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Frequently Asked Questions about Mexican Jewelry

We post the most frequently asked questions about Mexican jewelry, vintage jewelry and our exclusive native American jewelry collections here.

How did we start collecting Mexican jewelry?

Many things pointed us on our path. It started with a childhood memory of my father’s. As a boy, he remembered a bracelet his mother bought while on vacation in Mexico in the 1940’s, during the height of silver making in Taxco, Mexico. He remembers how happy she was to receive such a treasure and she cherished this bracelet and wore it every day and he remembers its wonderful chain and pin closure as a boy. His Mom, my grandmother, died when he was 8 years old so this piece holds an even greater value for him as it was one of the few memories he had of her as a boy, and was therefore, one of the few memories he was able to share with me while growing up. Fast forward many years to when I, his daughter, was given a pair of earrings in high school – a gift from my father from a trip of his to Mexico City. They were a pair of Matilde Poulat earrings encrusted with Mexican amethysts, turquoise, and coral. At the time I didn’t know the history behind the earrings or the history behind the wonderful artist. Today I certainly do! My mother and I began collecting jewelry from various artists throughout Mexico because we love the designs, their influences and the rich history. We began researching each artist - reading everything we could get our hands on. We’ve made several trips to Mexico over the years to talk to various artists, see their work, learn about their history, and learn about the history of the design process itself. Fast forward many years later, we are still collecting and our appreciation of the work by these artists such as Hector Aguilar, William Spratling, Margot van Voorhies Carr (who signs her work Margot de Taxco), and Matilde Poulat (who signs her work MATL) grows more daily. It is with this great appreciation for this artwork that this business was founded upon and what drives us to search out these pieces and offer them to you so that you too will discover these artists and appreciate their work as much as we do!

Why should you collect Mexican jewelry?

We believe Mexican jewelry is highly undervalued in price, especially the work of the women artists such artists as Margot van Voorhies Carr (Margot de Taxco), Matilde Poulat (whose work is marked MATL), and Ana Brillanti (whose work is marked Victoria). An example of the influences of these female artists in the 30-40’s is on the shape of the bracelets. Before the work of Margot van Voorhies Carr, Matilde Poulat, and Ana Brillanti, jewelry was designed by men and therefore, bracelets were shaped to a man’s wrist. These women not only changed the shape of Mexican jewelry, they made it more feminine in design. However, that is not the only reason why you should collect it – you should collect it to own a piece of history. A vintage piece created by William Spratling, who innovated the town of Taxco into a silvermaking industry, and created innovative designs is indescribable! He transformed a town with his designs and transformed an economy! Wonderful artists trained under him who later went out and opened their own silvermaking shops such as Hector Aguilar, Antonio Castillo, Antonio Pineda, and Reveriano Castillo. These wonderful silver pieces are getting harder and harder to find and are increasing in price.

What motivates Primorosa to buy a piece of Mexican jewelry – what do you look for?

When searching for jewelry for our collection, we look first at the design – we want a piece that moves us – that stirs a reaction in us – is the piece innovative in design? Each piece has so much history – what inspired the maker to create the piece? It is this history behind the piece fascinates us. Each piece tells a story and depicts something about each artist – their character, their passion, their design. Who influenced the artist? How were the stones selected? How is the stone shaped? What influenced the piece – nature - early Mexican influences such as the Mayan or Aztec cultures? Were innovative design processes used to create the piece? Who is the artist or silversmith? Is the piece signed? Is the stamping or hallmark on the piece authentic? These are all questions we like to discover the answers to with each piece we collect.

How does Primorosa select the featured artist?

We selected Victor Pereyra for his innovative design. His bracelets are encrusted with semi precious stones that are perfectly shaped and perfectly matched. Moonstone, malachite, turquoise, topaz, chrysoprase, and onyx cut cabochons all work together to create a stunning masterpiece accented by an oxidized background that really sets off and showcases each stone perfectly. We love his new world style with his old world craftsmanship as he creates updated pieces using the tools of the old world with each piece crafted using the tools passed down to him by his father-in-law, David Perez, who apprenticed in the Los Castillo workshop as a boy. I love pairing his bracelets with a vintage pair of Matilde Poulat earrings for a look that’s very eye catching!

What does it mean when you say a piece of jewelry is stamped or hallmarked?

A hallmark is any marking on a piece that gives you some clue as to who the maker is or in what time period it was crafted. Many artists signed their work with either their initials or part or all of their names, such as a conjoined HA for Hector Aguilar, William Spratling’s conjoined WS, or Matilde Poulat’s MATL. A generic guideline in trying to date the piece is that items between 1900 and 1948 don’t bear an eagle mark; items between 1948 and 1980 will usually have an eagle mark; and items from 1980 to the present day will use a letter and number system such as TC-38, in which the first letter indicates the place where the piece was made (T=Taxco), the second letter indicates the artist’s initial, and the 38 is the number assigned to that artist.

What should you look for when purchasing Mexican jewelry?

Look at the general condition of the piece. Does the piece have a nice patina? Has it been taken care of, well loved? Is it in good condition? Look for tight hinges and safety chains that are still intact. Look for authentic markings on each piece. A book we love in determining what is an authentic mark on a piece of Mexican jewelry is Bille Hougart’s “The Little Book of Mexican Silver Trade and Hallmarks”. This book details the hallmarks and markings each major silversmith used with actual photos of these marks. This book is a “must have” for serious collectors of Mexican jewelry!

What makes a Mexican jewelry piece vintage?

My interpretation of a vintage item dates from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. This 40 year time span was very important in the development of silvermaking design throughout Mexico and shapes the current designs we see today. Today, there are still many fine artists throughout Mexico but most are no doubt influenced by the design of these earlier designs made in Taxco during this time period by such artists as William Spratling, Hector Aguilar, Matilde Poulat, Antonio Castillo, Margot de Taxco, and Fred Davis.

Where does Primorosa find the Mexican jewelry pieces in the collection?

We travel throughout Mexico to search for pieces to add to both our personal collections, as well as to offer items to you. We also buy and trade pieces with dealers throughout the United States to add to our collection.

What vintage artist’s work should I collect?

We love the work by Matilde Poulat with her use of Mexican amethyst, coral, and turquoise with much filigree work. We love Hector Aguilar and William Spratling for their innovative design. We love Los Castillo for their Aztec Mosaic work (inlaid stones set in a silver bezel) and their marrying metalwork where they used metals such as silver and brass and formed the pieces together without soldering them together. In addition to vintage artists’ work we love, we also love many of the current artists who are now handcrafting silver designs such as Victor Pereyra, our featured artist, and Dominguez from Mexico City. However, we encourage you to collect for the art aspect of the piece, not just pieces from specific designers as many lesser known artists created wonderful pieces. Collect what you love. Collect what grabs your attention! I have five sisters and I love it when they look over our collection of jewelry as they each have different pieces that speak differently to them. Everyone interprets artwork differently. Some love the look of big and bold pieces; some love the simplistic designs of other pieces.

What are your favorite pieces of Mexican jewelry?

We have a love for vintage hinged clamper bracelets as seen throughout our catalog. The one I am currently wearing is from Alfredo Villasana and has a flower and vine design. I have many pieces of jewelry, but by far, this is my favorite! I get complimented on the design of this bracelet everywhere I go! It is unusual. You don’t see hinged bracelets with this detail today, which is why I have so much appreciation for it. The bracelet has great patina and has been very loved by its previous owner as it is in great shape! A silversmith designed this bracelet in repousse and carved out the intricate detail of the vine and flowers. Knowing the craftsmanship and time it took to make this piece makes me love it even more! On my other wrist you will no doubt find one of Victor Pereyra’s semi-precious stone encrusted bracelets! I also love my vintage Matilde Poulat earrings that are encrusted with Mexican amethyst, coral, and turquoise and are guilty of wearing them on most days as they go with everything!  – Sara

I have a demi-parure set in Margot de Taxco’s vintage cornflower design consisting of a hinged clamper bracelet, earrings, pendant, and necklace. The set is in wonderful condition and was hard to come by! It is very feminine, which is so characteristic of her designs! We feature another of her cornflower clamper bracelets in our catalog but make no mistake – these pieces are hard to come by. When you find it, buy it, as it is highly collectible and desirable! - Julie

What resources exist for finding out more about these fine Mexican jewelry artists?

We love the books by Penny C. Morrill and Carol A Berk entitled, “Mexican Silver – 20th Century Hand-wrought Jewelry and Silver”, their book, “Silver Masters of Mexico”, and their book, “William Spratling and the Mexican Silver Renaissance – Maestros de Plata”. To find out more about the markings on Mexican jewelry, you must have a copy of Bille Hougart’s “The Little Book of Mexican Silver Trade and Hallmarks”, which details over 1,500 marks on silver jewelry.