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12:20 p.m. Saturday: Best Silversmith and Metal Restorer 

Monsen Plating & Silversmiths

Stepping into this cavernous workshop in South Berkeley is like stepping back in time. The walls are lined with rare, turn-of-the-century tools, hammers with odd-shaped heads, and wooden handles silken-smooth from use. The floor is scattered with hunks of machinery: vises, drill presses, lathes. On one wall is a black-and-white photo of the Minnesota farm where owner Gary Reopelle grew up; he landed in Berkeley in the 1960s, fresh out of the Navy. Reopelle serves customers from across the globe who are looking to restore an heirloom Victorian silver chandelier, replace silver-plated dials for the dashboard of that 1936 Ford -- or perhaps just repair a battered copper kettle picked up for a song at a garage sale. Reopelle is one of the few master silversmiths still working in California, and can identify by sight the provenance of Russian samovars or silver flatware. "Look at it," he murmurs, stroking a heavy sterling silver knife brought in by a customer. "It's German, 1930s. Nice blade."


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