My Guatemalan Trip–I Learn To Make A “Princesa” Beaded Necklace

fair trade jewelry, Mayan beading, Guatemalan beaded jewelry

Princesa jewelry, available in a variety of colors.

The best-selling product in my store also happens to be my personal favorite, the “Princesa” line of hand-beaded necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.  So I was thrilled to visit the wonderful group of women who make this and a number of other stunning pieces of jewelry during my trip to Guatemala last month.

Given the complexity of the designs for the Princesa line, I wasn’t surprised to find out that it takes two hours to make one necklace and 3 ½ hours to create a bracelet.  It requires meticulous attention to detail and nimble hands.

I discovered I had neither.  The video below shows three people, including master beader Michaela, patiently trying to teach me to make a necklace, a task at which I failed miserably! 

The driving force behind this artisan group is Giovanna Mantilla, the founder of aMano Fair Trade.  She works with the women to create new and contemporary designs incorporating semi-precious stone chips with premium quality Czech beads.

fair trade jewelry, Mayan beading, Guatemalan jewelry

Princesa bracelets start with a bed of seed beads on which semi-precious stones and Czech beads are sewn.

Giovanna not only brings a keen design sense to the artisans, she also teaches the women about proper record-keeping and other basic accounting and business skills.  Aside from expanding their business knowledge, it helps the artisans see the value of their time and skill.

aMano pays the women 1.5-2 times the average wage rate in Guatemala and has a goal to increase that rate even more.  The women receive half their wages when they pick up the beads used to make the jewelry and the other half when they complete the work.  This keeps their cash flow on an even keel so there’s no gap in their income.

fair trade jewelry, Mayan artisans, guatemalan children

No shy ones here! Children of aMano co-op artisans.

Child labor is never used to produce their products. Beyond this, in an effort to minimize any need for the children to work, Giovanna’s company pays for school for the children of seven of their artisans. (School is not free in Guatemala.)

Goddess Necklace

Goddess Necklace

Twice a year, during Giovanna’s visits to Guatemala, she funds a food drive to feed local families in need.  Donations come from friends, customers, and part of the company’s profits.  On her most recent trip in September, aMano gave one week’s worth of food to 100 families!

I dare you not to smile while you’re watching this brief video!

In addition to the Princesa jewelry, the aMano artisan group also makes other jewelry available at Fair Trade Designs:  the Goddess necklace shown above, the Woven Beads necklaces and the Lustroso roll-on bracelets.

fair trade jewelry, beaded jewelry, Guatemalan jewelry

Woven Beads Necklace

fair trade jewelry, Mayan beaded jewelry, roll-on bracelets

Lustroso roll-on bracelets


2 comments on “My Guatemalan Trip–I Learn To Make A “Princesa” Beaded Necklace

  1. Great piece, Stephanie! A very happy group! It must be so gratifying for you to visit them and then carry their beautiful jewelry in Fair Trade Designs! With gratitude for the way you use your gifts to bring justice to the world! Claudia


  2. […] This was the genesis of her business, aMano Fair Trade. (For the story of the Guatemalan artisans Giovanna works with, see my blog, “My Guatemalan Trip: I learn to make a Princesa beaded necklace.”) […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: