Carmen and Elena Santamaría: The last goldsmiths

Sometimes life takes many turns. Vincent Santamariawho was a republican and a friend of the famous writer Vicente Blasco Ibanez, he worked above all for the Church; and his granddaughter Carmen, who declares himself a juancarlista, is a goldsmith for partygoers but hardly receives any demands related to the ancient institution. she and her sister Elena are the fourth and latest generation of Santamaría Orfebres, a Valencian firm founded by their great-grandfather, also Vincent, in 1870, when nobody could imagine that 152 years later the Bourbons would be reigning in Spain. And it is that, at that time, the Glorious revolution had just expelled from the throne Isabel II.

The company was born as a goldsmith’s workshop dedicated initially to supplying products to sculptors who carried out commissions for the Church, such as crowns, glows or lanterns for litters. He also did commissions for aristocrats and upper bourgeoisie. Over the years, this part of the business has become somewhat residual. First, the regional costumes of the Valencian Community gained weight, such as the fallera, with combs, dressings or necklaces. Then tiaras and crowns for brides were incorporated and now Carmen Y Elena They have incorporated a new brand -Heritage Collection- dedicated to women, with earrings or brooches for the street in silver or brass, with semi-precious gems and Swarovski crystal. “It’s not jewelry,” says the first.


The workshop is fully artisan and only the two sisters – 60 years old (Carmen) and 56 (Elena)- along with a lifelong employee. The store is in the workshop itself, but despite being a century and a half old, the company fully participates in modernity: sell online -“they look for us a lot on Instagram”- and has clients throughout Spain but also in Europe.

The two sister’s Santa Maria they have sucked the job of goldsmith from the cradle. Carmen He remembers himself at the age of 15 lending a hand to his father in the workshop. Then, each one at the same time as her, they concluded their five-year studies at the School of Arts and Crafts in Valencia. And since then they have not stopped, although surrounded by a certain suspicion for being women in an activity dominated by men: “There are people who doubt that we are the authors of our products. They do not believe that we take the hammer with force, although chiselling is a very fine job. At first, when a customer came into the shop or workshop, we were asked for the boss to come out.”

The goldsmithing that the sisters produce Santa Maria requires a great dedication: almost from sunrise to sunset. From 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. with two hours for lunch. Carmen is married to an INE official and Elena with a biologist. Both have two grown children who have not followed in the footsteps of their parents, so the century-old company has an expiration date, at least as a family entity. And how do they reconcile? The eldest of the sisters, now a grandmother, admits that the husbands help and “we have staff at home.” “The man has to help”, she concludes before defining herself as someone who is not “a crazy feminist”.

With the same sincerity, he rejects politicians, “because they are not there for ideology, but to maintain power and for money. They should be there to defend some ideas and respect the contrary.” As has been said, she is a defender of King Juan Carlos I “despite her blunders and what she has done.” She says that her sister Elena “She is quieter, but she thinks like me.”


Flesh and Bone. The two place sport among their ‘hobbies’. Although with differences. Elena he opts for ‘jogging’ and cycling. Carmen for yoga and, when I was younger, for dancing -Spanish, jazz, dance…-. He went to an academy and came to participate in an event organized by the latter at the Teatro Principal de València.

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Both are good readers, although with disparate taste. If the older one is interested in history books, especially that of Egypt, the younger opts for the ‘best sellers’ such as The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. The first is a reader through her ‘ibook’, the second prefers paper.

They are also very fond of travelling, although on few occasions they have been able to travel at the same time because “due to work we cannot do things together. One of the two has to stay in charge of the business”. And hit the hammer hard.

The difficult times of the pandemic

The situation has now normalized, but in Santamaría Orfebres “we have had a bad time” during the covid pandemic that paralyzed economic activity and, in particular, put a lock on all public celebrations in this country so prone to parties. There were no Fallas, no Fogueres, no Magdalena, to name the most renowned in the Valencian Community, but neither were there others in the rest of Spain that gave Santamaría Orfebres work. Bill Carmen that “we opened the workshop out of illusion, but without work”. Now, everything has changed.

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