Styles of Jewelry
Aztec artisans made a variety of types of jewelry including bracelets, necklaces, lip ornaments, armbands, rings, pendants, earplugs, anklets, masks, and disks.
Necklaces were very common and the majority of them consisted of round or cylindrical beads made out of semi-precious stones like amber or turquoise. There were also a lot of gold and silver necklaces that incorporated hundreds of emeralds and rubies. Artisans were very fond of mixing metals, stones, bone, and shell in a single necklace. The mix of green and blue jades, red and white coral, and the richness of the gold made a striking band of hues in many of the necklaces (Crouch, 113).
Bracelets and arm bands were also abundant in society. These were mostly thick metal bands adorned with designs commonly covered in leather with rattles attached to them.
Rings were popular in the Aztec civilization, and many have been found all over the region. They were typically decorated with animals. Eagles and rattlesnakes are common on rings because of how Tenochtitlan was founded. A prophecy told the tribe to build a city when they saw an eagle with a rattlesnake in its talon, so the eagle and rattlesnake remained an important symbol to them.
Anklets were most commonly made out of leather and were covered with gold plates, stones, feathers, and rattles. A few of the most precious anklets were made out of laminated gold.
Artisans made ornamented lip plugs for Aztec warriors and nobles. They were worn on the lower lip, with a shaft inserted in a hole in the gums that was held in place by an attachable metal plate. In efforts to make them less heavy and uncomfortable, the connecting shaft was made out of rock crystal (Phillips, 221). Because of the weight, metal lip plugs are rare, and obsidian lip plugs are more common.
Crouch, Donald. Stone and Metal Jewelry of Pre-Columbian Middle America. 3rd ed. Vol. 11. Cetnral States Archaeological Societies, 1964. 106-113.
Phillips, Charles. The Aztecs and Maya World: Everyday Life, Society and Culture in Ancient Central America and Mexico, with Over 500 Photographs and Fine Art Images. London: Lorenz Books, 2005.