The Be-Jeweled Aztec
I guess one man’s barbarism is another man’s fashion. What
difference if you pierce an ear or a belly button to put a
trinket in, or if you pierce your lower lip for the same purpose?
We call them savages…what do they call us?
Let’s go back to the Aztecs of yore…from the gleaning to the
smelting and molding and wearing of jewels. We’ll start with a
typical day. The alarm goes off in the jungle. It’s six a.m. as
the cock crows. Time to go to work. To the river, where the
Indians mined gold with their fingers, picking small nuggets up
in the sand and river beds. As to how they stored their findings
till it was time to tote the stuff on home…it was done one of
two ways. Either they found hollow reeds in which to place their
findings, or they stuffed the nuggets in their mouths…a
convenient holding place for the precious stuff.
Melting and smelting was done in crude crucibles hung over a
fire, stoked to high ambient temperatures with the use of a cane
blowpipe. How many of you out there thought that cane blowpipes
were only used for shooting poisonous darts? Hmmm?
While the gold was being prepared, at the other end of the
village the native lapidaries were busy drilling and forming and
cutting crystals and turquoise and malachite. The methods were
not quite up to today’s technological standards…but they worked
well. Let us say you wanted to form a stone…cut a piece off in
order to put in a piece of jewelry for your emperor to wear
before going into battle? How to saw the stone, one might well
ask. Simple folks. You take a piece of rawhide string, dip it in
water and then sand. The sand sticks to the moistened rawhide,
acts as an abrasive, or a saw, and as the rawhide string is then
run up and down the gemstone, it gently saws it in half.
But how to mount the stone now into the gold you’ve smelted.
Solder was not yet invented. Simple my friends. You use Copal
Pitch. Copal, for those extremely few out there who don’t know,
is a sappy resin found on trees of the area. Very sticky
So now you’ve formed your gold, glued the precious gems you’ve
worked such long and arduous hours on, created some magnificent
pieces, not unlike those beautiful pieces created by Tyler-Adam
Corp. so many years later, and you’re ready to offer them to your
emperor. So what will it be? Earrings perhaps? A bracelet? A
ring? Well…yes…if you like the mundane. But for those of you
who are a bit more esthetic as well as esoteric minded, for those
of you we will create something special for our emperor.
Custom was, in them thar days, that the emperor went off to
battle wearing a lot of stuff. Jeweled sandals perhaps. Some
bracelets and necklaces. Some monstrous stone plugs, made out of
turquoise perhaps, to stick into his ears, allowing the ends to
jut out a tad. And then, as an adjunct, perhaps some long but not
too long, cylindrical pieces of malachite to shove up his
nostrils and allowed to also jut out a tad. I imagine this was to
prevent boogers from falling out when meeting heads of state from
the opposing armies. Who knows? Who understands? Not I my
friends. Not I. Of course, no ensemble is complete without your
fancy labret. A labret is an ornament worn in your lip which has
been pierced for that very purpose. So our emperor slips the
labret in place, a heavy heavy ornament, inlaid with gemstones of
choice, so heavy in fact, that it drags his lower lip down down
down, till his lower teeth, inlaid with jade and other fancy
stones, are bared for all to see. To round the picture off, our
emperor might also have a piece of jade, set in gold, fixed on
his chin. Don’t ask me how. And a piece of crystal, placed on his
face–they don’t say exactly where–with a bright blue feather
inserted into the crystal in order to give it color to what
might otherwise appear, to the unpracticed eye, as mundane
ornamentation…a tag our emperor did not want bandied about the
neighborhood. And there it was. A magnificent spectacle of
ornamentation. Jewelry display at its finest. Clearly, nothing as
drab as what we have today. No?
And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
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