Spinning Imaginations from Gold: The Bowers Museum – Santa Ana, CA

Jocelyn Murray April 4, 2012 No Comments

Bowers Museum Santa Ana pendant

The ornate detailing on this gold pendant is exquisite (courtesy Bowers Museum)

A symbol of power, justice, strength and perfection, gold has captured the imaginations of people of all ages since the beginning of time.  Its luster and purity are enduring, as it resists corrosion and damage, while being non-toxic. It has been venerated by princes, paupers and priests alike, transcending the bounds of time, culture and continents.

This symbol of kingship has had many uses over time including money in the form of coins, jewelry of many varieties, ritual and ceremonial objects, items of decoration, and even for oral consumption in medicines, as well as a sumptuous food garnish in the form of gold flakes during medieval times.


Special Exhibitions at the Bowers Museum

Bowers Museum Santa Ana Mojave Nugget

This is the largest gold nugget ever found in California, weighing over 10 pounds (courtesy Erica Van Pelt)

Now you can get a closer look at this natural marvel that has fueled the fancies of many cultures in not one, but two fantastic exhibits at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana: California Gold (open until September 9, 2012) and Sacred Gold: Pre-Hispanic Art of Colombia (open until July 1, 2012).

Visitors can see beautiful samples of native California gold as it appears in its natural form, from nuggets to leaves and crystals. Included is the Mojave Nugget which is the largest gold nugget ever found in California, weighing over ten pounds.  Other artifacts offer a fascinating historical glimpse into the Gold Rush era, as well as the famed Ship of Gold  – the SS Central America – which sank in 1857 off the South Carolina coast with 35,000 pounds of gold on its way to the Philadelphia Mint from the California goldfields.

Bowers Museum Santa Ana Atocha cross

Emerald-set gold cross from the 17th century (courtesy Bowers Museum)

Also included in the exhibits are gold coins, bullion, and recovered treasure from sunken ships, like the famous Atocha Cross – an emerald-set intricately carved gold cross on a rosary found on the Spanish warship Nuestra Señora de Atocha that sank off the Florida Keys in the 17th century while laden with gold, silver, copper, jewels, gems and tobacco, among its precious cargo. There are over 200 stunning pre-Hispanic gold objects in the forms of ornaments, vessels and  figures on loan from Colombia’s distinguished Museo del Oro and the Banco de Republica, Bogota including elaborate breastplates worn in ceremonies from antiquity, and finely detailed pendants and jewelry donned in ancient rituals.

Bowers Museum Santa Ana breastplate

Gold ceremonial breastplate (courtesy Bowers Museum)

This is an exceptional opportunity for adults and children to view these precious artifacts, where they can see real treasures from ancient civilizations dating back over 2,000 years, as well as those found on sunken ships from long ago; the kind portrayed in exciting tales and Hollywood films about pirates, myths and lost treasure. Imagine these glittering riches that have withstood the test of time, retaining their beauty for many centuries. These are the things from which legends and dreams are spun, including El Dorado – the fabled lost city of gold.

The sophisticated techniques and skills of the native South Americans are clearly evident in the intricate designs of their objects, and a testament to the permanence and lasting legacy of their craftsmanship and the gold itself.


Location and Hours

Bowers Museum Santa Ana pendant

Another intricately crafted pendant (courtesy Bowers Museum)

The Bowers Museum is located at 2002 N. Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706 (714) 567-3600 and is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10am-4pm.  Tickets are $12 (18 and over), $9 (6-17) and free for children under 6. For more information on these outstanding exhibits visit their website www.bowers.org

avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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