Peruvian artisan Lider Rivera Matos, a lifelong citizen of Lima, Peru, makes jewelry and home goods using a material you might not be familiar with: cow horn. Merging ancient tradition with new techniques and contemporary designs, Matos’ instantly recognizable style is rivaled only by the uniqueness of his material.
Matos’ works are sustainable, since he gathers his material exclusively from local butchers and slaughterhouses. In this way, an otherwise discarded natural resource is treated with significant care and respect. Studying originally under a master horn artisan, Matos learned how to mold and shape this seemingly crude, inflexible material. The ability to forge the delicate and remarkable fine jewelry you see today didn’t happen overnight, in fact, it was the result of a twenty-five year apprenticeship. He uses an assortment of tools to carve the horn. After this is accomplished, other artisans incorporate sterling silver, gold vermeil, and other materials, depending on the desired product. Precious metals are regional, derived from San Geronimo, Huancayo a town known for its silver mines in the central highlands of Peru.
For hundreds of years, horn was traditionally used in Peru because of its availability, durability, and beauty, and had broad applications from musical instruments to elaborately configured, decorative hair combs. Working with horn is a complicated, laborious—not to mention messy—process that cannot be modernized. With the introduction of synthetic materials such as bakelite, plastic, and others, horn became a less desirable commodity to work with. Thanks to the dedication of artisans like Matos, this remarkable and unusual art form perseveres.