Remembering Esther Davies, enamelist, jeweler, crafter of Judaica silver and bead work

Davies moved to Berkeley in 1971 so she could attend the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland.

Esther Davies. Courtesy: Michael Davies

Esther Davies, 98, of Berkeley, passed away peacefully on May 2 at Elmwood Care Center.

Esther was born on Sept. 12, 1923, in New York City to Rebeka Salzman. She married and went to Paris, where she had a much-loved, if brief, job with the Marshall Plan before returning to New York. There she divorced and subsequently worked for the famed war photojournalist Robert Capa, who co-founded Magnum Photos. After marrying Aubrey Davies of New Haven, Connecticut, the couple moved to Lubec, Maine, to run a small sheep farm. Their only child, Michael, was born in 1959. Following her divorce from Aubrey, Esther and Michael moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she had a successful home dressmaking business. Esther and Michael then moved to San Francisco, where she worked at UCSF Medical Center as a secretary. In 1971, they moved to Berkeley so that Esther could attend the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland.

After graduating in 1977 with a master’s in fine arts, Esther established a home studio in Berkeley. She specialized in enamel work, silver and gold jewelry, and large wall hangings that graced the walls of homes and corporate offices across the country. She pursued her interest in Judaica by producing contemporary mezuzas, ceremonial wedding rings, exquisite enameled jewelry, and dreidels. Esther was respected in the Bay Area arts community, and she juried into many of the country’s most selective craft shows, including the prestigious American Craft Council show in Baltimore, Maryland. Esther’s striking ring “The Tabernacle” was featured in their 2004 publication “1000 Rings.” In her last decades she expanded her repertoire to create shimmering jewelry, handbags, and new forms of Judaica from tiny seed beads.

Esther is survived by her son, Michael, daughter-in-law, Kim, and grandchildren, Paul, Eric, and Julia, all of New Haven, Connecticut. She will be cremated according to her wishes.

Memorial contributions can be made to one of several art-based organizations such as The Art Room, The Art of Elysium, or to a charity of your choice.