Nestled deep in the Quirimbas’s Archipelago of Northern Mozambique lies the enchanting settlement that is called Ibo Island. For hundreds of years silversmiths have been crafting exquisitely detailed silver jewelry by hand. This skill came from the craftsmen of Goa who settled on the island in the late 1700’s. At the time Ibo was a bustling trading post and port supporting the Portugues on their trade route to India. It became an important trade center for over 200 years, but was later abandoned as the province’s capital in favor of Pemba.
If you are lucky enough to visit the island and explore its ruins and ancient buildings, walk down the promenade to the star shaped fort. It was the first fort to be built on Ibo Island. The Fort of Sao Joao Batista (St. John Baptist) was built in 1791 and was built atop earlier fortifications that date back to the times of the occupation by the Sultans of Oman. This fort specifically, and Ibo Island were a major conduit for large numbers of slaves to Madagascar and for the French sugar plantations on Mauritius and beyond.
Inside this fort silversmiths keep alive century old traditions and forge by fire, unique and beautifully crafted silver jewelry. Their designs inspired by local events and the sea have become synonymous with the islands culture and history. You can spend hours seeing goatskin bellows smelt old coins in the charcoal fire. Then see the metal drawn out into thin wire and crafted into masterpieces of jewelry by the local artists.