Thursday, April 14th, 2011
Silversmithing has been a craft in the Americas since long before Pizarro, Cortes and the Conquistadores stumped the Aztecs in the 1520s. It was silver, and not gold, that financed the Spanish Empire, after all. And the name Argentina is derived from the latin word for silver.
Silver mining in Argentina is growing to this day, with new mines opening each year. On target for a 2012 launch is the Cerro Negro gold and silver mine in that wide-open province of commercial exploitation, Santa Cruz.
The history of Latin American silver is almost entirely caught up in exportation. But when any silver stays put, artisans from Tijuana to Ushuaia have been quick to make their mark, developing unique styles.
You can find supremely talented silversmiths in most of the markets in Argentina, many of whom follow the ‘criolla’ style. Criolla refers to anything that is considered ‘bien argentino’ – a deep mixture of Native and European roots. Criolla silversmithing include typical designs like the cross-like guarda pampa or baroque floral detailing. It’s seen on items like jewelry boxes, mates, dinnerware, and even on fabricworks like sashes and leatherworks like belts.
A local Patagonian artisan working in traditional silver styles is Emiliano Celiz, whose workshop is in San Martin de los Andes. His mate bombillas are treasures. Often, our guests and friends want to purchase hand-carved knife sets to take back as souvenirs. Emiliano’s have ebony, antler, and native wood for handles.
Visit his website here: http://www.platacriolla.com.ar/ing.htm