Toledo is the heart and soul of Spain. This monumental ancient city is a captivating UNESCO World Heritage Site. Behind its daunting medieval walls, in a labyrinth of winding pedestrian streets, some of the most important historical landmarks in the country can be found. Magnificent old stone buildings and quiet cobblestone streets whisper the legacy of the past.
For centuries, Christians, Jews, and Muslims flourished in a "city of three cultures" and built a dazzling array of churches, convents, palaces, fortresses, synagogues, and mosques.
Toledo is known for its traditional crafts, including damascene metalwork, antique-inspired swords, and handmade marzipan (sweet almond candies). And yes, on this page I’ll mainly stick to the “damascene metalwork” part and its incredible process of making.
As said previously, last week and while looking for a present for my grandma’s birthday, I happened to find myself in Toledo, admiring the damascene art and asking everyone in the city about it. As a result, I decided to share with you in this page some information about the damascening, the famous art of Toledo!
Toledo is renowned for its damasquinados, or damascene handicrafts and costume jewelry. Damascening is the Moorish art of inlaying gold or silver threads into black steel in a decorative pattern. The skill is used to decorate plates, earrings, bracelets and large pendants.
When we talk about Damascene, we are talking about handcrafted jewels with designs composed of gold and silver embedded into metal such as steel. Toledo is known for its steel as well, but this is not the only city that keeps on making handcrafted damascene jewels, Kyoto in Japan, also has a history for it.
History says that probably the damascene was first practiced by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, but it developed into a high art thanks to the people in Damascus, before Christ, at least more than 2000 years ago. When the Moors conquered nearly the entire peninsula of what was then Spain, they brought Damascene art work with them introducing it into Spain and perhaps the catholic countries. Nowadays it seems like the Damascene art work has disappeared from the Middle East as there is no prominent maker located in that part of the globe. For centuries the art of damascene in Toledo passed from generation to generation within the same family, and traditional designs changed little over the years.
Shopping in Toledo has a special dimension since most visitors spend but a single day in the city, making the trip by car or bus from Madrid in less than two hours. However, if you’re looking for something special to buy while in Toledo even for two hours, then damascene is a present that will definitely be appreciated! Damascene is the ideal product to seduce the Toledo visitor. As a souvenir of a unique city, a damascened article is an almost predestined tourist purchase that will steal yours and your beloved people’s heart!
I guess you’re wondering where’s the best place to buy your damascene souvenirs… well, after a short research I did, here are the places recommended visiting while in Toledo!
The best place to buy your damascenes is no doubt the Damasquinados Suarez, who have been producing Damascene works since 1927. The showroom stocks a wide range of Damascene jewellery and other Damascene wares for sale. Their damascene designs range from the geometric Arabesque to the Renaissance look with bird and flower motifs. If you intend buying some Damascene on your Toledo holiday, it’s best to buy it from a reliable source.
At the same time, at Fabrica Bermejo damasquinado shop in Toledo, customers and passers-by can watch craftsmen use hammers and instruments as small as needles to create their designs or picturesque scenes. Last but not least, Artespana is one of 24 such shops throughout Spain carrying that name. Government-sponsored, they display and offer for sale handicrafts of the region. In Toledo, while some space is devoted to ceramics, armaments and lace embroidery, the emphasis is overwhelmingly on damascene ware.
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