Some Famous Designers of Mexican

Silver Jewelry and Silverware

 

Frederick Davis was an American designer who arrived in Mexico City in 1910 and (pre-Spratling) developed a network of artisans that he bought from. He began creating his own works; his use of native materials and the way in which he blended contemporary American and European designs with indigenous motifs set the stage for those who later became known as The Taxco School. For more than 20 years Davis managed antiques and crafts for the Sanborn's department store. View Frederick Davis auctions.

The two pieces below are by Davis. In 2008 the necklace sold for $1,600.00 and the pin sold for $1,800.00. Frederick Davis auctions.

 

Photographs: Cincinnati Art Galleries

 

American-born architect William Spratling was a legendary adventurer, celebrity, and world-renowned silver artisan. He was responsible for reviving Mexico's silver industry in the late 1920s and had a strong influence on Mexican silver design in the 20th century. Spratling became known as the "Father of Mexican Silver." He convinced local artisans to use silver from area mines for jewelry (until then they used it only for utilitarian objects) and thus helped established Taxco as a center for making jewelry. View William Spratling auctions.

A number of very talented Taxco artists emerged from Spratling's workshops. He encouraged talented employees to set up their own shops. Some of the best-known and most collectible silver designers who worked in Taxco include:

Antonio Pineda, the legendary Mexican modernist jewelry designer, was one of Spratling's proteges. He gave this interview in 2000 while visiting Los Angeles. Photographs of some of his jewelry designs are included. View Antonio Pineda auctions.

Silver Seduction: The Modernist Art of Antonio Pineda by Regina Kolbe is another excellent article accompanied by photographs of the artist and some of his work. Here is a video from the Silver Seduction exhibit:
 

Exhibition: Silver Seduction - The Art of Mexican Modernist Antonio Pineda from Fowler Museum on Vimeo.

Antonio Pineda's obituary, by Dennis McLellan in the Los Angeles Times, 12.20.2009, provides a good overview of Pineda's life and work. The Times also has a nice photogallery.
 
Margot de Taxco (Margot van Voorhies Carr) played an important role in bringing attention to Taxco silver. Arriving in Mexico in 1937 she met and married Don Antonio Castillo of Los Castillo. He encouraged her, and many of the early Los Castillo designs reflect her contribution. Margot eventually divorced Castillo, became famous (especially for her use of enamel on silver), and was a favorite of many Hollywood celebrities of her time. The Margot de Taxco silver and enamel 3-piece suite shown below sold for $425.00 in 2008. Margot de Taxco auctions.

 
 Photograph: Cincinnati Art Galleries
 

Sigi Pineda: Looking To The Future is an article with photographs featuring Sigi Pineda, who worked in Margot de Taxco's shop when he was a young man. Pineda's work incorporated both American and Scandinavian influences yet is clearly Mexican. Considered one of the great artisans of Taxco. Sigi Pineda auctions.

After studying design in Paris,
Erika Hult de Corral went to Taxco, Mexico in 1966 and worked for Sigi Pineda. She later opened her own shop in Puerto Vallarta in 1968.
Ric is her maker's mark.

Hector Aguilar
once se
rved as William Spratling's shop manager. Aguilar, known for his bold design, was one of the most important designers of Mexican sterling silver jewelry, holloware, and flatware. His workshop, Taller Borda, had a reputation for good design and high quality. The Hector Aguilar cuff bracelet shown below sold for $1,200.00 in 2008. Hector Aguilar auctions.

 
Photograph: Cincinnati Art Galleries

Los Castillo is one of the great families of Taxco silver. It was begun by the four Castillo brothers, who worked with William Spratling before going out on their own. They were known for their revival of ancient techniques such as the fusing of different metals and for their innovations in design and the use of metales casados (mixed metals) and other metals and media. Los Castillo continues its tradition of design and innovation today. The modernist pair of Los Castillo sterling silver and malachite earrings shown on the left below sold for $60.00 in 2008, while the Los Castillo silver cuff bracelet on the right sold for $110.00. Los Castillo auctions.

 
Photographs: Cincinnati Art Galleries

 
Salvador Teran was a cousin of the Castillos (and worked for them) and another Spratling employee. Teran's jewelry is known for its whimsical style and was more influenced by contemporary art than Spratling or Los Castillos. Salvador Teran auctions.

 
Victoria was the trade name of Ana Maria Nunez de Brilanti, who had a small workshop in Taxco and whose maker's marks include Cony. She is believed to have introduced the married metals technique to Taxco. The necklace shown below was one of her creations. Victoria auctions.

 
Photograph: Cincinnati Art Galleries
 
Los Ballesteros
Members of Los Ballesteros began working in small towns in Guerrero under the old apprentice system in which fathers taught their sons silversmithing. In 1937, J. M. Ballesteros who had been trained by his grandfather Efrén Ballesteros and his godfather Daniel Fonseca Ballesteros, moved to Taxco and opened a workshop. To meet the growing demand for Taxco silver Los Ballesteros opened shops in Acapulco, Mexico City, Puebla and Cuernavaca. View Los Ballesteros auctions.
 

Felipe Martinez
owned Piedra Y Plata (literally "stone and silver"), a shop that produced distinctive pieces known for geometric patterns and the use of indigenous Mexican stones bezel set or inlaid.

Matl (Senorita Matilde Eugenia Poulat) of Mexico City was an art school classmate of the great Mexican artist Diego Rivera. She began making jewelry in 1934 and created pieces that featured delicate textured detailing and often used tiny coral and turquoise stones in them.

Jewelry created in Poulat’s workshop was signed “Matl.” Her jewelry has a very rich look and has been described as having “Mexican feeling without recourse to any definite Mexican motifs.” It has also been said that her work may be the most intricate to come out of the Mexican Silver Renaissance. Much of the “Renaissance” work was modernist. See Matl auctions. See photographs of and read about some of the copper pieces she created in an article in Modern Silver.

 

Pedro Perez,
former manager of William Spratling’s Taller de Las Delicias, opened Plateria Rancho Alegre in 1956. Rancho Alegre designed, produced and sold its own jewelry and became an outlet for other designers and silversmiths as well — by the 1960s Rancho Alegre had become one of the largest retailers of Mexican silver, with tourists arriving in droves. Plateria Rancho Alegre closed in 1985.

Enrique Ledesma was from Mexico City and apprenticed in his father's silversmith shop. After studying sculpture and painting at the San Carlos Academy of Art, he moved to Taxco, and worked for William Spratling, Los Castillo, and Hector Aguilar, finally opening his shop, Plateria Ledesma, about 1950. The pieces he created were very sculptural, and he worked extensively with native stones.

Reveriano Castillo began his apprenticeship with William Spratling at Taller de Las Delicias in Taxco in 1934 and worked there until 1939. He then joined Taller Borda, established by Hector Aguilar the same year. Reveriano’s wife Maria worked for Los Castillo for ten years. The couple opened their own Taller, Reveri, in 1952 (it closed in 1992). They created designs that are quite unique, including some that incorporated niello and others that featured braiding and weaving. Most of their work was jewelry, but their shop produced some holloware as well. The progression of their designs as they become more modern is fascinating. The Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks, and Makers’ Marks has several nice examples, of Reveri designs, along with photographs of their makers’ marks.
 
American Bernice Goodspeed was a cultural anthropologist deeply interested in pre-Columbian archeology. Goodspeed and her artist husband opened a gallery in Taxco, Mexico in the 1930s and sold his work along with pre-Columbian artifacts. She designed and created jewelry and tableware and sold it through the gallery. Given her interests, it's not surprising that many of Goodspeed's pieces reflect Aztec and Mayan influences. Bernice Goodspeed auctions.
 

For more details about these and other "maestros" (master silversmiths) working in Mexico, along with detailed information about Mexican silver marks and photographs, visit the Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks, and Makers' Marks. While there you can also participate in the Mexican Silversmiths Forum.
 

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