“Jewelry Reflects Rank” by Annabel Grace Susanin

Throughout this course, one of the most interesting units was the study of Aztec society. It was interesting to learn about such a technologically advanced city that was so far from the cities of Western Europe that are perceived as the most intelligent places of innovation. Using this interest in Aztec culture, picking jewelry to study came easily because it is such a universally appreciated adornment. And while it is understood that every culture and civilization wore/wears jewelry, to learn about a civilization that is not obsessed with stones (diamonds, rubies, etc) like in Europe is appealing, interesting, and different.

Through various primary and secondary sources, it can be concluded that jewelry reflects the social hierarchy that existed in Aztec civilization. The importance of the nobility and of the military was emphasized over every other aspect of society, and the elaborate structure of Tenochtitlan being based on the emperor’s home reflects this importance. It is also interesting to look at how the marketplaces played an integral part in jewelry, as it allowed the consumer to browse and shop similarly to today. It was through incredible study of Aztec society that the power of jewelry in modern day Mexico City was revealed and appreciated.


Works Cited:


Bernardino de Sahagún, Fray. General History of the Things of New Spain. Manuscript. 1577. Medicea Laurenziana Library, Florentine Codex. http://www.wdl.org/en/item/10096/. (October 31, 2014).

Codex Mendoza. Aztec Codex. Mexico City, 1520. University of Arizona, Colonial and Aztec Codex Facsimiles. http://www.library.arizona.edu/exhibits/mexcodex/aztec.htm#Mendoza. (October 31, 2014).

Cortés, Hernan. Second Letter to Charles V. Letter. 1520. From Fordham University, Modern History Sourcebook. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1520cortes.asp. (October 31, 2014).

Diaz del Castillo, Bernal. The True History of the Conquest of New Spain. Book. London: Printed for the Hakluyt society, 1908. Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/tesisnoqueprese00garcgoog. (October 31, 2014).


Anawalt, “Costume and Control: Aztec Sumptuary Laws” in Archeology Vol. 33 No. 1 (1980), 33-43

Davis, Mary L., and Greta Pack. Mexican Jewelry. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963.

Newman, Harold. An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry: 2,530 Entries, including Definitions of Jewels, Gemstones, Materials, Processes, and Styles, and Entries on Principal Designers and Makers from Antiquity to the Present Day. New York, N.Y.: Thames and Hudson, 1981.

Rounds, J. “Lineage, Class, And Power In The Aztec State.” American Ethnologist, 1979, 73-86.

Saunders, Nicholas J. “Biographies of Brilliance: Pearls, Transformations of Matter and Being, C. AD 1492.” World Archaeology 31, no. 2 (1999): 243-57.