Tag Archives: silver

Oaxaca Filigree Gold and Silver, Antique Jewelry, Pawn Shops and Prayer for Rain

Gold filigree earrings are a favorite of traditional indigenous women in villages throughout Oaxaca, Mexico.  Mexican gold filigree jewelry, usually 10k or 12k, is gifted at life cycle events and is an important part of engagement and marriage traditions.  Antique pieces are usually more costly because of the workmanship.

Antique 10k gold filigree earrings, Oaxaca, Mexico

Antique 10k gold filigree earrings, Oaxaca, Mexico

Filigrana, the art of working gold threads or coils into intricate designs, was brought to Mexico by the Spanish after the conquest.  The Spanish learned the technique from the Moors.  Master goldsmiths taught local craftsmen and the skill became a family trade handed down through the generations. Today, there are a few master craftsmen working in gold, but because of the cost many visitors to Oaxaca choose filigree worked in sterling silver.

New silver filigree earrings by Mario Perez

New silver filigree earrings by Mario Perez

One such filigree craftsman is Mario Perez, who shares a shop with famed woodcarver Jacobo Angeles on Macedonio Alcala.  Step inside to see how silver becomes bows from which dangle gemstones and colored glass, curlicues, birds, flowers and angels.  The designs are intricate and beautifully executed. Mario makes earrings, pendants, rings, and complete necklaces.

Be careful — cuidado — if you are shopping price, beware that there are knock-offs that are imported from China.  Yes, indeedy.

One of my favorite places to explore and window shop is the Casa de Empeño Monte Piedad.  This is a bonafide government owned/regulated pawn shop located at the corner of Macedonio Alcala and Morelos, and one of the biggest.  Doors close between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm.  At the corner is the Caja, the payment center.  Walk two doors down on Morelos (toward Garcia Virgil) to see the display of goodies for sale — some upwards of $10,000 USD.

Small antique 10k gold and pearl filigree earrings, Oaxaca, pawn shop

Small antique 10k gold and pearl filigree earrings, Oaxaca, pawn shop

Everything is priced by weight.  If you are lucky, you might find an antique pair of gold filigrana earrings (like I did the other day) for well under $80 USD.  One of the pearls was missing but all the parts worked beautifully.  I walked to a small family operated jewelry shop a few blocks away from the Zocalo, asked if they did repairs, and twenty minutes later my earrings were fixed — better than new!.  Materials and labor: $8 USD.

The pawn shops are filled with merchandise now.  I don’t know why.  Maybe more people are out of work, or what grandmother liked the granddaughters don’t, or the Guelaguetza tourist season was underwhelming and families need cash.  There are other priorities besides jewelry.  Many Casa de Empeños are located throughout the city, especially near in the 20 de Noviembre market. Keep your eyes open. You may not need to buy retail if you admire the old artistry.

P.S. This is the rainy season and it is dry, dry, dry.  No rain for weeks.  The corn is yellowing and some fields are dead.  Today, my next door neighbor irrigated his field.  How?  Water from a well or flowing from the mountain reservoir. The water gushed down trenches dug yesterday.  This coming season will likely bring scarcity and high prices for maize.  When food costs soar, people will sell what is not essential.   Abundance in the pawn shops. Join me in the prayer for rain.  It is painful to watch the fields shriveling and giving up their promise of food.

Shop Mexico The Artisan Sisters: Frida Kahlo Silver Earrings

Mexico is filled with Frida — the icon of South-of-the-Border Style harkens us back to a big, bold fashion statement that signals femininity, pride, and a look that says I’m worth noticing.  From floral designs embroidered on blouses to fantastic, dangling earrings that move with you, Frida knew how to wear the clothing and jewelry that symbolizes Mexican design.  Here, we have earrings that translate that antique look into contemporary fashion.

Frida Style Filagree Silver Earrings

Friday Kahlo loved her Oaxaca earrings.  Here is a selection for you to wear and enjoy or for holiday gifting!  Order today and I will ship tomorrow morning, December 18, by USPS Priority Mail.

Doves adorn these are handmade silver and filagree earrings from Oaxaca embellished with either pearls (left), coral (center), or turquoise (right).  The posts fit snugly on your ear and dangle dramatically!  From top to bottom the earrings measure 2-1/2″ and are 1-1/2″ wide at the widest part.  $125 each includes shipping and handling.  Please specify the color you want.  I can get these to you by Christmas if you order today!

SilverGarnetEarrings These are also artist-made silver earrings by Cesar Ramirez Torres from Nayarit, Mexico, adorned with garnets.   They are 2″ long from the bottom of the hook and 1″ wide.  $75, includes shipping and handling.  And, yes, I can get these to you by Christmas if you order today!

Cultural and Social Tourism Focus for Guanajuato Delegation to Oaxaca

Tourism and economic development officials from Guanajuato, Mexico, came to Oaxaca to meet and talk with artisans, artists, microfinanciers, arts educators, and entrepreneurs.  I helped them arrange their itinerary and hosted them during their stay.  The group plans to develop social/cultural tourism educational projects for their state with hopes to reduce the talent drain due to out-migration and keep people employed locally in sustainable work that can ensure cultural continuity.  What we do at Oaxaca Cultural Navigator is one model for possible program development.

Because Guanajuato is a silver mining area, I took the group to meet with silversmiths Brigitte Huet and Ivan Campant who work in the lost wax casting technique — a process used by the ancient Mixtecs and Mayans.  We spent the day in the studio learning about the intricacies and complexities of this jewelry making technique.


Brigitte and Ivan translate their bold designs into carved into wax.  They then make molds, melt the 925 sterling silver, pour the molten silver into the molds, and disperse the metal into the cast design using the ancient sling method.  Believe me, this is not easy.  You need to know chemistry and have a steady hand!


The results are stunning earrings, necklaces, pendants, rings and bracelets using designs adapted from Mexican codices and temple carvings.  We gained a greater appreciation for this type of work, since it is detailed, technical, and requires many steps and a lot of patience.


The multi-step process includes putting your design onto the wax, carving the wax, making a master, making a mold, injecting it with wax, using the wax design to fit into the plaster encased in the container, pouring the molten silver into the plaster, using the sling to disperse the silver, cooling the piece, removing it, cleaning it, oxidizing it, polishing it, and then using classical jewelry making techniques (like using the laminator) to make a finished piece of jewelry.


Brigitte and Ivan teach 3-day jewelry making workshops here in Oaxaca.  You can contact Norma Hawthorne to schedule your own personal workshop — two person minimum!



One Word for Amber Jewelry Designs at Joyeria Azul: Amazing

Chiapas is known for its amber mines, and there are perhaps 50 shops along the  main thoroughfares selling amber jewelry at very reasonable prices.  Many of the larger shops have museum displays of rare, carved or otherwise large pieces of the fossilized sap that contain ancient critters.   In our comings and goings in true tourist fashion, we walked in and out of many stores as Fay searched for an amber necklace.

That’s when we found Azul on Real de Guadalupe #13A, (967) 674-0843.  I want to share with you the work of Guerrero-trained silversmith Miguel Jimenez and his Argentinian wife Lilian Calderon, who is a sculptor.  Their jewelry reflects creativity, contemporary style and fine craftsmanship.  They incorporate wood (rosewood or ebony), silver and fine gemstones. You can email them at azul_joyeros@hotmail.com  I don’t need to say anything else.  See for yourself!

The rings range in price from about 500 to 1700 pesos!




New: Silver Jewelry Making Workshop, November 2011

If you are in Oaxaca in November, don’t miss this!

On November 11, 12, and 13, we are holding a sterling silver jewelry making workshop in Oaxaca with instructors Brigitte Huet and Ivan Campant.  They are teaching lost wax carving, sling casting, and classical jewelry making.  You will make your own silver element — either a pendant or a pair of earrings — included in the cost.

You can attend a 2-day or 3-day session.  For complete description of the course and costs, CLICK HERE.

The workshop does not include lodging or meals.  We are happy to suggest places to stay or work with you to make lodging arrangements for an added cost.

4-Elements Bracelet by Brigitte Huet and Ivan Campant