National Geographic : 1974 Jan
Agoldsmith duplicates mastenwopks of the past TO CREATE EXQUISITE GOLD orna ments, South American Indians employed the lost-wax process, a technique that evolved in many parts of the ancient world. Demanding patience and skill, the process rewarded its practitioners with objects of surpassing beauty. Then came the Europeans, searching re lentlessly for gold. The Indians, fearful that working with the metal would attract plun der and death, ceased producing their works of art. Guillermo Cano of Bogota uses the lost wax method to cast precise replicas of pre Columbian artifacts. Thus he re-creates ornate votive figurines of the Muisca cul ture (right), here resting in a Muisca ceramic bowl. Today Cano employs 15 artisans to meet demand for reproductions from abroad and at his two galleries in Bogota. In the sequence at left, a Cano craftsman reproduces an elaborate nose pendant of the Tairona people, made in the Santa Marta region of Colombia perhaps a thousand years ago. 1. Using rubbery dental paste, the worker makes two molds: one of each side of the artifact. 2. Then, for demonstration purposes, he pours black wax into a mold of one side. Normally the two molds are joined at the edges like the halves of a clam shell before the wax is poured in. 3. Prying open the mold, the artisan examines the wax casting, adding or removing bits of wax to achieve fidelity to the original. 4. Perching the casting on five hollow supports, he brushes on thin coatings of plaster, layer upon layer. S After he has built a solid mold he heats it, causing the wax to melt and drain out through the supports. Then he pours in molten gold. So that it will pene trate to every part of the cavity, he spins the mold on a centrifuge--a technique probably unknown to the Indians. 5. Breaking the cooled gold casting from the plas ter mold, the craftsman holds a precise replica of the pendant. A spurt of water washes away cling ing plaster. 5.