Are you familiar with the vintage Mexican silver jewelry from the town of Taxco? It’s got a great Deco-meets-Aztec style done with gorgeous craftsmanship. Sometimes you see it with geometric designs but more often it’s got mythological animals, astrological symbols, flowers and Jazz Age motifs. Amazing, right?
A little history: the people native to that region worked with silver long before Europeans came, but there was a resurgence of interest in the early 20th century. In the 1920s an American architect named William Spratling moved to Mexico after befriending and working with Diego Rivera and began to work in silver.
Spratling loved pre-Columbian art and incorporated it’s themes into his work. His interest was spurred on by the discovery in 1932 of Mixtec and Zapotec treasures, an archeological find that was as dramatic an influence in Mexico as the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1925 was on Art Deco design in Europe and the United States.
The pre-Hispanic motifs were mixed with modern Cubist and contemporary folk elements in highly sophisticated jewelry combining silver with obsidian, mother of pearl, amethyst, onyx, turquoise and jet. This lead to the high point of Mexican silver jewelry, which was the 1930’s-1950’s.
As Spratling and his jewelry became more successful, he created an apprenticeship program for local jewelry makers. This allowed an entire group of artisans to flourish and to take the designs in completely new directions.
Here are just a few of the vintage Mexican silver pieces I have in the shop right now: