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This silver chain and coin-like attachments is strictly not a necklace but a Mapuche woman’s head ornament known as a trarilonco, perhaps worn over a headscarf to help keep it in place. The weight of the trarilonco would help with that purpose. It has, however been fitted with a small non-invasive catch to allow it to be worn today as a necklace.
Each of the pendant disks has been engraved with simple decoration.
The Mapuche are the indigenous inhabitants of present-day south-central Chile and south-western Argentina, including parts of Patagonia. The term refers to a range of ethnic groups but with common cultural and linguistic traditions. Mapuche silver tends to date from the second half of the 18th century when hostilities between the colonial Spanish and the Mapuche declined and trade increased. This gave the Mapuche greater access to colonial Spanish silver coins which became a source for the silver jewellery that Mapuche silversmiths subsequently made. Most important Mapuche chiefs had at least one silversmith in their retinue by the 19th century. Silver jewellery became something of an obsession among wealthier Mapuche families and it was handed down from mother to daughter.
The trarilonco here is in fine, wearable condition. It has a good patina and obvious age.
Bedford, J., ‘Mapuche silver’, Journal of Museum Ethnography, May, 1996.
Taullard, A., Plateria Sudemericana, Ediciones Espeula de Plata, 2004.