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Edith Albarran Duque and Cesar Augusto Montes Rosales

Purépecha jewelry traditions

People of the Indigenous Purépecha group have been living in the lake-side town of Patzcuaro in central Michoacán, Mexico for generations. Unique among pre-Columbian cultures within the region, the Purépecha empire never fell to the Aztec Empire. Some scholars suggest that the presence of metal ore within their lands, and their superior capabilities in metallurgy, allowed them to make weapons to fight off invaders. Today, Purépecha artisans carry on their ancestors’ metalworking legacy. 

Edith Albarran Duque and Cesar Augusto Montes Rosales are dedicated to continuing this legacy into the future in the form of fine silver jewelry. “We always work as a team, side by side,” says Cesar. He casts and prepares silver for their work, and Edith creates filigree. One of their popular motifs involves fish, reflecting the importance of Lake Patzcuaro as a source of food and economic stability for surrounding communities. Cesar makes fish charms from silver, and Edith incorporates them into jewelry pieces including delicate nets made of silver rings. 

Another popular item in their repertoire is a traditional, rosary-like wedding necklace. Purépecha weddings are grand affairs involving grooms’ families, musicians, and guests parading to brides’ homes to give them gifts and exchange words of gratitude with their families. Traditional bridal gifts include a ceremonial necklace, which closely resembles a rosary, made up of symbolic elements representing wealth, faith, and fertility. The necklaces are adorned with red or black beads, made from coral or onyx, for protection from witchcraft and envy.

Cesar and Edith say, “It is very important to preserve this type of jewelry since it is one of a kind. The designs reflect the landscape, environment, and traditional beliefs. […] In Michoacan the tradition of jewelry has been disappearing. […] One of our interests is to be able to help revive the traditional jewelry work in the communities around Lake Patzcuaro.”