Most of the time when we think of Mexican jewelry, we think of the items produced for the souvenir shops. But did you know that fine Mexican jewelry dates to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and earlier? And while we typically think of Mexican jewelry being in silver, they also used gold, copper, and lead – plus a few other metals.
Influenced by both the Spanish love of dramatic effects and the more simplistic Indian-style decorations, you’ll find that Mexican jewelry often reflects both of these influences. The availability of minerals in Mexico – north to south – played a large role in their jewelry making. Gold, silver, iron, copper, lead, tin and zinc, along with both precious and semi-precious gemstones – as well as pearls and amber from the coast – has made jewelry one of the country’s largest industries.
We’re going to take a look at Mexican Jewelry today – and at the end of the post there is a link to a good reference book for anyone desiring more information that we are able to include here.
Periods of Mexican Jewelry ¹
Jewelry attributed to the Indians before the Spanish arrived. You’ll find simple jewelry items from this period to include plain strands of gold and jade beads. Other jewelry items included pendant earrings and brooches used to hold clothing. These were sometimes made using coral, pearls, or jet.
Sixteenth – Nineteenth Century –
The influence of the Spaniards can be seen during this time in that some jewelry was designed with a religious theme, i.e., crosses and relicarios (ex: religious brooches, pendants picturing saints). As the artisans skills evolved, you’ll see they began producing exquisite filigree during the 18-19th centuries. It is interesting that not all precious stones were set in silver or gold. Some gemstones such as emeralds were set in lead as a contrast to the sparkle of the gems.
Jewelry of ‘Today’ –
Like in most large cities of the world, you can find any manner of jewelry in gold and platinum set with precious gemstones available in Mexico However, the Mexican craftsmen and women who design and craft their own pieces are in their own right ‘priceless’. This is especially true if you are lucky enough to find some of the original pieces designed by one of the well known jewelry designers.
Well Known Mexican Designers and Silversmiths
Although there are many, some of the well known names to watch out for when shopping for Mexican jewelry are:
- Frederick David
- William Spratling
- Los Castillo
- Enrique Ledesma
- Antonio Pineda
- Hector Aguilar
- Felipe Martinez
- Ysidro Garcia
- Guadalupe Castellanos
- Margo de Taxco
- Bernice Goodspeed
- Salvador Teran
- Matilde Poulat
- Ricardo Salas Poulat
Also look for items that are signed ‘Taxco’. This general signature refers to the area well-known for many talented jewelry artisans. Many new ones hoping to become the next famous silversmith.
(1) This information was taken in part from the book Mexican Jewelry by Mary L. Davis – available on Amazon for those desiring more information.