Lissette Cortes Lade and Robert Kravitz
Where does the gold produced in Colombia come from and is exported to many regions in the world? There is a town whose economy depends exclusively on the extraction of the mineral. While the export for Colombia means 5600 million pesos (the equivalent of 18 million US dollars) annually, the commercialization of gold in the zones of origin represents a day of food and sustenance.
At seven hours from Bogota, in the south, in a valley that surrounds the central mountainous region, is San Jose de Ataco, where most of the Colombian gold is extracted from. In 2017 Colombia exported 41 ton of gold, making it one of the top 15 countries in the world that exports the mineral.
Which brings us to the story of filigree and the town of Mompox. This is a region of Colombia founded in 1540 and was at the center of a trading area between the Caribbean and Spain. It is known for the delicate art of filigree jewelry making. This is a jewelry technique of using fine filaments of gold or silver to create intricate exquisite patterns of animals, plants or abstract shapes that are then turned into earrings, necklaces and pendants.
Santa Barbara Church in Mompox
Centuries ago when the Spanish conquistadors were in this region, they mined for gold, most of which was sent to Spain.; however, they kept the gold stored in Mompox, to protect it from pirate invaders. The Spanish brought the metalsmithing skills of their jewelers to Mompox. This included filigree, which dated back to the Arabs centuries before. In Mompox the history of jewelry making has made it the center of filigree in the world. Artisans work with skill to form miniature patterns and use their creativity to form it in a myriad of shapes and forms.
At the time filigree it was mostly made of gold or silver, but at present gold is scarce and silver is used in its stead. The filigree of today dates back to colonial European times with Arab influence.
With filigree, the metal is worked with thin strands of gold or silver that are twisted and shaped into delicate shapes by skilled hands. Many of the pieces are passed in families from one generation to the other and displayed on images of saints during Holy Week in Colombia.
Not only do we believe you will find these filigree earrings exquisite and lovely, but you will find they are so different and unusual. While elegant women in parts of Europe and South America do wear filigree jewelry, it has received limited attention on American shores.
Our gold plated filigree jewelry from Yumajai is manufactured by artisans specialized in the technique. Because you don’t see it as often in the US expect everyone to ask you about it and where you purchased it.
Go here to see our Yumajai collection of handmade filigree earrings.
Here is a video of the manufacturing process of filigree.