As I start another year working in Peru at the archaeological park known as Saqsaywaman, I realize it's been 10 years since I started my relationship with Peru. Not only have I made great friends at the Ministry of Culture and with the people who live on the active archaeological site. I've also formed relationships with amazing artisans who make unique Andean jewelry.
The artisan community of San Blas (up above the main square Plaza de Armas in Cusco) is chock full of talented artisans who may or may not have formal shops. Some work in the streets and some have transient booths at the weekly San Blas craft market. No matter where they display their beautiful work, they are dedicated to using their creativity to bring the Andean culture to life through stone, metal and leather.
This year the word spread fast in San Blas that I was back and was looking for unique pieces for my BeadItForwardStore.com website. People texted me, called me on What'sApp, and just found me wandering around San Blas. And, given that sales of jewelry help me fund my project in Peru, it was great to have so many artisans offer me their best pieces at great prices!
And, much to my surprise, several of the artists had a new stone that I'd never seen before.
My eyes were immediately drawn to pieces in Claudio's store that were made of this amazing blue stone that I found out was called Sky Onyx. I've never seen this stone before and I was struck by it's ability to look brilliant, translucent sky blue, then in other lighting almost green. Claudio only had three necklaces made with this stone and I bought them all. And, when I put them up on my website, they were gone within days.
I was back in San Blas within a couple days and scoured the stores and my street vendors blankets looking for more of this stone. I found a few more made into necklaces. And I found some raw stones that I'm having fabricated into beautiful necklaces that I hope to have up by next week.
There are still a couple of Sky Onyx pieces on my site. But stay tuned as I found these two raw stones (above) and am having them turned into pendants like the above examples. I'll keep looking for more Sky Onxy and will send out info as I find new jewelry with this unique stone.
Sky Onxy isn't the only really unique material I've found in this January's collection. The Inca valued the Spondylus shell more than gold. They had tons of gold. Finding this unique shell on the coast of Peru was hard and then it had to be transported hundreds of miles to the mountain capital of Cusco to be turned into jewelry for the Sapa Inca (the king.) The most common color for Spondylus is orange.
Spondylus shell does come in a purple color, but it is rare. Finding jewelry the Inca made of purple spondylus is almost impossible. And finding it in today's jewelry is even more rare. Years ago I found a ring with purple spondylus shell in it. I now know how rare my ring is. I'll keep looking for this amazing substance in jewelry and I certainly will snap it up and put it on my site if I do find it in purple.
Finally, I wanted to illuminate you all about the various types of "silver" that is used in jewelry here in Peru. Of course there is "Sterling Silver", which I don't tend to buy a lot of because it's pricey. The other option, that most of what I have on my site is made of, is called "Alpaca Silver."
Alpaca Silver is a metal alloy of copper & nickel most often here in Peru. The metal looks very much like sterling silver and it doesn't not tarnish or turn your finger green. Alpaca silver is less expensive than sterling silver, which makes jewelry made with this metal way more affordable. Additionally, it is very malleable allowing artisans to make the intricate wire work designs that are featured on so many of the pieces on my bead site. And, it's durable so once the designs are made, they hold their shape indefinitely.
Thanks to you all for reading and helping me fund my project here in Peru by buying these amazing artisan pieces of jewelry. Help me spread the news about these great necklaces, bracelets and rings by sharing this blog with your friends. And, stay tuned. New pieces coming along every day or so. And, this weekend, I'm going to this amazing stone and bead market at the ancient site of Ollantaytambo.
And, if you've read this far, you get to use the coupon code at checkout of 20OFF2020 for a 20% discount. All purchases will be shipped as soon as I return to the US on February 9th so you have your purchases in time for Valentine's day.
Check out the Store Tab for pieces that are still available.
Much love to you all! Maren
Maren Elwood is a Visual Anthropologist who studies cultures with her camera...and collects beads on her travels to share with you.