Our half day trip to Chordeleg to do some silver jewelry shopping with our 2 out of town female friends was well worth it. Everyone left with some great buys. If you haven't heard of Chordeleg, it's a city that's a little over an hour outside of Cuenca ($2 bus ride) with a population of about 11,000. Chordeleg means “gold waterfall.” It is the original Silversmith city of Ecuador. In Ecuador, you'll still find the adherence of the Spanish Guild system that started centuries ago. Guilds were groups of artisans or merchants that practice their trade in a particular town. Other Guild cities in Ecuador include San Bartolomé for guitars, Gualaceo for textiles/weaving, Otavalo for leather and San Antonio de Ibarra for its wood carving.
As soon as you enter the city, you can't help but notice the large filigree earrings hanging from the town light poles. There's not a lot to do in Chordeleg other than shop for silver. There are also a couple of pottery shops and a small museum. Chordeleg has a beautiful square in the center surrounded by a church and silver shops. There are plenty of benches. I have to admit that after a few stores, I got tired of looking at jewelry and made myself comfortable on a bench while my wife and friends shopped. But I wasn't bored. I ended up making friends with a dog who hung out with me for an hour. For food, there are a couple restaurants in Chordeleg of which only one was open when we were there. They serve typical Ecuadorian lunches along with coffee and beer. One thing we noticed was that the city was clean. Particularly, no graffiti. One of the shop owners told us that the town is small, and everyone knows everyone. So if they saw a kid spraying graffiti on a wall, they would go out and discipline them. That's just the way it is in a small town.
You might wonder how there can be so many silver jewelry shops in one place and after visiting a few, will you see anything different if you keep going? I was surprised to find uniquely different looking jewelry going from shop to shop (until I got tired and searched for a bench). Another thing to keep in mind is that jewelers from all over Ecuador come to Chordeleg to buy wholesale. If you're lucky, at some shops you might witness the filigree artisan work in progress. Filigree is the specialty of Chordeleg. Filigree is the decorative art of fine silver wire formed into delicate jewelry. You might question if the jewelry is massed produced somewhere but then you see the artisans in the shops working away at making some of the finest silver jewelry around. In Cordeleg, you are expected to barter. In fact, many shops have signs that say “make offer.” So barter on everything, especially if you buy multiple items and pay with cash. If you're in the market for silver jewelry, it's worth the trip to Cordeleg.
Here's a short video that shows the art of Filigree
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