Joe and Anat Silvera: Educating the Next Generation

The Silvera Jewelry School is a labor of love; both a love for jewelry and the sharing of knowledge, and the love of Joe and Anat, the school’s dedicated founders.

Last edited: 11/16/2021
Silvera Jewelry School class instructor Hratch Nargizian helps a student
Guest instructor Hratch Nargizian has been engraving for over 50 years, imparting his wealth of knowledge to students of the Silvera Jewelry School.

“As soon as I heard the sound of hammers hitting metal, I fell in love,” says jeweler and educator Joe Silvera. A “little artist” from the age of 7, Joe started his creative journey copying cartoons and drawing. Exploring fine arts, painting, and sculpture in college at California State University in Long Beach, it wasn’t until Joe took an elective in jewelry on the advice of his roommate that he found his true passion. Today, together with his wife Anat Silvera, Joe shares his love for jewelry making with students the world over, teaching and offering classes at the eponymous Silvera Jewelry School in Berkeley, California.

Creative Paths

For Joe, the most intriguing aspect of working with jewelry was the sheer number of options to explore. “I really liked the craft, the ornament,” he says. “I loved the feel of working in the metal and there were so many different areas you could specialize in […] fabrication to enameling to casting.”

As an instructor at Silvera Jewelry School, Joe’s favorite technique to teach is soldering. “You don’t hear that too often from a teacher,” he laughs, adding, “But I love soldering. I think soldering is almost alchemical. It’s like this great intersection between art and science where you can get the metal to flow and reconnect. And I think it is really fun to see the students light up when they learn how the process works and they start to understand it.”

Outside of teaching, Joe devotes his time to lost-wax casting. After several formative years as an apprentice in San Pedro, California doing wax work and repairs, Joe got his first big break as a model maker for Alejandro Toussier in Los Angeles. “They were nice enough to just work with somebody who was new to model making,” he laughs.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Joe’s wife and co-partner, Anat. “For me, I didn’t go the college way for jewelry,” she says. “I studied with individual jewelry masters. I worked at jewelry stores. I looked at jewelry as adornment [...] it was something I had always been passionate about, since I was making jewelry as a young kid.”

A master of a wide range of techniques, from beading to wire work, Anat finds the most joy in enameling. “Joe says I glow when I do enameling,” she laughs. Teaching classes from basic to advanced on this ancient art, Anat is inspired by color. “Wherever I go, I look at colors and combinations of colors, textures in nature,” she says.

Both artists in their own right, Joe and Anat are educators first, with a devoted following of jewelry students from both near and far.

Anat and Joe Silvera
Anat and Joe Silvera

California Love

“Anat is a big part of us being involved in teaching,” states Joe. Meeting at a studio tour sale in Oakland, California, the pair lost track of time talking, looking up only to notice the friends they had arrived with had all quietly slipped away. “We were commiserating about how we didn’t think we were going to meet anybody and about two weeks later we weren’t out of each other’s sight for years,” says Joe, the two of them laughing. 

Returning to the Bay Area together and unsure of which direction to go in their careers, Anat suggested they pursue teaching, a role she was already familiar with. “I’ll show you how,” Anat told Joe. “And that was her biggest mistake,” Joe teases, “Because I got really into it. I loved teaching and I confess I took over in a bunch of ways.”

The duo began the prototype for what would become the Silvera Jewelry School in 2005 in an area north of Napa where Anat had a bead and yarn shop. “We had this room, 400 square feet, and we were bringing people up to the wine country for […] jewelry retreats. We were doing lost wax casting, glass bead making and fabrication, all sorts of techniques,” explains Joe.

When the recession hit in 2008, the pair had to rethink their careers once more. Joe explains, “I had been teaching some down here in the Bay Area, in Berkeley, so we said, ‘Well let’s go down and start our own school.’ So, we just impulsively did that […] We had six benches plus the teacher, and it just kept growing and growing.”

Soon outgrowing their original location, Anat found a larger space at the site of a former weaving school. Moving to the new space in 2012, the Silvera Jewelry School as it exists today was born.

Global Perspectives

With an emphasis on jewelers being able to work easily from their homes, Joe and Anat focus on using home-friendly tools such as butane torches in their classes when applicable. This notion of accessibility factors into everything the pair do at Silvera Jewelry School. While they offer a range of classes for every skill level, “We are well known for being very beginner-friendly,” states Joe. From biodegradable pickle solutions to friendlier fluxes, the pair have created a classroom environment that allows their students to continue to practice at home with ease once class has ended. 

Outside of teaching basic techniques, the Silvera Jewelry School offers specialized classes on a range of topics. “We do things like making brooches and necklaces, more advanced casting techniques […] constructing your own fancy settings for fancy stones,” says Joe. And on top of all their offerings, Joe and Anat welcome guest instructors from all over the world to share their skills with the students. Nationally recognized instructors from the US have included the likes of Jayne Redman, Charles Lewton-Brain and Bob Ebendorf to name a few.

Joe Silvera chats with a group of students
Joe Silvera finds both joy and inspiration in sharing the art of jewelry making with his students.

“They bring so much wisdom and experience with the craft to the students. It’s just great. We try to expose the students to a diverse array of different teachers so that, you know, they’re not just taking classes from me or Anat or our partner Jenn,” states Joe.

While not entirely new to the Silvera Jewelry School, Jenn Parnell Kirkpatrick has recently joined Joe and Anat as a partner in the business. With a BFA in jewelry from Rhode Island School of Design, “Jenn is a really fresh new force in the school,” says Joe, adding, “And we know that if we need to retire or go take a step back that she can keep the school going […] which is a really good feeling. 

Currently co-teaching a class with Anat on finding your own voice, Jenn is known for her humor and richly detailed jewelry history classes. “So, you’ll study ancient Egyptian jewelry, and she shows you the techniques so […] you can learn faience and chasing like the Egyptians would have done,” explains Joe excitedly.

In addition to Joe, Anat, Jenn and a wealth of guest instructors, Arlene Mornick rounds out the experienced group, teaching the school’s metal clay classes. “All of us at Silvera […] are very generous and give a lot of information. Sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh my God, we just gave way too much,’” laughs Anat. “Life’s too short to keep it all to yourself,” adds Joe.

Continuing Community

Like so many others, the global pandemic forced the group to pivot their teaching model. And pivot quickly they did. By the end of March 2020, the Silvera Jewelry School had already listed online classes. “It had been something we had kinda been working on and Covid said, ‘Yeah, you should do this now,’” Joe says. 

The change allowed them to reconnect with past students who had moved out of the Berkeley area as well as reach new students in Europe, Australia, Canada and even South America. “We were able then to also get these teachers who were isolated where they were to teach for us, like Ruth Ball in England, to teach cloisonné from her studio,” says Joe.

Offering online classes not only allowed the Silvera Jewelry School to continue, but also helped to keep the creative community alive during such a trying and dire time for so many. “We have students who actually said, ‘Your classes saved me during the Covid,’” he laughs. While Joe may joke, the sentiment is sincere. While helping to educate future generations of jewelers, the duo is also building and enhancing the existing artist community, both in their area and afar.

But it’s not just their students who get something out of the experience. Perpetual students themselves, Joe and Anat credit the attendees of the Silvera Jewelry School as their inspiration and catalyst for continued learning. “For me, those students are such a source of inspiration and nourishment for my creativity,” Joe states. “For myself too,” Anat chimes in, adding, “Seeing what they’re doing is really inspiring for me to […] take a different direction for myself.” It’s a reciprocal relationship that continues to flourish even as technology and techniques change throughout the years. But if one thing remains the same, it’s the Silveras’ continued commitment to their students, their craft and each other.