Oaxacan silver filigree is famous the world-over. For hundreds of years, artisans from this fertile region in Mexico have been crafting take-your-breath-away jewelry in ornate, regionally specific designs. When you add agate, opal, mother-of-pearl, peridot—and even 20-centavo coins—into the mix, you get the ingeniousness of Oaxacan master jeweler Yesenia Yadira Salgado Téllez.
Born in 1987, Yesenia hails from an area celebrated for its meticulous metal jewelry art form, historically assigned to men. She is proud today to have her own workshop, which mostly employs female artisans of the highest caliber. Tools used to make these gorgeously understated items have remained the same for generations: hand-hewn pliers as well as fire-powered blowtorches are the tools of the trade, responsible for strikingly original pieces of wearable art. Learning about Yesenia’s process is an education in and of itself. Turkey feathers, for example, can be jewelry-making tools; the quills are used to roll thin segments of silver into shapes amenable for an assortment of ornamental fixtures.
Yesenia is a multigeneration jeweler, who learned the art form from her mother and father. Now, each member of Yesenia’s workshop makes his or her own pieces, from the start of the process to the end, including the melting of the silver, the making of wires, handcrafting the individual design elements, and if needed, the application of stones or other embellishments to complete the final design. Yesenia Yadira Salgado Téllez is a master of her craft, and moreover, an inspiration to future generations of female Oaxacan artisans.