Traveling around the world to get inspiration for a new jewelry collection brings me into the Amazonas region in Ecuador. Here you can find all the material you want to make fantastic jewelry. All cultures have their own design and way of making beautiful jewelry, but the women in the Amazonas discovered very beautiful, very eco-friendly material to make gorgeous pieces.
You have to travel quite a long time to find all those beautiful pieces of jewelry. Starting with a bus ride of several hours while the rain is finding its way into the bus. All right I know that the Amazonas consists of rainforest, but still… Then we arrive in Tena, had lunch and took a taxi for about 30 kilometers, then a boat ride of 15 minutes through some rapids and finally, we arrived in Liana Lodge, where the search started.
After I explained the guide what I was looking for he brought us to the opposite side of the large river, where we had to walk through enormous mud pools to get to a large wooden house of a Kitchwa family. The Kitchwa people are the original inhabitants of this area and in some parts of the country they still ‘survive’. On the island where we were, there live about 10 Kitchwa families of 8-9 people each and they live from their grounds (cacao, banana’s and corn) and they try to sell their jewelry to the few foreign people that visit them.
In the Kitchwa house, the lady showed me the jewelry she had made the other day. It was not that special, looking at the design. It was rather simple. But then I had a look at the material she used to make the necklaces and earrings she was selling. And that was very interesting and beautiful.
The Kitchwa people don’t have the money to buy themselves precious metals or gemstones to make pieces of jewelry, so they make necklaces etc. from the material they find in their surroundings.
For instance, you have chocho. That is a type of grain, which you have to put into the water for 8 hours, then cook it and use it in a meal. But these women dry the chocho, dye it in a beautiful red color and use it as a bead. This tradition comes from the Incas, the Aztecs, the Quichua and all the other tribal cultures that lived in the Amazonas.
But it is not only chocho they use, also palmito, what is the nut or fruit of a tree, that is hard enough to use as a bead in a piece of jewelry. Or the fruit of a walking tree. The walking tree lives in the rainforest and the trees like to have light. And sunlight is not everywhere available in the jungle. So when they don’t have enough sunlight on the spot where the tree lives, there will be a new root at the base of the tree and that root grows towards the light and the whole tree is following. And that walking tree has beautiful brown nuts, that can be dyed and used as beads for jewelry.
And that is not all they use. You have little plates made from a coconut. Or tagua, acacia, achira, bombona, cabalonga, cerebrito, chocho rojo, coco corozo, haboncillo, huayuro, Job’s tears, matirirou, pambil, palmito and visola or acai berries. All these plants have nuts or roots that is used for making jewelry.
Especially tagua is very very beautiful. It is called the vegetable ivory and I don’t mean the ivory of the tusk of an elephant, but a nut that is dyed and polished. And you can carve it to make pendants. And they use little bright colored feathers to make head ware or earrings.
I went to Ecuador to get inspiration for a new collection. FlorenceJewelshop does not use (normally) seeds and nuts and fruits or feathers to make pieces of jewelry off. But I could not help myself to buy some seeds to see what I can do with it. So keep an eye on my website www.florencejewelshop.com.
Of course, there is some jewelry I can present to you, reminding me of this great time in the jungle with the Kitchwa people and their extraordinary jewelry. These earrings are made of feathers of a bird that lives in the Netherlands (and not in Ecuador), but it reminds me a lot of the jewelry people made in the Amazonas. So have a look when you want to know more about it.
The stories of my jewel adventures in Ecuador are not finished yet, so stay tuned. And when you want a ‘sign’ when a new blog is published, send me your address and I will keep you informed.
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