Articles of jewelry, generally made of gold or tumbaga,, but soemtimes of jadeite, in many indigenous forms and styles, by the American Indians before the coming of Columbus (1492) and during the period thereafter until the conquest in the 16th century by the Spanish Conquistadors (hence sometimes called 'pre-Hispanic jewelry') in certain countries of Middle America (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama) and South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile).
The gold pieces were usually made of flat sheet metal, hammered and decorated with repoussé and false filigree work or cast by the cire perdue process, and with a total absence of enamelling on any known examples and occasional use of turquoise or a few other gemstones. Such articles included mainly pectorals, masks, diadems, labrets, nose ornaments, ear ornaments, and necklaces, and certain objects indigenous to some regions.
Most of the jewelry, pillaged by the Spaniards, was destroyed by them or in Spain for the gold content, and what survives today is mainly from robbed graves and tombs or from recent excavations. As there were trading posts throughout the region, some articles have been found far from the place of fabrication, at sites 4000 miles apart, and from periods of time ranging through 1500 years, thus creating unsolved problems of attribution. The dating of pieces is uncertain, and tentatively estimated dates vary in each region.
From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson