I love silver jewelry, so I was saving my pesos and looking forward to the trip to Taxco. I had a vision in my mind of the kind of bracelet I wanted. It would be hinged and chunky and maybe something Frida Kahlo would have worn. Oh, so Mexican. The reality was that most of the shops in Taxco had nothing even vaguely resembling my dream bracelet. Ninety nine percent of the silver I saw was exactly what can be found in any mall in the US. The prices only slightly better.
I learned a lot about the silver of Taxco, however. Silver has been mined from that area for centuries, but in 1929 an American named William Spratling moved to Taxco and began designing jewelry based on Aztec imagery and Art Deco imagery and he helped to train other artisans and set up workshops for the making of jewelry. Spratling put Taxco on the map as the premier silver design center in the world. (And I wonder if his ghost is apalled to see the mostly junky stuff that is sold there now . . .)
These are some of his designs—I think they are incredible:
I found only one shop selling reproductions of Spratling bracelets—way out of my price range. I saw a bracelet I liked in a tiny little shop and when I went back to get it the shop was closed and it never reopened before we left. I bought this pair of grape leaf motif earrings that I was told was a Spratling design. I was immediately drawn to them because I am almost certain my grandmother had a pair that were nearly identical, purchased many, many years ago in Mexico.
I came home from Mexico without my dream Mexican bracelet and I was disappointed. I began to search eBay for antique Mexican bracelets and to my delight discovered dozens of them—exactly what I had hoped to find in Taxco. I bid on several and very narrowly lost the bid on a beauty. None were Spratling designs—those go on eBay for a minimum of $1200, but I am guessing that many of the more affordable eBay bracelets were designed by the artisans that Spratling taught. Finally I won the bid for this bracelet with matching earrings (screwback—youch) that was made in Taxco in the 1930's.
It's exactly what I wanted.