In Peru, Mother of Pearl is called Nacar. The shells are collected and polished just as they are in other parts of the world, but the Artisan Jewelry in Peru is especially fascinating. Each piece is handcrafted with attention to detail, by artisans who have usually trained since they were very young. In Peru it’s much more common to find a completely handcrafted piece of jewelry, because traditional handicrafts are still an important part of the local culture. Whereas other countries have become so industrialized that virtually all jewelry is mass-produced in factories, Peru has maintained its old world charm and artisan markets. There you’ll find Peruvian Stone and Shell Jewelry, Gourd Jewelry and Huayruro Jewelry. The most exquisite designs are handcrafted from .950 sterling silver, like the Peruvian Nacar Pendant in the photo.
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Peruvian artisans continue to honor the traditions passed down through the generations with many interesting crafts. Some weave beautiful blankets, rugs, and tapestries with alpaca yarn. Others carve smooth bowls and sculptures from olive wood, or create beautifully modern jewelry designs that are influenced by longstanding cultural influences. Peruvian silversmiths often use .950 sterling, which has a higher pure silver content than most sterling silver. This gives their Artisan Jewelry a beautiful shine and luminosity. The Artisan Earrings on the model to the left are one example of the kinds of designs Peruvian artisans create. These Sterling Silver Flower Earrings are all silver, but other designs include pieces of carved gourd, huayruro seeds from the Amazon, stones like Peruvian turquoise and shells like spondylus. Some handcrafted pendants and earrings are even made with real butterfly wings.
One of the most impressive things about the Artisan Jewelry you’ll find in Peru is the precision and meticulous work that goes into each piece. This bracelet is made with pieces of mother of pearl, which is the part of a shell where pearls grow. Mother of pearl is commonly used in all kinds of jewelry, but not in the way it is used here. Each one of these pieces is polished and cut to fit perfectly inside the silver links of this Artisan Bracelet. I can’t imagine having the patience and skill to ensure that every shell is perfectly positioned and that the setting is perfectly constructed. I admire the master artisans who do this everyday. I always feel good knowing I am purchasing something from the person who made it, because this also ensures that they are always well-compensated for their work. This Mother of Pearl Bracelet is truly a work of art.
It’s easy to see where the 88 Butterfly gets its name – the perfect patterns on its wings are remarkable. Each butterfly has two 88 designs on the lower wings, and vibrant red hues on the upper wings. Peru is home to this species as well as over 3,700 other types of butterflies.
Peruvian artisans use the wings of naturally expired butterflies as the inspiration for many of their Artisan Jewelry designs. Butterfly Wing Jewelry is a popular art form among the master silversmiths of Peru, and the pieces that contain 88 Butterfly Wings may be some of the most interesting. This is because the wings are very small, and are usually placed together to form unique compositions within Artisan Necklaces and earrings. This Heart Butterfly Wing Pendant is an example of the way artisans take these natural resources and turn them into works of art. The wings in this piece are set in .950 sterling silver.
In Peru, Mother of Pearl is called Nacar. This lustrous white shell is often featured in artisan jewelry designs like this Mother of Pearl Silver Necklace. The shell is carved by hand to enhance its natural shine, and then attached to a .950 sterling silver finding. The chain itself is also handcrafted with woven sterling silver. Peruvian Jewelry designs often utilize the natural resources that are so abundant in Peru, and showcase the beauty of the country itself. Peruvian necklaces, bracelets and earrings feature stones and shells including Spondylus, Sodalite, Serpentine, and Obsidian.
Peruvians are very proud of their handicrafts, and in many areas, the textiles are remarkably beautiful. One interesting way artisans are using these textiles is by placing them inside jewelry, just like the butterfly wing in the Butterfly Wing Pendant to the left. I don’t have a photo of the textiles jewelry right now, but this butterfly wing is used in the same way. Most of these Peruvian jewelry pieces are sterling silver, with a thin glass set over the textile. The result is a unique accessory that also becomes a tiny display case. The colors that can be used in this kind of artisan jewelry are basically endless, and different shapes and sizes can be made to cater to any woman’s personal style. Artisan necklaces, earrings, and bracelets featuring textiles from different parts of Peru are now becoming popular in the markets of Lima.
The most interesting artisan jewelry you’ll find in the markets of Peru stays true to the Peruvian traditions that have been passed down for centuries. For example, the art of gourd carving started centuries ago when Peruvians used it as a way to record stories and important information. Today’s gourd artists honor this tradition while adapting it to modern taste, creating a variety of necklaces, bracelets and earrings that feature pieces of carved gourd. Native stones and shells such as spondylus have been used to create jewelry since ancient times, and once symbolized wealth and power. Now these beautiful natural materials are available to everyone in the form of modern sterling silver designs. The tradition of carrying Huayruro seeds for good luck is another practice that has existed for many years in Peru. Today, artisans create a vast selection of Huayruro seed jewelry like this Huayruro bracelet, along with keychains and other accessories.