Hilda and Sonia Cachi have crafted jewelry for decades that reflects centuries of history and tradition in their native Peru.
The sisters—in fact, they are both silversmiths, two of seven—said they draw inspiration from indigenous and Spanish traditions while also embracing more modern designs. The collection is on display at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe in July: from playful big-eyed frogs to ornate images of the Sacred Heart, Catholic representations of the heart of Jesus sparkle with divine light.
Hilda Cachi, 68, the eldest of the seven, said her work often incorporates Incan imagery, such as the sun god, the moon god or the hummingbird, considered a spiritual messenger. “Everything we make has meaning,” she said. A brooch may contain several symbols, such as images of flowers, animals, and people, with small charms hanging underneath.
She also has a shawl pin called a “tupus,” a type of jewelry that Peru’s indigenous people began making long before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Hilda said she made 35-centimetre (nearly 14-inch) tupu, but the one she brought to Santa Fe was smaller because many Americans are put off by long, pointed pins.
The Cachi sisters grew up in Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire. Hilda and three others still live there, as does their 90-year-old father, the famous master silversmith Gregorio Cachi. Three others live in Lima.
Sonia Cachi, 55, who is part of the Lima contingent, said she is more inclined than some of her siblings to try new designs. “I’m always innovating,” she said. “I can see a stone that I like and I’ll turn it into a piece of jewelry.”
The collection she brought to Santa Fe included drop earrings: some with Peruvian gemstones such as green amazonite or blue sodalite, others with woven textiles framed in silver. She also wore a silver necklace embellished with bright orange oval spiny oyster pieces.
Both sisters have various devotional pendants, called relics, painted in the style of Spanish colonial art, with the Virgin Mary on one side and often a saint on the other. Niece Dahilma Quispe Cachi (their sister Martha’s daughter) created the miniatures – some on mother-of-pearl, others on copper, aluminum or cloth . Hilda and Sonia then created various silver frames for the artwork, from simple to complex.
The sisters admit that since 2012 they have been selling on the market for more than they would have sold for in Peru because they had to pay for travel and accommodation. Hilda said a pendant that normally sells for $80 in Cusco might cost $120 in Santa Fe.
But she added that during the market’s long weekend, they might be selling stuff domestically that might take six months to sell.
For the Cacchi sisters (in order of birth: Hilda, Nelida, Sofia, Masha, Sonia, Veronica and Almeida), jewelry making provided a reliable livelihood over the years and was a means of paying A way to pay for a child’s tuition or buy a home. The sisters each had their own workshops and some owned small jewelry shops or sold at folk art fairs in Peru, other Latin American countries and the United States.
As for the next generation, 10 of the sisters’ 16 children are in the jewelry business part-time or full-time, whether designing, producing or selling, Sonia said. (And, she added, she has a 4-year-old granddaughter who already seems to have developed an interest in jewelry.)
Much of the work in the Kachi family is still done by hand, or more like it is done by many people, including all the daughters, sons, nieces, nephews and husbands, as well as a few non-family employees who work alongside them. But the Kachis and their assistants did use machines to polish metal and perform a number of other tasks, such as making silver wire or rolling metal into thin sheets. Sonia said the silver they use is at least 95% pure, mined and processed in Peru, and sold by the kilogram in pellet form.
Depending on the jewelry, they might cast molten silver, create chains, twist wire into delicate filigree patterns, or use hammers and chisels to push out relief designs, a process called relief.
“The Cachi sisters are famous in Peru for their silversmithing,” said Estela Miranda, director of Peru’s National Cultural Museum, which is located in Lima and is run by the Ministry of Culture. In a recent video interview, she said the museum purchased some figures and a silver chest made by Hilda and Martha, and their sister Nelida often gave talks and demonstrations to museum visitors.
“We are all sisters”
Family patriarchs are often the center of attention – notably, Mr Kach was awarded the title of Cultural Meritorious Person by the Ministry of Culture in 2017. His work over the years included fine gold jewelry and exquisite silver religious objects for local churches, and he was known for his use of traditional handcrafted methods of casting silver jewelry in clay moulds.
But Ms. Miranda said his daughters were doing well in their own right. Hilda, for example, has received several honors, including the 2014 UNESCO Prize for Excellence in Handicrafts of the Andean Region.
Hilda says it’s not unusual to see female metalsmiths in Peru today, but what makes her family unique is that “all of us sisters work in the same art form.”
After winning an award at a jewelry-making and silverware conference in Cusco last year, Mr. Kach spoke of it in a video posted online: “My daughters have been with me since they were little and they are watching how I do Grow.” On-the-job. In this way, all my daughters learned my craft. “
When Everyone entered elementary school, she spent every afternoon in her father’s family workshop, polishing cotton ropes for the jewelry he made and sold in the store.
In Santa Fe, Hilda and Sonia explained that their father began learning how to work with silver when he was about 10 years old, while attending school in San Pablo, a neighborhood southeast of San Pablo. Part of the vocational preparation curriculum offered in primary schools. Cusco. The teacher saw his talent and eventually accepted him as his apprentice.
As a young man, Mr. Cacchi and his wife, Jesús Trinidad Yupanqui, moved to Cusco, where he cut his teeth working for other jewelers before opening his own company skills. The couple had nine children, all girls, but two died in childhood. Mrs. Kaci died in 1979.
Today, Mr. Kach rarely spends time in his studio at his home in Cusco. Hilda said his vision and hearing had deteriorated.
Hilda and Sonia both describe their father as a “traditionalist” and say he didn’t always approve of the directions they took in their work, such as incorporating more natural stone into their pieces.
“He criticized a lot. But then he became quiet,” Hilda said with a smile. “‘This is selling well,’ he would say. “You should make more. “