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