Jewelry Making + Shopping at Treasures of Panama

Jewelry Making + Shopping at Treasures of Panama

I don’t buy much jewelry. And most of the jewelry I do buy is cheap costume jewelry. However, I do own a few pieces of jewelry that mean the world to me: a gold and jade ring, a turquoise and gold bangle, and a black sapphire bracelet I bought at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul to name a few. Apart from these, the piece that’s absolutely priceless to me other than my wedding band is an 18K gold necklace my mom gave me when I was nine-years-old; coincidentally, the necklace features nine hearts. My mom got it when we lived in Panama, and I used to wear it just about everyday when I was young. I’m wearing it now as I write this post.

Pictured wearing my beloved heart necklace
Pictured wearing my beloved heart necklace

While planning our return trip to Panama last fall, my mom made it clear that she wanted to carve out time in our itinerary to do some jewelry shopping in Panama City. She used to have a whole jewelry box full of necklaces, bracelets and earrings of all sorts of unique pieces she bought in Panama – mostly gold. I think she lost some of her pieces during several moves she and my dad made since our move back from Panama. So when I found out about Treasures of Panama by Reprosa while researching our trip, I knew that a visit there would be right up her alley.

Before the Spanish arrived in Panama, an abundance of gold was available in the country. Both gold and silver were sacred to indigenous tribes who believed gold was the sweat of the sun while silver was the tears of the moon. In an effort to preserve Panama’s pre-Columbian indigenous artifacts and Spanish colonial coins excavated from archaeological sites, Treasures of Panama specializes in making exact reproductions, and they work closely with Panama’s native tribes and rural artisans to expand their product line.  So whether you’re looking for baskets and masks from Panama’s Darién province to accessorize your home or the beautiful embroidered molas popularized by the Guna Yala, you can find a wide variety of beautifully unique products at Treasures of Panama – not to mention, lots of beautiful jewelry.

Mola | Source
Mola | Photo by Brian Gratwicke, Flickr Creative Commons

I arranged for my family to take a guided Treasures of Panama Experience tour of the company’s workshop located in the Industrial Park of Costa del Este. Upon arriving, we were seated in the workshop’s video room where we were greeted with a cup of fresh guava juice. After watching a short documentary highlighting Panama’s rich biodiversity, much of which was the inspiration behind indigenous productions, our guide led us to various exhibits and stations throughout the workshop where she explained how Treasures of Panama’s metallic products are made by using the same methods that Panama’s native tribes used before the Spanish arrived.

During our tour, we learned about the “lost wax process” which, in a nutshell, entails duplicating metal sculptures by casting/molding them from an original sculpture.

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Our guide explaining the lost wax process which entails creating a mold, an extremely hot kiln, torching, cleaning, and much more. Click here for a step-by-step explanation of the lost wax process.
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Several pendants are created at one time, after which, they have to be blasted with sand to smooth them out.
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I gave sandblasting a try by sticking my hands in the gloves through the box behind me and I sprayed the metal figurines with lots of sand until they were relatively smooth. Now, I am. A Master. Blaster. Ohhhh yeahhhh!!
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After sanding, the metals go into these tumblers for more cleaning and smoothing.
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(l) I believe this guy is making a mold; (r) During casting, the material in the sprue hardens and needs to be removed from the finished part.
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The goldsmithing station
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A goldsmith showing us his finished gold plated product

It was so insightful to see exactly what goes into the reproduction process and to learn just how much effort goes into making such unique pieces of jewelry and other metallic products.

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An exhibit showing natives using the lost wax process way back in the day

Of course, the tour ended in Treasure of Panama’s boutique where we were free to buy souvenirs and jewelry. My parents and my brother bought matching silver necklaces with a Spanish coin pendant. My dad encouraged me to buy one too so that we could all match, but the necklaces aren’t at all my style. My mom also bought an onyx and sterling silver pendant and earrings.

Shopping time!
Shopping time!

Meanwhile I busied myself trying on necklaces in an adjoining display room where I eventually (happily) settled for a beautiful gold necklace featuring delicate gold plated orchids.

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I have yet to wear my necklace…maybe on our next date night.

*Our tour at Treasures of Panama cost $10/person (free for kids 12 and under). For full tour details including days and times, click here

PINNABLE

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Are you into jewelry? Does Treasures of Panama look like a stop you’d like to add to your itinerary when visiting Panama City?

  • I would love to take such a tour, I would be willing to pay extra if they let me make my own piece. The necklace you picked is really pretty, you have great taste.

    • Thanks, Rachael. I agree that it would be so cool to be able to make your own pieces. They should consider incorporating that into their tours – I’d pay to do it too! Great idea!

  • Kemkem

    I’m not a huge fan of jewelry, or rather l should say it goes in cycles. Spree..then nothing :-). Your necklaces are lovely. I like the one from your mom, but the one you purchased is quite cool too. I would wear it. I always end up giving jewelry, handbags and perfume away. To the point where the recipients ask me if l’m crazy..haha..The way l figure, someone else should enjoy it as l am always wearing the same ones..especially the one necklace l wear now. I love it more and more each day..and never wear anything else. I would totally do this tour..master blaster you 🙂

    • Yes – I’m the queen master blaster. Lol! I’m definitely not a big jewelry shopper either – mainly cheap stuff. But here and there I do like to mix things up with more expensive, finer pieces. I think it’s very generous of you to give jewelry away – it’s such a special gift. And I agree, the more and more you wear a piece, the more it almost becomes a part of you.

thatgirlcarmel

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