By Hand

12 Mar

Filigrana (filigree) silver jewelry is a an age-old craft practiced in the village of Chordeleg. Here we visited the workshop of Gilberto Jara, one of the most renowned creators of filigree jewelry in the world. Gilberto works with his son Flavio in an astonishingly small workshop behind their jewelry store.

We visited on a Saturday afternoon. Gilberto generously shared of his time explaining the meticulous design and production process of creating intricate filigree.

The process begins with the preparation of the fine silver wire needed to create the delicate shapes and detail of the filigree designs. First tiny pieces of silver are heated in a crucible and collected to create larger, oblong ingots from which the fine silver wire will be created.

The larger ingot is run through a cutting and shaping machine repeatedly to produce smaller and longer bars of silver. The bar is extruded over and over to create a finer and finer bar of silver.

When the bar is small enough to begin the process of becoming fine wire, it is pulled through a set of circular forms of decreasing circumference. The result is the finest, flexible silver wire used to bend into the curving shapes in filigree.

The extruded wire is now hand rolled with a wooden stick to smooth and refine the final wire for the design phase.

Once the wire is properly prepared a unique process begins. The wire is hand folded and crimped piece by piece in an incredibly demanding and time-consuming process. Gilberto’s father designed, engineered and built a tiny, hand-cranked machine to speed this process.

The result of this stage in the process is a uniformly crimped wire ready for shaping.

Each wire is individually bent, twirled and swirled for placement within the outline of the final object.

Then, again by hand and by eye, each coiled wire is hand-cut and hand-placed with the wire design outline.

Some designs require molded shapes that are poured with molten silver. Gilberto has designed his own molds for the workshop’s specific needs.

Silver filigree designs by the Jara family are prized and collected all over the world. It is amazing how the hands of these two artists in their tiny shop in Chordeleg, Ecuador have created such a body of work piece by piece and hand by hand.






4 Responses to “By Hand”

  1. Dede March 12, 2019 at 3:50 pm #

    Wow! Fascinating, beautiful and so well told both in words and great photos.

    • Jill and Dana March 12, 2019 at 4:03 pm #

      This was a great visit with a true craftsman. They have a number of pieces in museums all over the world. The woman we traveled there with for the visit with her wire-haired daschund, Harry, is a maker of contemporary silver jewelry. It was especially enjoyable to see Sara and Gilberto interact and share. You could see he loves to teach.

  2. Annuu March 12, 2019 at 3:30 pm #

    Wow, so amazing! Thank you for sharing this! Annuu

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