In my search for traditional jewelry of different cultures to get inspiration form y new collection, I ended up in Ecuador. My father always told me that only the best silversmith can make filigree jewelry since it takes a lot of craftsmanship and patience to make those tiny little pieces to make a piece of jewelry out of it. And in Ecuador there is a whole village, Chordeleg, making filigrain pieces of jewelry!
Chordeleg is a little village in the neighborhood of Cuenca, an old city with a magnificent historical center, that is on the list of most beautiful cities in the world of Unesco. The name Chordeleg means ‘golden waterfall’, and although at the moment most of the pieces of jewelry they make here, are made of silver, there are beautiful gold pieces for sale too.
Anyhow, the city (only around 11.000 inhabitants) is from the origin the city of the silversmiths in Ecuador. A long time ago when the Spanish were in charge in Ecuador they implemented the Spanish ‘guild system’ in Ecuador. The guilds were the groups of artisans, merchants or professionals, that practice the same trade or profession in a particular town. When a guild was very strong there lived only people with the same trade or profession in own city. You have more of them in Ecuador, like Otavalo for leather products, Gualaceo for weaving (bought a beautiful manaca or shawl there) or San Bartolome, where you find most of the guitar makers.
When we arrived in Chordeleg on a Saturday, the city was nearly empty, no salesmen, no buyers, no tourist and hardly any inhabitants. It was like the city was asleep, only to wake up for the big Sunday market, where the income for the whole week had to come in. Finally, we found a silversmith that wanted to show u show filigree jewelry has to be made.
Filigree is a type of jewelry work, where you make very fine and subtle and tiny pieces and bring them together to a masterpiece, like earrings, bracelet, brooch or even necklaces. It takes about 4-6 weeks to make one piece of filigree jewelry and you need very good eyes to see all those tiny pieces of silver and make some gorgeous piece with them.
Mr. Carlos was ready to show us how it works. In the video will be shown how filigree jewelry is made, but in short, it goes like this: You have a little piece of silver of maybe one gram and you hammer it until it is flat and long. Then you tear that silver through holes, that become smaller and smaller until you have a thread of about 2 meters or 6-7 feet (all from the 1 gram silver). You cut two even pieces of thread and roll them together in a way that you get a strong string. This goes through a machine to make it flat. And then the work starts.
You roll the flat thread into tiny flat balls or other shapes and when you have a few of them with the same kind of flat thread you make the outlines of a leave, or flower or any figure you want. And all the tiny flat balls or other shapes are placed in the outlines and fix them. In this way, you make a piece of gorgeous very detailed jewelry.
Here is a video to see the process closer: this is the link or click on the picture //vimeo.com/253152258
I could not help myself to buy a bracelet and pair of earrings since I love this work that is done with such a high-quality craftsmanship. This is the place where traditional crafts are used to make modern jewelry. And in this way, the old craftsmanship has a great future ahead of them.
It will be hard to get a great idea of making my own handmade modern design collection with the inspiration I got from Mr. Carlos in Chordeleg. But I will try, I definitely will do my best. So keep an eye on my website www.florencejewelshop.com.
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