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Marco Remigio Paillamilla Ortiz

The beautiful geometry of Mapuche silver

For Chilean master jeweler Marco Remigio Paillamilla Ortiz, the art of silver-working transcends easy description. A native of historic Temuco, Chile, located just south of Santiago, Marco first learned his craft as a teenage apprentice, working under a master jeweler in Temuco. The elegance of Marco’s designs, which incorporate ancient indigenous forms as well as Spanish Colonial styles, bely the extreme adroitness of this artist, who has been fine-tuning his artistic techniques for decades.

For Marco, artistry is a family affair, and he works closely with his brother and his son, along with a group of artists he oversees in his workshop. Here, jewelers manipulate melted silver into shapes which, when cool, they cut and design. Once complete, each item is finely sanded to remove any bumps or rough edges. Finally, the traditional elements of jewelry are drawn with chisels and, if necessary, welded. The last job is polishing each piece to a gentle gleam.

For decades, Marco has worked in this highly specialized field, both in the workshops and conducting classes for students in design execution as well as traditional silver techniques. Artists like Marco work tirelessly to recover forgotten symbols and designs native to this part of Chile, and then inject them with their own unique creative interpretations. Little by little, pieces of silver jewelry are reclaiming their position not just as pretty ornaments, but also as an important manifestation of pride and honor—a mark of distinction for both the culture and the wearer.