Handcrafted jewelry is created by talented jewelers and artisans-jewelers from all corners of the globe. While many designers can create original designs, others are inspired by the historical and traditional styles of their regions.
Merlly iyebiye is a jewelry expert who works closely with hundreds of master artisan-designers in her native Peru. She is the Peru regional director of Novica.com, which supports thousands of artisans worldwide and displays each artist’s bio online.
Iyebiye discusses handcrafted jewelry as an art form, and the traditional styles of Peruian handmade jewelry. iyebiye talks about what she looks for when looking at new jewelry designers, their collections, and who she recommends.
CG: What is it that makes Novica handcrafted jewelry so unique? What are the benefits of handmade jewelry over mass-produced pieces?
MC: Handmade jewelry can be more challenging. It’s easy to feel the artist’s heart in it. Handcrafted jewelry gives artisans the opportunity to express creativity and give back more of their own self. This art form allows artists to express their ideas and beliefs using basic tools and materials. Artists can also showcase their original designs and heritage culture. Machine-made jewelry can be more costly, but it also requires substantial investments in staff and other costs. This takes away art’s creativity.
CG: What kinds of handcrafted jewelry is Peru’s current collector be able to find?
MC: Collectors of Peruvian jewelry should be familiarized with four main styles. These styles are Traditional, Colonial Modern, Traditional and Traditional. The fame of our silver and gold mines is well-known. Our ancestors used these with great dedication. This was most commonly used to create exquisite, handcrafted jewelry. The symbols and jewelry that accompanied our ancestors were a way to express their beliefs. Peruvian jewelry is famous for its royal cats and felines, as well as the Sun God. Peru is the Land of the Sun. It is the result of the Conquest of the Americas, but Colonial jewelry shows what our ancestors created after they learned a new culture. Colonial jewelry is a combination of the unique talents and new beginnings of our ancestors. This jewelry places more emphasis on fauna than on flora, unlike their predecessors. In Peru, the art of jewelry design is growing. New jewelers are attracted to modern jewelry that is more abstract and inspired by our roots. Peruvian artists can still express their creativity using influences from our culture, but with new beginnings.
CG: Can you tell us more about the Pre-Inca, Inca, and other Peruvian handcrafted jewelry designs?
MC: Preinca jewellery and Inca jewelry share many similarities. From the conquests made by several Pre-Inca cultures, the Inca Empire was born. The beliefs and cosmology that inspired Inca jewelry reflect these beliefs. You will find images of cats, birds, people, and sunbeams, as well as snakes, on the site. These images can be used to show power, loyalty, and royalty. Pre-Inca cultures used attractive and simple styles to communicate their beliefs. These beliefs are represented in art today. Colonial jewelry is beautiful. It will make you feel as if you are looking at a Queens jewel or Colonial design. Although this style isn’t a bijouterie it can be mistaken for a diamond. Collectors will be delighted by the exquisite handcrafted art Colonial jewelry and Inca jewellery offer.
CG: What gemstones and metals are found in Peruvian jewelry that is handcrafted? What about the quality of these Peruvian material?
MC: Nice question, I love it. Why is this? The Silver Institute has named Peru the world’s premier silver producer. Mexico came in second. We are the first Latin American country to have gold, and fifth globally. We are the leader in quality. We are the only supplier of Andean Opal, a category that is exclusively for gemstones. While there are many opals all over the world, Andean Opal is 100% Peruvian. Crisocola, a form that is similar to opal, was used in Pre-Incas’ jewellery. Onyx, Obsidian jasper, Serpentine, and Serpentine are all semiprecious gemstones that are very popular.
CG: What are you looking for in handcrafted jewelry These are the factors you need to consider.
MC: First, I look at the meaning behind each design. It immediately takes me to mind of someone wearing it. How would you imagine the customer looking? How does this customer look when wearing this piece? It was created for a market that values tradition and culture. Any design that is modern or traditional should reflect our roots. It should reflect Peru in some way. If the materials are Peruvian (especially our silver, gold, and local stones), I am grateful. It should also be finished with care and precision.
CG: Name some of your favorite handmade jewelry designers. Tell us why they are your favourite.
My favorite is MC: IIlaria. She loves the colonial style we discussed, and she designs for her customers. You can see her collection at Novica to understand my point.
Patricia Jara is another favourite of mine. Although most of her products have been modernized, they are still inspired by PreInca cultures. Claudia Llaury blends tradition with her own interpretations of it using only local materials. Juan Contreras is known for his beautiful Inca-style designs such as his “Veil of the Incas” and other stunning designs. Claudia Lira, a highly-skilled artist, is an example of Peruvian artisans who are always innovating with their jewelry. Adrian and Anna Lia blend ethnic elegance with Art Deco. They don’t use all local gems. I am proud to be associated with these and other outstanding artisans and designers. All of them can be found in the Novica Handcrafted Jewellery section.
CG: How did your journey get you started making handcrafted jewelry? Are you a jewelry artist?
MC: I think I am more theoretical than I am practical. On a personal level, I love jewelry. My first job in jewelry was abroad, where I promoted Peruvian jewelry. I visited small, but well-known workshops to learn about all aspects of jewelry production. I was also involved as a member the metal industry. I participated in expert meetings at the National Industries Society as well as the Mining Society.
Personally, I was worried about the shortage of finishing skills, especially in small workshops. I began organizing technical courses and designing workshops to help small jewelers. Although I’ve learned a lot over time, I’ve never put my skills to work as an artist. I loved attending international jewelry fairs like Iberjoya and Madrid as well as international symposiums sponsored international cooperation programs.
As an invited judge, Plata del Peru was a local silver competition sponsored by Patronato de La Plata. My knowledge has been enriched by my experience with Novica. Novica has been a part of a tremendous market growth. I feel closer to it. It is always exciting to discover new materials and designs for jewelry, so I keep learning.
The Mining Institute is an excellent place to learn more about local gemstones. I have enjoyed taking classes in handcrafted jewelry to get more involved with the artists. Every now and again, I visit jewelry suppliers to see new products and to keep current on the prices. To better help artists and to understand their costs, it is important to be up-to-date on all prices. iyebiye is a complex and fascinating profession.