Mexico has a rich tradition of jewelry. You may have seen the vintage antique jewelry, opals, turquoise gemstones, santo pecado; Aztec silver and gold. We continue to learn and celebrate this heritage as our ties to the local community grow deeper. And we celebrate the many Mexican jewelry designers who have carried on with traditions and, in many cases, have built upon them. Santa Prisca Silver provides assistance to designers as a jewelry manufacturer, helping their designs become a reality.
In this article, we explore Mexican jewelry, its history and its contribution. We’ll cover the basics of patently Mexican styles, something you can explore in greater detail in person if you ever get the chance to visit the magical pueblo of Taxco de Alarcon and peruse the many gorgeous manifestations of Taxco silver.
For us, this begins in Taxco, our base of manufacturing operations. Take a look at our selection of Taxco jewelry, if you’re interested.
What is Mexican Jewelry?
Taxco reveals hidden gems from the past, including vestiges of culture from the indigenous population, later mixed with European influences. Taxco is not far from the burial place of the last Aztec Emperor, Cuauhtémoc, who famously refused to reveal to the Spanish occupiers his hiding place of the treasure of his people, even in the face of harsh personal consequences.
Aside from the advanced civil society they created as well as contributions to science and technology, the Aztecs are remembered for their bright and vibrant artisanry, closely linked to religious devotion. This style is still impressed on Mexican craftsmen, while growing in worldwide appeal.
While prices fluctuate, there’s no question that the value of silver is a timeless fact of life, and that finding a reliable wholesale jewelry supplier remains of key importance to retailers in the US and worldwide.
Mexican jewelry stems in part from the confluence of indigenous cultures and Spanish settlers. The Aztec tribes, including the Maya, Zapotec, Toltec, Mixtec and others infused their life with art and jewelry. For the indigenous tribes, this was not just a hobby. Rather, it represented tribal culture and identity, ideations of the gods, astrological observances and central cultural principles. It was part of what differentiated indigenous tribes from one another. Many of these deep cultural symbols can also be found in the pyramids and in other vestiges of architecture that have been preserved.
Vestiges of carefully crafted indigenous jewelry were left in tombs, eerily similar to the Egyptian tradition of leaving worldly possessions with the dead that they could use in their afterlife. Indigenous jewelry left as part of the Aztec funeral rituals includes a wide variety of jade stones, quartz earmuffs, turquoise pendants and bracelets as well as depictions of animals, implying that the natural world was also to be experienced by the deceased in the afterlife.
Gold and silver reserves in the mountains of Mexico piqued the interest of Spanish settlers who played a large role in managing the mining and the organization of Mexican silver production and trade. Once Mexico proudly declared independence, designers and entrepreneurs continued to move to Taxco, which became the mecca for Mexican silver artisanry and Mexican silversmiths. Included in these were Fred Davis and William Spratling, the latter of which made a considerable impact on the local market when he brought the popularity of Mexican silver jewelry to anew height.
Unfortunately, much of the original Aztec silver and gold artisanry was melted down by the conquistadors to be used as currency. However, the occasional item was preserved, including silver pendants, labrets, earrings and necklaces, most of which depict some reference to the Aztec Gods, the result of meticulous work with wax casting and filigree. Aztec jewelry had a sharp and warlike element, combined with more replete references to their calendar. The frequent use of turquoise with gold and silver remains a staple of Mexican jewelry today.
Mexican Silver Jewelry Today
A brief glimpse at the Mexican silver market reveals vintage pieces, innovations in silversmithing with new techniques as well as a burgeoning popular market for colorful bead bracelets and necklaces.
Vintage Mexican jewelry is still available from many different outlets. Much of it is also being re-created by artisans with a deep appreciation of the mixture of indegenious and spanish traditions. Today there are a preponderance of ethical and sustainable jewelry brands that not only produce wonderful bracelets and earrings, but support the local community. Although Taxco silver marks are not officially required, popular designers still often like leaving their mark on their pieces.
Take a look at the handmade 925 jewelry we have available, all created in Taxco, Mexico with free shipping in bulk.
Mayan jewelry is among the most bright and intricate of the indigenous jewelry cultures. It is closely representative of the tribe’s relationship with nature and spirits. Mayan artisans are perhaps best known for using jade and shells embedded in gold. This was used for bracelets, necklaces. Pyrite was often used to help make masks. Ornate jewelry was also often adorned on guards and soldiers guarding the tombs of those who had passed on to the other world.
When the Mayans were still in full force, their silversmiths were not just considered artisans. There was a spiritual significance to working with gold that linked goldsmith to the essence of the sun. As indigenous tribes traded with and sometimes dominated one another, this artisanry spread quickly throughout the continent, to the Mixtecos, the Zapotecs, the Aztecs and others. The styles created during this period ended up being iconic. They would continue to be popular and would influence jewelry design for decades to come.
The Mixtecs were also expert craftsmen with gold and had a close connection with nature and were expert astrologers. They were oriented more towards trade and diplomacy than having a warlike culture. The Mixtecs often used ceramics, wood, jade stone, obsidian jewelry and coral. One of the best-known staples of Mixtec artisanry is their carefully crafted necklaces. Some of the Mistec jewelry was also used by priests in religious ceremonies and were regularly worn by leaders in society, including politicians and leading military commanders.
Aztec jewelry has been similarly impactful, although the Aztecs were more fond of jade than gold and also used amethyst, quartz and opal. Jewelry was more popular among Aztec men than it is today in North America. Aztec men also routinely wore an indigenous form of earring as well. During ceremonies, they would wear silver or gold masks to depict the actions of gods and supernatural creatures. Jewelry played a much more prominent role in ceremonial presentations, whereas today it is much more often simply used for stylistic purposes.
Santa Prisca Silver is a wholesale handmade 925 and above silver dealer. Check out our available jewelry selections. Shipping is free. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about our product or our processes!