Nestled in the hills of the Azuay province, Chordeleg is a hop, skip and a jump (or a short bus ride if you’d prefer) from Cuenca. If you decide a bus is the more efficient way to travel, they leave frequently from Cuenca’s Terminal Terrestre and the cost is less than $2. It takes about an hour to get there, but the scenery is great and time flies. Once in Chordeleg, the bus will drop you off a few blocks from the town square where all the Jewelry stores are located.
We went on a Saturday and were surprised by how few people were there. We really thought the shops would be crowded and it would be difficult to shop. On the contrary we found Chordeleg to be a very peaceful environment – no huge fume-spouting buses, and people wandering around slowly, seemingly without a care in the world. So if you aren’t in the market for jewelry, it is still a great place to spend the day, especially sitting in the town square people watching.
In the jewelry stores, you will find everything from traditional intricate filigree to contemporary designs in gold and silver. The early people of Ecuador were master metalworkers, and today jewelers still produce excellent silver, nickel, and brass jewelry by hand in Chordeleg. It has been a jewelry making center since before the Incas. Like many of the rural towns scattered across Ecuador, Chordeleg still adheres to the “guild system” inherited from Spain. Each community specializes in a particular craft with this small town’s craft being jewelry.
One of the things that really stands out about my visit to Chordeleg is how willing the artisans were to show us how the make their jewelry. In one of the shops we watched the proprietor make a piece of filigree that would eventually end up on a pair of earrings. The process was tedious and painstaking. He told us that it takes four to five days to complete one pair of earrings that will sell for $80-$100. It was amazing to watch.
In short, Chordeleg is a jewelry shopper’s paradise. If you are looking for a piece of jewelry, or several pieces for that matter, and you can’t find them in Cordeleg, they probably don’t exist. If that is the case, you can certainly find an artisan there that will hand make it for you. If you haven’t been to Chordeleg yet, you don’t have any idea what you are missing, but you are missing quite an experience. You will certainly find it is worth the trip.