Silversmith David Friedman has the unique ability to trace the origin of almost every antique that comes across his desk. "People ask me all the time, 'How did you know that? How did you know that goblet was actually made in India?'" Friedman said. "We just know from experience. We see a lot of pieces and a lot of metal."
The founder of Friedman & Co., an antique repair and restoration service, Friedman has been working with metal since he was 17. Trained in the apprentice style in southeastern Wisconsin, he began making his living repairing musical instruments. But when his clients urged him to expand his business further, Friedman discovered the world of antiques.
"I found this work much more interesting and stimulating," said Friedman, who runs a store in Beverly Hills and a plating facility in North Hollywood. "Musical instrument work, although it's very rewarding, can be somewhat repetitive, because once you've overhauled a clarinet and you've overhauled 1,000 clarinets, a clarinet is still a clarinet."
Friedman prefers antiques because each one tells a story. He often sees pieces that have been passed down through generations or have sentimental or historical significance.
"I remember repairing a tray once that was buried before or during World War II," Friedman said. "Jews often buried their possessions so that they would not be confiscated. When the owners dug up the tray after the war there was a pick ax hole through the middle of the tray, which they brought to me all these years later to repair."
While Friedman often hears such stories because much of his clientele is Jewish, he insists that those who use his services are as diverse as the art itself.
"Silversmithing is an ancient art and there were Jews that were silversmiths. It's part of Jewish life and Jewish history, but silversmithing covers the entire spectrum of humanity and it's associated with all religions ... our door is open and welcome to anybody to come here. Whoever comes to our counter we treat them with respect and try and help them."