Necklace with seven grasshopper

A necklace made from tumbaga, a non-specific alloy of gold and copper. The piece is made up of seven grasshopper hanging equidistant along a necklace of long hollow beads. The insect at the centre of the piece is twice as large as the other ones. The attention to detail in the working of the insects is outstanding.

Although the Tairona are still today an important indigenous group in Colombia, their culture is as yet little known. In 1976 the Ciudad Perdida was found, which had been built by the Tairona in the year 800 and had been inhabited until 1600 AD. However, their use of materials in their culture is known and their working of gold was particularly of note. The Tairona people developed techniques like that of lost-wax casting, alloys like tumbaga, that allowed them to work with greater ease with gold, and treatments to improve the quality of this material, such as heating it until the copper oxidises and then plunging it into very cold water to obtain a permanent gold patina and to prevent cracking.

The working of metals appeared in Colombian regions towards the 6th Century BC when societies which had artisans skilled in working metals lived on the Pacific coast. During the two thousand years of development of metal working in Colombia, interrupted by the Spanish conquest in 1500 AD, a dozen different styles emerged, combining different techniques on diverse alloys and producing great quantities of exceptional quality. These were notable for their equilibrium and composition which give the Pre-Hispanic working of metals in Colombia an outstanding place in world art. The main themes seen are the human figure, animals, geometric forms and a combination of all of these.

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