The mountain city of Taxco in Mexico has long been a center of silver making. Ironically, it was a North American architect, William Spratling, who first began the 20th century tradition with his silver workshop. Called the Taller de la Delicias, it was founded in 1931. Spratling combined traditional Mexican forms and iconography with hand-crafted silver jewelry that became enormously popular. This in turn inspired generations of Mexican silversmiths in the ensuing decades and Taxco remains an important center of silversmithing to this day.
While much of the silver jewelry produced over the decades in Taxco was aimed at the tourist trade, significant collector pieces also were produced. Some of the best known makers include Spratling, Margot, Los Costillo, Victoria, and Pineda. These makers produced an amazing variety of high-quality sterling silver jewelry, sometimes incorporating stones such as turquoise and onyx in their pieces. As you might expect, however, works from these artisans command the highest prices.
So where is value to be found in Mexican silver? Personally, I feel that a great area to explore is the Mid-century Modern jewelry made in Taxco during the 1950's and 60's. In particular, I feel that excellent bargains can still be had in the so-called "mixed metal" pieces made by lesser-known silversmiths. These are pieces that combine other metals such as copper with the sterling silver (plus stones such as malachite and onyx).
The value stems from three things, as I see it. First, by seeking out works by talented but lesser known silversmiths, you avoid a "name" premium when purchasing a piece. Secondly, the design of some of the pieces can be absolutely striking and thus make a strong statement when worn. Lastly, Mid-Century Modern design remains very popular today, which in turn keeps the Taxco mid-mod jewelry relevant to current fashion trends. This is especially true with pieces that combine bold designs and clean lines, such as the ones shown in the above photo.
As to where to find good pieces online, look at sites such as Etsy and Ruby Lane. If, like me, you also enjoy the true thrill of the hunt, go to antique shows and flea markets and search the large flat cases of jewelry that many dealers put out on their tables. This allows you to inspect a piece closely and also bargain with the dealer for a better price. Most show dealers have some wiggle room in their prices so never hesitate to ask. Expect to pay $100 or less for most pieces which, when one considers the craftsmanship, age, and design, is an absolute bargain in my book.
Bryan H. Roberts is a professional appraiser in Sarasota, FL. He is a member of the Florida State Guardianship Association and currently serves on the board of the local FSGA chapter. He is a past president of the Sarasota County Aging Network, a non-profit that provides grants to other non-profits benefiting seniors in need and is also a board member of PEL, an area non-profit whose resale store profits support programs and scholarships for at-risk and disadvantaged youth. He is certified in the latest Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice (USPAP) Equivalent