Veraguas/Chiriquí culture, Panama Pendant

Veraguas/Chiriquí culture 

Panama Pendant, c. 8th – early 16th century 

cast gold Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Alfred M. Tozzer, 1945 (306.1)

The majority of gold objects from ancient Latin America are wearable ornaments— headdresses, pendants, ear and nose ornaments—but diverse in style and iconography from region to region. Represented here are objects from Mesoamerica (present-day Nicaragua/Costa Rica/Panama) and Colombia in northern South America. Though generally small in size, the forms are often ornate and detailed. Artists created them using the lost-wax method, in which the initial form is modeled in wax and then surrounded by a ceramic mold into which molten metal is poured, causing the wax to melt and be replaced by metal. After the mold was broken away, finishing involved hammering and chasing, cleaning and polishing. Artists used an alloy of gold and copper which was termed tumbaga by the Spanish. Tumbaga has a significantly lower melting point than gold or copper alone, is harder than copper, but remains malleable. In a process referred to as depletion gilding, artists could treat tumbaga with citric acid from fruit to dissolve copper from the surface, leaving a brighter, shiny layer of nearly pure gold on top of the harder, more durable coppergold alloy below.