mad in pursuit notebook


Guatemala Coin Rosary


Here is a wonderful treasure that I might have passed by had I not been so envious of nuns' rosaries as a girl. It is an unusual Guatemalan rosary made from 19th-century silver coins, along with what might have been more traditional wooden rosary beads. The Hail Marys are little 1/4-reales and the Our Fathers are 1/2-reales -- mostly all from between 1860 and 1890. The centerpiece (correct name?) is a 2-real coin from colonial 1819. The piece below the cross is a 2-real coin from the First Federal Republic of Mexico, dated 1826. It is long -- the main part is about 40 inches around -- though the flat coins do make it fold easily into a pocket or purse.

Why coins? I want to read all sorts of ironic meaning into this. Church and state, God and Mammon, Old World religion in the throes of New World revolutions. But maybe the answer is simpler. Old coins are a great and decorative source of .90 silver.

This was sold to me in 1997* as "Mexican" -- maybe that was an error or maybe the Mexican artisan had a bunch of old Guatemalan coins and wondered what could be made from them.


*from a "Mariposa" Open House, in New York City.

Jul 24, 2012