From the Pre-Hispanic Days to the Present: the Fascinating & Beautiful Guatemalan “Chachal”

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Part of our collection of antique & vintage Guatemalan chachales
Part of our collection of antique & vintage Guatemalan chachales

 

The word “Chachal” in Quiche language means necklace.  These beautiful objects have a fascinating tale of history, culture, art, and economics that begins during the Pre Columbian period hundreds-thousands of years ago and continues to the present where they still worn by many Mayan populations.  Like many aspects of Guatemalan culture, the chachales are a blend of ancient native elements with the influence of the European conquerors.  For the Maya, necklaces  and other types of jewelry were a sign of rank in society.  At the time of the arrival of the Spanish to the Americas in the 1520s, the elite Mayans wore red coral bead necklaces as a symbol of wealth and prestige.  After the Conquest, and given the scarcity of these coral beads, they started to incorporate pendants created from perforated whole silver coins (the new symbol of economic power and wealth) from Mexico, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia, which were all locations of Spanish mines and mints.  They also started using Christian crosses, amulets, and figures re casted from silver colonial coins/macacos.  

Guatemalan chachal with antique cross, Venetian cornaline d’aleppo, trade beads, silver coins, & other elements.
Guatemalan chachal with antique cross, Venetian cornaline d’aleppo trade beads, silver coins, & other elements.

 

As coral became scarce European traders from Venice manufactured red beads as substitutes and introduced them into Guatemala as trade goods.  Red beads have long held a certain intrigue around the world. Thousands of years ago in early Aleppo (modern-day Syria), red carnelian aleppostones were fashioned into beads and worn  to protect from the evil eye and disease. The word morphed into cornaline d’aleppo, and these Italian red glass beads that resembled the applestones came to Guatemala during the Colonial Period as the most famous trade bead  ever used in Guatemala. Still manufactured today, red glass beads with a white center or “heart” replaced coral in Guatemalan chachales.  As time evolved, other glass or ceramic red trade beads imported from other European bead centers also made their ways into Chachales to serve as a symbol for abundance as coral did in ancient times.

Vintage/Antique Silver Mexican Peso Coin & Assorted Red Trade Bead Chachal Necklace from Guatemala
Vintage/Antique Silver Mexican Peso Coin & Assorted Red Trade Bead Chachal Necklace from Guatemala

Another interesting trade bead appeared in late 19th century and also became very popular.  Commonly known as “Vaseline” beads because the earliest ones that were produced had a distinctive opaque color that looked like petroleum jelly.  Manufactured in Bohemia (one of the most important bead production centers in Europe), they were partly mold faceted and partly hand faceted.

Chachal with stunning antique coin pendant, various antique coins, vaseline beads from Bohemia, & Venetian White Hearts
Chachal with stunning antique coin pendant, various antique coins, vaseline beads from Bohemia, & Venetian White Hearts

Azabache/jet faceted beads of the early Colonial period manufactured in England and the later black faceted crystals from Bohemia/Czechoslova of  the 19th-20th centuries were other gorgeous types of beads that were used in chachales for protection and to ward off evil.

Antique Guatemalan Chachal with Azabache/Jet & Black Crystal Trade Beads, Colonial Coins, & Cross
Antique Guatemalan Chachal with Azabache/Jet & Black Crsytal Trade Beads, Colonial Coins, & Cross

 

As time went on in Guatemala, different areas of Guatemala adopted different colors of beads. We love this chachal featuring a wonderful variety of Czechoslovakian trade beads in various colors, shapes, and textures:

Antique Silver Mexican & Guatemalan Coins, Vintage Multi Color Trade Bead Chachal Necklace from Guatemala
Antique Silver Mexican & Guatemalan Coins, Vintage Multi Color Trade Bead Chachal Necklace from Guatemala

Chachales were (and continue to be) passed on through the generations…some have been completely restrung; some have had pieces taken away and new pieces added to the original piece. Regardless…each necklace has a unique past.  Do you want to wear a stunning piece of a jewerly that has an incredible ancient past? Find these & more for sale on Coleccion Luna Vintage...

 

Antique Guatemalan Coins & Vintage Bohemia/Czechoslovakian Red Trade Beads Mayan Chachal Necklace
Antique Guatemalan Coins & Vintage Bohemia/Czechoslovakian Red Trade Beads Mayan Chachal Necklace
Vintage Maya Textile Fringed Cape with Ama de Leche Trade Beads & Spanish Colonial Coins Chachal
Vintage Maya Textile Fringed Cape with Ama de Leche Trade Beads & Spanish Colonial Coins Chachal
Antique Silver Cross, Silver Virgen of Guadalupe, Mexican & Guatemalan Coins, Vintage Trade Bead Chachal Necklace from Guatemala
Antique Silver Cross, Silver Virgen of Guadalupe, Mexican & Guatemalan Coins, Vintage Trade Bead Chachal Necklace from Guatemala
Antique Silver Mexican & Guatemalan Coins, Vintage Red Trade Bead Chachal Necklace from Guatemala
Antique Silver Mexican & Guatemalan Coins, Vintage Red Trade Bead Chachal Necklace from Guatemala
Antique Silver Mexican & Guatemalan Coins, Vintage Red Trade Bead Chachal Necklace from Guatemala
Antique Silver Mexican & Guatemalan Coins, Vintage Red Trade Bead Chachal Necklace from Guatemala

3 Responses

  1. gayle jolluck

    This is a beautiful post Stephanie…..can’t decide which one is the most beautiful.

    • Thanks! It is quite a lovely collection..I can’t decide which is my favorite either.

  2. […] **Learn about the fascinating history of the Guatemalan Chachal: From the Pre-Hispanic Days to the Present: the Fascinating & Beautiful Guatemalan “Chachal” […]

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