Barbara Antonini, 38 years old, loves spending time in nature, salsa music and the color turquoise. However, what she loves most is making handcrafted Peruvian jewelry. Read on to discover the story of this wonderful artisan.
I basically grew up in my mother’s jewelry shop from the age of 12. At that time, she had a gold and silver shop in my birthplace: Trieste, Italy. At a later age I worked as a seller in my mother’s shop on Saturdays. She once proposed to me that I run the silver corner in her shop. However, the jewelry we had in the shop did not speak to me, so I declined.
The truth is, I did not feel that type of jewelry had a soul. Jewels are supposed to have a special energy when you hold them. But these pieces were simply machine-made from China or Thailand. I always felt Peruvian silver would be a different story. And so, about 20 years later, I found myself in Peru. It was here where things changed. I started my own jewelry business and design my own model. To this day, I’m very thankful to the universe for this inspiration.
I love jewelry, because it is art; wearable art. You can have a painting on the wall at home, but then only people who visit your home will have the chance to admire it. Jewelry is different, because it’s directly visible for anyone you meet. Of all types of jewelry, I particularly like earrings. Because I believe earrings have the function of enhancing your listening capacity. If you want to hear all the good from the universe, it’s best you put some gold, silver or stones in your ears.
Creating Peruvian Jewelry
I mostly love to work with silver, natural stones and shells and I gather these materials in a shop in Cusco. The technique I use to handcraft Peruvian jewelry is called “incrustado incaico”. As far as I know, it is a technique that is unique to Cusco. It came to the Inca people of Cusco through the Moche people from the North of Peru. Apparently the Moche people were such skilled jewelers that the Inca brought them to Cusco to make jewelry for their king.
I start with handcrafting Peruvian Jewelry in a clean and ordered space. One silver foil is ready on the table and I keep another silver foil nearby. Scissors and others tools are within my reach, so I don’t need have to stand up from my working space. First, I cut shapes from the silver foil that will form the base, like crosses and flowers. After this I need to cut tiny pieces of silver, almost like lines, and weld these to the base I prepared before.
Once the base is complete, I can start cutting the stone or shell. I cut the big stones into smaller parts and then I make them really small, like 3 mm x 5 mm. Once the stones are cut, I insert them into their silver bases. They have to fit perfectly. This means they can’t have holes, can’t be broken and the color combination has to be perfect. So perfect in fact, that the unexperienced eye will think its enamel, but no, this is truly inlay. Then the final steps take place: I cover the jewelry with resin, which has to dry for 14 hours and finally I polish the jewelry.
Items with a Soul
I imagine my customers to be intelligent, appreciative and interested in mystic Peru. They search the truth and are interested in anthropology and ancient cultures. But most of all, they’re spiritual and respectful of our planet. With their help I hope to achieve a few of my goals for the next 5 years. I’d love to go to international artisan fairs in Europe, Canada and the USA, but I still have to figure out how to get there exactly! Furthermore, I’d love to have a workshop where customers can come by and learn more about Peruvian jewelry.
The days I don’t work I spend in nature. I love to cycle though the Sacred Valley of the Incas. But I must say, making Peruvian jewelry doesn’t feel like work to me. I think the most important thing of all is that you feel love for your job. After all, it’s not about making money, it’s about doing something you love. I truly believe people feel it when you make something with love. Because when you make something with love, the item obtains a soul.
Check out more of Barbara’s creations at her online marketplace on Discovered. We would love to hear what you think about her story and beautifully crafted Peruvian jewelry! Share your thoughts with us and use #idiscovered or tag us using @dscvrd on Instagram or @discovered on Facebook.