José Luis Barillas

When and how did the idea of the Maya Silver shop arise?

In 1979 we opened the silver shop. The idea arose because I was already dedicated to this business and I lost my job. Therefore I decided to become an entrepreneur and open my own jewelry store. I started here in this very same shop, the business was small and we have been growing little by little; and over time I had to hire more people to help me.

What is the process for jewelry making?

We receive the raw silver, that’s what it’s called when it has not been worked with. The first thing we do is melt it with a blowtorch, and so that the silver adheres well we mix it with copper – when the silver pieces have a lot of copper, they turn black – therefore we only mix in a little copper to avoid that. Once it is in a liquid state, we pour it into a mold to make a sheet and in the laminator we flatten it until it is the thickness we need. Then we draw the piece of jewelry that we would like to make, we cut it with a special saw for jewelry; if it takes several pieces, we begin to weld them together – giving them the final shape. After doing this, we began to sand and polish it – giving it shine; if it has any design work on it this is the time it is added. The whole process is done by hand, there are no machines used. With the exception of cera perdida (lost waxing), this process is to make more of the same pieces, like earrings. But the actual making of the jewelry, is almost purely done by hand.

What piece distinguishes the Maya Silver shop?

We have three pieces that distinguish us and can only be found in our jewelry shop. The chokers, which are necklaces worn tight around the neck; our quetzal earrings and our nativity scenes. The nativity scenes are made of all handmade crafted silver figurines.

How do you come up with the different designs of the pieces?

Sometimes we take an idea as a base point and modify it, but most of the time we invent them – in this case – we draw them and try to make the pieces, if all goes well we keep making them and modify them as we go.

How has the silversmith market changed, throughout the time you have been in business? 

It has changed a lot, before it was more traditional work. But now the clients have changed, they look for more work in plain silver, they want finer and more modern designs. And we have been adapting more to the fashion of the moment to be able to continue selling.

What has been your secret to be open to the public for so many years?

The quality of our work and customer service. These have helped us a lot because if something is not well done, I review it personally and have it done again. Then we always make sure that the work is perfect and this has assured us customers who recommend us and who always come back looking for us. Punctuality is another important services we offer, we always deliver the jewelry on the date and time we say it will be ready.

What makes you different from the rest of the silversmiths in La Antigua?

Our designs because they are unique and the very high quality of our jewels.


José Luis Barillas, owner of La Platería Maya —located on 7a. Calle Oriente #9 in La Antigua Guatemala — has 38 years of experience providing locals and tourists (both national and foreign) with beautiful and innovative silver jewelry.

Facebook: /PlateriaMayaGT/
Tel: 7832-2883

Written and photo by: Julissa Carillo   

Translated: Melissa Schroden

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