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Mexican Silver and Silversmiths Information


While the craft of making silver jewelry is a relatively recent development among Indians of the American Southwest, this is far from the case in Mexico. There, the Spanish taught the Indians to work silver centuries ago. The result over time has been the emergence of a unique Mexican style of silver jewelry combing the Spanish love for bold, dramatic effects with the native talent for colorful, expressive decoration.
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Mexican jewelry often brings to mind a picture of heavy silver pieces with pseudo-Aztec motifs, set with green or black stones and ornamented with silver domes or balls to give them a „primitive look. The style originated around 1920 when Mexicans began making silver jewelry for the ever-increasing numbers of tourists. The tourists eagerly bought up the jewelry and the designs were copied by hundreds of silversmiths who could make jewelry but were not capable of designing it.
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The contemporary silver jewelry industry in Mexico began in the mid-1920s and coincided with a great revival of interest in archaeological research. Museums were adding excellent examples of pre-Hispanic art and publishers were bringing out important new books on archaeological subjects. Taken by the beauty of ancient Indian designs which made traditional styles pale by comparison, the better jewelry designers began to incorporate them in their work. Interestingly, two Americans were at the forefront of this new direction in Mexican jewelry making.
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Fred Davis left medical school in Chicago in 1910, moved to Mexico, and took a job buying curios and folk art from artisans in all parts of Mexico. He developed a fascination with the popular arts of Mexico which eventually gravitated into silver jewelry. Davis worked with silversmiths in Mexico City, encouraging them to make silver jewelry for his shop which he described as "unmistakably Mexican."
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He took naturally to designing silverwork, jewelry, flatware, serving pieces and boxes and ultimately to producing it himself. In his years as manager of antiques and fine crafts at the famed Sanborn's department store in Mexico City, Davis influenced countless Mexican silversmiths through his ideas on style and design.
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William Spratling, trained in the United States as an architect, came to the beautiful mountain community of Taxco, Mexico in 1929. Within two years, he turned his talents to designing and making jewelry and established a workshop. By 1940, he had over 100 silversmiths in his workshop producing Spratling designed silver jewelry that tourists bought up almost as quickly as it was produced. The list of men and women who learned their craft in his workshop reads like a Who's Who of the Mexican silver jewelry industry.
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Many of Spratling's smiths and others who learned from them went on to found their own shops and produce works still eagerly sought by collectors.
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Here are just a few of the famed Mexican designers whose work you will find in our shop: Hector Aguilar, Antonio Piñeda, Victoria, Beto, Margot of Taxco, Los Castillo, Los Ballesteros, Maricela, Alfredo Villasana and of course, William Spratling and Frederick Davis.

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