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Glossary of Mexican Vintage Jewelry

Agate:  An agate stone varies in colors from translucent to opaque, usually with concentric bands of color.  Agate is native to Mexico.  

Aguilar, Hector:  A wonderful creative and innovative designer who was employed by William Spratling in Spratling's Taller de Las Delicias in 1937 and who later left in 1939 to open his own shop, Taller Borda.  His pieces are highly collectible today.  His mark, a conjoined "HA" and eagle number 3, 9, and 31 distinguish his work.  Among the artist's who started out working for Hector Aguilar are Pedro Castillo, Reveriano Castillo, and Valentin Vidaurrreta.  

Amber:  An amber stone is a very soft gemstone in shades of yellow, brown, and red, and from transparent to opaque.  

Amethyst:  An amethyst stone varies in shades of deep purple to pale violet, and from transparent to opaque.  It is native to Mexico and has been used by many silversmiths in their sigmature pieces including William Spratling, Matilde Poulat, and Fred Davis.  

Attributed Piece:  Jewelry exhibiting a style or partial mark identifying the maker of the piece.  

Beckman, Carmen: She owned a shop in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and sold the work of many great silversmiths from Taxco throughout the years.  David Perez, our featured artist's (Victor Pereyra's) father-in-law and mentor, worked for her creating many designs for her shop in the 1960's-1970's.

Bezel:  A setting of gemstones in which the stone is held in place by mounting a narrow band of metal surrounding the outside perimeter of the stone. 

Cabochon:  A cut of stone making it smooth and round on the top but with a flat base.  It is polished and does not contain facets and is most commonly used with translucent stones such as opals, moonstones, jade, and turquoise.  Amethysts and garnets are also sometimes cut into cabochons. 

Carnelian:  A carnelian is a red or reddish stone variety of chalcedony, used in jewelry. 

Chalcedony:  A chrysoprase is a translucent to transparent milky or grayish quartz with distinctive microscopic crystals arranged in slender fibers in parallel bands. 

Chrysoprase:  A chrysoprase is a green stone variety of chalcedony. 

Coral:  A very soft gemstone, usually in red, pink, or white, but also in black, gold, or blue, varying from translucent to opaque.  It is formed when small sea animals create living quarters.  Matilde Poulat used coral in many of her designs.  The local source is the Carribbean. 

Dating:  A general guideline in trying to date the piece where items between 1900-1948 bear no eagle mark; items between 1948 adn 1980 will usually have an eagle mark; and items made between 1980-Present Day will use the Letter and Number system such as TC-38, in which the first letter, the "T", indicates where the piece was made (Taxco), the second letter, the "C", indicates the artist's initial, and the 38 is the number assigned to that artist.  However it must also be said that some older pieces may have had their eagle stamps removed as many items that could not be stamped with the eagle mark had a small metal seal that was attached by a wire loop to the piece before the sale that was removed by the purchaser.  Therefore, the absence of an eagle stamp doesn't always mean it was made before 1948.

Demi Parure:  A jewelry set containing less than 4 pieces.  (See also the definition of parure)

Eagle Stamp:  Used from 1948 to 1970, the stamped Mexican eagle followed by a number indicated which silversmith created the piece, however, the numbering system was inconsistent so some artists such as Bernice Goodspeed and Maricela shared the same number "3".  Pieces before 1948 would not have an eagle mark.  Today, silversmiths are given a mark which consists of a series of letters and numbers such as a "T" for Taxco, an "M" for Mexico City, followed by a letter indicating the initial of the artist's first or last name.  For instance, TJ-26 indicates the silversmith is from Taxco, his name begins with the letter J, and he was assigned the number 26 to identify his designs.

Filigree:  A decorative technique where silver is twisted thinly to create intricate designs that are then soldered into place to create decorative jewelry pieces.

Inlay:  As seen in Los Castillo's hand earrigns we feature, it is created when a piece of material (sterling in the case of the hand earrings) is inlaid with malachite, or another stone to form a level surface.

Lapis:  A deep blue stone composed mainly of the mineral lazurite with smaller quantities of other minerals, used mainly as a gem or as a pigment.

Los Castillo Taller:  A silversmith shop created in 1939 by Antonio Castillo and his three brothers who had all previously worked for William Spratling in his workshop - Taller de Las Delicias.  Los Castillo created such innovative designs as "Aztec Mosaic" where the artist inlaid malachite and lapis into his silver designs (see our catalog for the hand earrings we feature by Los Castillo formed by this technique) and "Married Metals" where fine metals such as silver, copper, and brass are combined into a pattern on a piece without soldering the metals together.  Our featured artist's father-in-law, David Perez, worked for Los Castillo and implemented the difficult technique of marrying metals early on in his career.

Malachite:  A soft, green stone varying from translucent to opaque.  Malachite is native to Mexico and was commonly used in Taxco.

Margot de Taxco:  Margot van Voorhies Carr was married to Antonio Castillo when he, along with his three brothers opened their workshop, Los Castillo.  She designed for their workshop, Los Castillo, until their divorce and then started out on her own by opening her own workshop in 1948.  Today she is sometimes referred to as "The First Lady of Taxco" as before her, most pieces of Taxco silver had a strong masculine influence.  She started the process of softening the look of Mexico silver jewelry by making her jewelry very feminine in form and in style.  She passed away in 1985 and today, her pieces are highly collectible.

Matilde Poulat:  We love this artist who signed her work MATL for her feminine and romantic designs using coral, turquoise, and amethyst stones, as well as her embossing and repousse work on her wonderful pieces.  She went to school with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at the Art Institute in Mexico City and Frida Kahlo wore many of her pieces.  After her death in 1960, her nephew, Ricardo Salas, continued her designs using his mark and her design molds that she used signing these pieces "MATL SALAS".  Her pieces are very recognizable and highly collectible!

MATL:  The signature stamp on Matilde Poulat's designs.

Melendez, Emma:  Emma is the niece of Raphael Melendez who had trained with William Spratling at his Taller de Las Delicias before leaving to open his own taller. Emma apprenticed with her uncle before opening her own taller in 1953.  Her jewelry bears her mark, "Emma", from 1953 to 1971.  On some of her work you will also see other initials under her name for silversmiths who worked for her such as an "FR" for Francisco Rivera's mark.  The beautifully feminine abalone inlaid necklace we have in our catalog bears both of their marks "Emma" and "FR".

Moonstone:  A medium-hard stone varying from transparent to translucent and shows off a white shimmer of opalescence as the stone is moved in relation to the eye.  Antonio Pineda used this stone often in his work.

Parure:  A jewelry set containing 5 items - a necklace, bracelet, earrings, brooch, and ring.

Precious Stones:  Include diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, topaz, pearl, and amethyst.

Prieto:  A silver manufacturer established in 1950 in Mexico City

Repoussee':  Using a small hammer and pounding from the back of the metal, a piece is hand tooled to make the design raised in relief.

Rose Quartz:  A stone that is rose red to pink in color.  It is a variety of crystalline quartz, ranging from transparent to translucent, that is native to Mexico.

Semi-Precious Stones:  Include such stones as aquamarine, amethyst, topaz, garnet, tourmaline, spinel, peridot, chrysobery, quartz, opal, turquoise, moonstone, and jade.  The organic gems include pearl, amber, coral, and jet, and of these, a pearl can also be counted as a precious stone.

Signed / Stamped:  A piece of jewelry that has a tiny signature, stamped markings, or hallmarks such as "sterling" or the artists's signature, which allows us to attribute the maker of the item and the period in which the piece was created.  It is sometimes difficult to find on a piece and unfortunately some of the wonderful early pieces created by great artists are unsigned.

Spratling, William:  William Spratling is credited with revolutionizing the art of silvermaking throughout Mexico.  In 1931 he opened his own taller / workshop, The Taller de Las Delicias, and employed and trained such artists as Hector Aguilar, Antonio Castillo, Salvador Teran, and Antonio Pineda.  Many of his his earlier designs were influenced by Aztec and Pre-Columbian art.  His hallmark is a joined WS and his work is highly collected today by both collectors of fine jewelry and by museums throughout the world.

Taller:  A workshop where silversmiths create their pieces such as William Spratling's Taller de Las Delicias, Hecotr Aguilar's Taller Borda, and the Castillo brothers' Los Castillo.

Taxco, Mexico:  Made famous when William Spratling, an American, set up his workshop, Taller de Las Delicias, in 1931 to create silver jewerly.  Many of his employees later left his workshop to set up their own tallers or workshops thus making Taxco the center of silversmithing in Mexico.  Silver is still made in Taxco today but the early silver made before the 1970's by such artists as William Spratling, Hector Aguilar, Emma Melendez, Margot de Taxco, and Los Castillo is highly collectible.

Tiger Eye:   A yellow-brown, semi-precious chatoyant gemstone consisting of quartz wtih parallel veins 

Turquoise:  A medium-hard, opaque stone that varies in color from bright blue to blue green to apple green 

Unattributed piece:  Jewelry without markings to indicate which artist created the piece 

.925 Silver:  Sterling silver is 925 out of 1000 parts pure silver mixed with alloys to add strength and durability 

.940 Silver:  

Sterling silver with 940 out of 1000 parts pure silver mixed with alloys to add strength and durability

.980 Silver:  The highest quality sterling silver with 980 out of 1000 parts pure silver 

.999 Silver:  A very soft and fine silver, 999 out of 1000 parts pure with a brilliant white metallic luster.  It tarnishes mroe slowly than silver  Our featured artists, Victor Pereyra, used this pure silver to create his wonderful pins inspired by William Spratling's pins of earlier days which were influenced by animals in nature - birds, butterflies, and dragonflies.