Four Chester silversmiths prove their mettle

By Kelsy Allan

Joe Tourigny works on a piece of coin jewelry./Photos by Cynthia Prairie.

Originally used for trade in early Greek, Spanish and Roman empires, and later used in technology, decoration, jewelry, film and even insulation, silver has been alluring people since 3000 B.C.  Made into coins, molded into various patterns and designs, formed around stone and glass, silver in all of these forms and more can be found locally made in Chester.

Jessie Alon, co-owner with her husband Michael of the art gallery DaVallia Art & Accents, not only creates and shapes her silver pieces in Chester, she also includes pieces of the town within them.
Stones from the Williams River and marble and glass from nearby recycling plants are used in many of her jewelry pieces. Reuse is important to Alon in light of the negative impacts that the mining and manufacturing industries can have on the environment.

Fittingly, her art is inspired by nature. The patterns of leaf veins, contrasting textures of tree bark and river rocks, the colors and shapes inherent in all wild landscapes are mimicked throughout Alon’s pieces.
To see the artist at work, or to see the finished products, her Fiddlehead Studio and DaVallia Art & Accents Gallery are one in the same, located on the Village Green in Chester.

Rebecca Haas’ Teardrop set of bangles./Jewelry photos courtesy of the artists.

Also on the Green (located within the Moon Dog Cafe) is Sage Jewelry, owned by artist and silversmith Michele Bargfrede. It’s not hard to see nature permeating her collection, with pearls and stones entwined in silver trees and nests, and silver worked into dragonflies and water patterns.
However, Bargfrede is also inspired by the stones and silver themselves, particularly the spirals characteristic of her work that the metal lends itself to. The combined shop and studio holds all Michele’s current pieces, along with additional local art and paintings, and her studio is open most weekends for the public to view. She also offers pearl and bead stringing and other jewelry services.

Just down the road from DaVallia and Sage Jewelry on Route 103 is another combined silversmith workshop and store, reusing metal in unique and unusual ways. Joseph Tourigny, of The Mountain Man Jewelry, started making necklaces out of old coins 35 years ago, and hasn’t stopped.

Michele Bargfrede turns gemstones and silver into an egg-filled bird’s nest.

Old U.S. silver coins as well as more recent state quarters are hand-carved into jewelry in his workshop daily. He works meticulously to eliminate the unneeded parts of the coin and leave only the artistic centers. Tourigny also works silver into various other projects, including earrings, necklaces and keychains and specially ordered pieces as well. The silversmith enthusiastically claims to be “becoming more incredibly creative” as he enters his 7th year based in Chester.

Jessie Alon of Fiddlehead Studios and DaVallia Art & Accents. Inset: one of her organic creations.


Inspired neither by nature or past uses, but more by the pure material itself, artist Rebecca Haas works silver into delicate geometric patterns in her converted barn studio in the hills of Chester. She first learned to work with the metal while taking a jewelry class in Mexico, and has stuck with it (along with gold and brass) due to the “forgiving” nature of metals.

Her art is characterized by clean and simple design, reflected also in her studio (which is open to the public by appointment) and in her Vermont lifestyle, which she chose to return to after spending 12 years in Brooklyn. Haas’s favorite part of her work is speaking with people at craft sales and showcases – her work will next be exhibited at the Weston Craft Show in October.

Haas’s jewelry (along with other local artists) can be seen and purchased at the Pear Tree  in Chester Vermont. Other local jewelry retail stores in town include Gallery 103 and Country on the Common.

More information on the featured artists:

DaVallia Arts and Accents

78 The Common
Hours: Wed-Sat 11-5, Sun 11-4.
Prices: $20-$300

Sage Jewelry

295 Main St.
Hours: Most weekends.
Prices: ~$60

The Mountain Man

571 Rt 103 S.
Hours: 10-dark, 7 days a week. Closed Christmas-April
Prices: $35-$200

Rebecca Haas
Hours: By appointment
Prices: $18-$150

Kelsy Allan is a recent graduate of Green Mountain College with degrees in Natural Resource Management and Environmental Studies. She lives in Ludlow.

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