ca. A.D. 1500
Obsidian, rock crystal, jade, and gold
h. 1.8 cm., diam. 3.7 cm. (11/16 x 1 7/16 in.)
Place made: Mexico / / Central Mexico
Gallery note: These amazing ornaments were fashioned by producing a pair of obsidian spools and then fitting them with polished quartz crystal cores drilled to hold two small jade rods with golden pins. Ear piercing and adornment is one of the oldest forms of human body modification and the reasons for its practice are as diverse as the cultures that practiced it, from simple personal expression to the need to display accomplishments gained through rights of passage, merit, or royal distinction. Objects of precious stone and metal like this stunning example were reserved exclusively for the paramount elite in most Mesoamerican societies. Royal children had their ears pierced in infancy and a peg was inserted to begin the process of expanding the ear lobe. As individuals proceeded through life, ear “spools” of greater size and quality were inserted. The preference for the unusual “spool” shape was that it allowed the wearer to open the lobe and slip it around the narrower middle to secure it in place. The owner of this pair must have been very rich lord or lady to be able to afford jewels made of quartz not to mention obsidian, jade, and gold of this quality. While rock crystal is common, it is hard to find pieces of suitable size and clarity. Cutting and shaping can be incredibly difficult and it must have taken the craftsperson that made these many weeks to produce.