Exceptional handcrafted jewelry is designed and hand crafted by talented jewelers and artisan-jewelers the world over. While many designers create entirely unique designs, others are deeply affected by their region’s historic cultural plus traditional styles.
Jewelry expert Merlly Calisto works closely with countless master artisan-designers in her homeland, Peru. There, she serves as local director of Novica. com, a world arts website that assists thousands of artisans worldwide and features each artist’s biography and handcrafted collection online.
In the following interview, Calisto discusses handcrafted jewelry as an talent, and traditional styles and materials of handmade jewelry in Peru. Calisto explains what she looks for when seeking new jewelry designers and collections, who she suggests, and how she became a jewellery expert.
CG: Why does Novica focus on handcrafted jewelry, instead of machine-made jewellery? What advantages does handmade jewellery provide over mass-produced designs?
MC: Handcrafted jewelry is more challenging. You are able to feel the artist’s soul in it. For artisans, handcrafted jewelry provides the opportunity to explore your creativity, to give more of yourself and to make it true, without having requiring the artist to invest thousands to get his or her idea developed. Along with simple tools, basic raw materials, and talented hands, artists can communicate their feelings and beliefs in this art form, and show off their unique styles and their inherited culture. Machine-made jewelry, on the other hand, requires a significant investment in machines, employees, and many other related costs, while it removes the creative essence from this art.
CG: What are the typical styles of handcrafted jewelry a collector will find in Peru nowadays?
MC: The typical styles for enthusiasts of Peruvian jewelry include Pre-Inca, Traditional, Colonial, and even Modern. We have been recognized for our gold and silver mines, which usually our ancestors put to use with significant dedication. The most popular use was for that creation of exquisite, carefully handcrafted jewelry. Our ancestors captured their own beliefs in their jewelry, and the symbols associated with those beliefs. You will commonly find Peruvian jewelry featuring regal birds, felines, the Sun God, and so on. Peru is the Land of the Sun. Our Colonial jewelry, despite of being the result of the Conquest of the Americas, shows what our ancestors started to create after they learned an entirely new culture. So our Colonial jewellery merges our ancestor’s unique skills with new beginnings, and usually features a heavier emphasis on flora, as opposed to the emphasis on fauna that their predecessors maintained. Nowadays the art of jewelry design is opening up further in Peru, becoming a more attractive field for new jewelers who prefer modern jewelry — inspired by our roots, but featuring more abstract shapes plus ideas. This means that the Peruvian performer may still express himself in a way that is inspired by our culture, yet merged again with new origins.
CG: Can you describe more of the details one can expect to enjoy in Pre-Inca, Inca, and other Peruvian handcrafted jewellery designs?
MC: Pre-Inca and Inca jewelry share similarities, because the Inca Empire resulted from the conquest of various Pre-Inca cultures. Inca jewelry expresses the Inca’s beliefs and cosmology. You will find images of felines, people, or birds decorated with snakes or sunbeams which express royals, power and loyalty. Some of the Pre-Inca cultures used a simple, appealing style to express their beliefs, most of those are still commonly represented within artistry today, and not only in jewelry. Colonial style jewelry is considered an elegant style. A Colonial treasure design, or a Modern jewelry style inspired by colonial times, offers you the sense of seeing something designed for the Queen.
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Although we all do not use diamonds, for example , you are unable to confuse this style with a bijouterie — you will feel it as being a jewel. Colonial jewelry and Inca-style jewelry are typically stunning handmade works of art, perfect for collectors.
CG: What gemstones and metals are mined in Peru, and commonly found in handcrafted Peruvian jewelry? What about the quality level of those same Peruvian materials?
MC: Nice question, I love it. Did you know why? The Silver Institute offers named Peru as the first entire world silver producer — yes! — followed by Mexico. Regarding gold, we are the first in Latin America, and the fifth in the world. About quality, we are considered one of the best. Regarding gemstones, we now have a special stone, the Andean Opal. There is a lot of opal around the world, but Andean Opal is purely Peruvian. From this stone we have Crisocola, which was used by Pre-Incas in their jewelry. Various other popular semiprecious stones are Sodalite, Onyx, Obsidian, Jasper, Serpentine, Angelite.