Collecting Vintage Mexican Silver Jewelry for Fun and Profit

Vintage brooch by Hubert Harmon
Vintage brooch by Hubert Harmon | Source

Having been a silversmith since the early 1980s, I have a great appreciation for the work of those who didn't have all of the wonderful tools that we have today.

Of particular interest for me is the vintage sterling silver jewelry from Mexico, especially some of the modernist pieces that were created in the 1950s through the 1970s.

These skilled artisans created fabulous works of art that are still being mimicked today. These original designs are highly sought after by collectors.

Although silver prices have increased dramatically in recent years, you can still find great buys on vintage Mexican jewelry on eBay. Unlike much of the sterling silver found today, vintage sterling silver jewelry was often made above the .925 standard purity, making it an even better value.

Beware of Alpaca, German, and Nickel Silver

Silver marked Alpaca Silver, German Silver, New Silver, Nickel Silver or Paktong, actually contain no silver at all but are an alloy made of copper and nickel. These so called silvers may also contain other metals such as cadmium, tin or zinc.

Nickel is very often the cause of rashes or irritation due to nickel allergies. Anyone that wears Nickel silver and develop any kind of irritation or rash should discontinue wearing the jewelry immediately.

Allergies to nickel used in post style earrings can lead to bad infections.

Horrifying Results of a Badly Infected Piercing

Silver Purity

Most vintage as well as modern silver jewelry are marked with a number such as the number “925”. This number represents the purity of the silver that the piece is made from. The standard for sterling silver is .925% pure silver and is most often marked “925” or sterling silver.

In order for a piece of jewelry to be marked "Sterling Silver" it must contain at least 92.5% silver. The other 7.5% can be any other metal but is usually copper to help give it hardness.

Coin silver is only 90% pure silver and jewelry made from coin silver is usually marked “900”. Rings made from coin silver will usually leave a black mark on the wearers finger.

Sometimes silver jewelry has more silver than the standard .925% purity, these pieces may be marked “970” or “980”. Pure silver jewelry is usually marked “999” which represents a .999% silver purity. Silver that is 99.9% pure is also known as fine silver.

Unfortunately, jewelry is seldom made from pure silver because it is simply too soft to hold up during regular use. It is important to note that these purity stamps represent the minimum purity and vintage Mexican silver jewelry often exceeds the minimum purity.

Unique and Inspiring Jewelry

Vintage Mexican silver jewelry has a unique look that, over time, you can learn to recognize quite easily.

Getting to know the hallmarks found on the back of the jewelry will help you to recognize highly collectible vintage Mexican jewelry and enable you to spot a great value.

I have found some wonderful deals on vintage Mexican silver, I have also missed out on a few!

Silver necklace with ruby, emerald and Mexican opal with two jaguars in confrontation from Guadalajara Jalisco on display at the Museum of Artes Populares in Mexico City
Silver necklace with ruby, emerald and Mexican opal with two jaguars in confrontation from Guadalajara Jalisco on display at the Museum of Artes Populares in Mexico City | Source

Mexico Silver Marks

Different hallmarks and silver marks were used during different time periods giving you a rough estimate as to when the jewelry piece was created.

These marks while useful are not always absolute due to the many variations and exceptions that were found in vintage Mexican silver jewelry.

1900s – 1920s often marked “900”

1920s – 1940s often marked “Mexico Silver” or “Silver Made in Mexico”

1930s – 1940s often marked “925”, “940”, “960” and “980”

1950s – Today often marked “Sterling” or “925”

“Taxco Mexico” or “Taxco” was often marked on jewelry created in Taxco Mexico from 1933 – 1940.

The Eagle or "Bell" Hallmark

In 1948 the Mexican government instituted the eagle hallmark. These marks were used for those items that were created for export and were the Mexican governments way of guaranteeing the quality of the sterling silver. These eagle hallmarks often looked like a bell and are sometimes referred to as a “bell mark”.

Eagle hallmarks had a number that was placed inside the eagle. These numbers represented a specific designer or silversmith or represented a generic number for the community in which it was created.. For example, Taxco, a very popular silver community was assigned the number “3”, Mexico City was assigned the number “1”. This method of identification was used from 1949 until the late 1970s.

There are actually two versions of the eagle hallmark. The delineated version of the eagle mark was used until ca. 1955. The silhouetted version of the eagle mark was used until the late 1970s.

The Eagle Mark is Replaced

Later the eagle hallmark was retired an a new hallmark system was implemented. This system used a combination of letters and numbers to help indicate where it was made and who made it.

The first letter indicated the location where it was made, the second letter was the first initial of the last name of the silversmith and the numbers indicated the position of the registered silversmith in the city's assay office. For example if it was labeled “TM-12”, it would indicate that the jewelry was created in Taxco and the silversmiths first letter of his last name was “M”. The “12” would indicate that he was the 12th person on the city's register.

Unfortunately, there is no know list that match all the letters and numbers to specific silversmiths and only a few have been identified.

The Well Known City of Taxco

Taxco is one of the most famous locations where Mexico silver jewelry is made.
Taxco is one of the most famous locations where Mexico silver jewelry is made. | Source

Famous Vintage Mexico Silversmiths

If you're looking for a truly collectible piece of vintage Mexican silver jewelry, you will probably want to be on the lookout for specific makers marks from famous Mexico silversmiths. Many of these silversmiths changed their marks over the years giving a good indication as to when the piece was created. Here is a list of just a few of the more famous Mexican silversmiths:

Mexican Modernist Antonio Pineda

Born in Taxco on July 19, 1919 Mexican modernist Antonio Pineda live to a ripe old age of 90 years old.

Antonio Pineda apprenticed under U.S. designer William Spratling who had been working in Mexico in the late 1920s. Later he apprenticed in Mexico City with Valentin Vidauretta.

Antonio Pineda opened his own silver jewelry workshop in 1939 and at his peak employed nearly 100 silversmiths.

Tango Aceves

Hector Aguilar

Miguel Alonzo

Adan Alverado

Antonio Pineda

Los Ballesteros

Carmen Beckmann

Bernice Goodspeed

Los Castillo

Chato Castillo

Pedro Castillo

Fred Davis

Rafael Dominguez

Emma Melendez

Salvador De La

Damaso Gallegos

Hubert Harmon

Jose Luis Flores

Victor Jaimez

Los Castillo

As one of William Spratling's first apprentices, Antonio Castillo Terán learned to work with silver and other metals at a young age.

Later in life Don Antonio married Margot Van Voorhies Carr. Don Antonio taught his wife to work with silver and later her works also became highly collectible. After approximately 10 years their marriage ended in divorce and Margot Van Voorhies Carr left Don Antonio's shop Los Castillo to open her own shop “Margot de Taxco”. Several of the Los Castillo silversmiths followed her.

Los Castillo experimented with several different techniques always focusing on the art and worked to prevent the shop from becoming to commercial.

Antonio Castillo Terán died in May 2000 however Los Castillo continues to be one of the most prominent names in Taxco, Los Castillo still produces jewelry and continues to train new silversmiths.

Enrique Ledesma

Margot Van Voorhies Carr

Ysidro Garcia

Jose Marmolejos

Matilde Eugenia Poulat

Miguel Melendez

Rafael Melendez

Serafin Moctezuma

Miguel Garcia

Artemio Navarrette

Abramham Paz

Miguel Pineda

Stella Popowski

Erika Hult de Corral

Francisco Rivera

Melicio Rodriguez

Salvador Teran

Sigfredo Pineda

William Spratling

Tane Orfebres

Ana Nunez Brilanti

Collecting vintage Mexico silver jewelry can be a fun and sometimes very profitable hobby indeed!

Vintage Mexican Silver Jewelry Sold on eBay

Vintage Mexican Jewelry Description (Actual eBay Description)
Date Sold
Items Sold for More Than $500
VINTAGE TAXCO MEXICO SILVER HECTOR AGUILAR MODERNISTS 990 NECKLACE
May-11 19:05
$3,835.00
FRED DAVIS VINTAGE SILVER AND AMETHYST NECKLACE & BRACELET SET
Nov 02, 2014
$1,999.99
VINTAGE ANTONIO PINEDA 1950s BLACK ONYX AND STERLING SILVER (MEXICAN) BRACELET
Oct 12, 2014
$1,700.00
Vintage ANTONIO PINEDA 970 SILVER & ONYX BRACELET Taxco Mexico Mexican
Aug 20, 2014
$1,625.00
VINTAGE ANTONIO PINEDA NECKLACE STERLING SILVER & MOONSTONE TAXCO HEAVY CHOKER
Jun-04 21:02
$1,604.00
MOST RARE FRED DAVIS VTG MEXICO MEXICAN STERLING SILVER NECKLACE
Apr-06 18:00
$1,401.86
rare Margot de Taxco Mexican silver Necklace repousse hearts sterling vintage
Apr-14 18:27
$1,150.00
VINTAGE DESIGN TAXCO MEXICAN STERLING SILVER AMETHYST NECKLACE MEXICO
Jun-01 12:17
$1,100.00
Vtg William Spratling Sterling Silver Link Bracelet Heavy 123.6g Mexico 1940s
Apr-06 11:05
$1,000.00
Vintage MARGOT DE TAXCO Sterling Silver ENAMEL SNAKE Bracelet BOOK PIECE Mexico
May-11 19:18
$910.00
VINTAGE HECTOR AGUILAR SILVER &LEATHER "X" GEORGIA O'KEEFE BRACELET TAXCO MEXICO
Mar-26 13:04
$895.00
VINTAGE ANTONIO PINEDA STERLING SILVER & BLACK ONYX NECKLACE
Jun-07 13:29
$899.00
XXRARE MARGOT DE TAXCO VTG MEXICO MEXICAN STERLING SILVER ENAMEL NECKLACE
Apr-13 18:10
$886.00
Vintage MARGOT DE TAXCO Sterling Silver ENAMEL SNAKE Necklace BOOK PIECE Mexico
May-11 18:58
$866.00
Vintage Modernist Marked Mexico Sterling Silver Set w Link Bracelet & 29" Belt
May-13 15:30
$798.00
Vintage Margot de Taxco Sterling Silver/ Enamel Necklace & Bracelet
Apr-27 17:00
$770.00
Margot de Taxco Vintage Mexican Sterling Silver Snake Bracelet and Earrings Set
May-11 16:43
$699.00
Vintage Taxco Mexico Sterling Silver Infinity Figure 8 Link Chain Belt Heavy
Apr-08 07:07
$750.00
ANTONIO REINA Signed STERLING Silver Vintage Necklace Mexico 925 Modernist TAXCO
May-04 01:25
$675.00
MOST RARE FRED DAVIS VTG MEXICO MEXICAN STERLING SILVER GAZELLE BRACELET
May-04 18:05
$660.00
Margot de Taxco Mexican silver Necklace Blue White enamel Clouds Waves vintage
Apr-11 10:17
$650.00
Sterling Silver Taxco Hector Aguilar Vintage 940 Bracelet * 125 Grams 4.39 Ounce
Mar-25 12:23
$635.00
ANTONIO REINA VTG TAXCO MEXICO MEXICAN STERLING SILVER BLACK ONYX NECKLACE
Apr-15 18:00
$635.00
Genuine Vintage MATL Matilde Poulat bracelet earrings silver amethyst turquoise
Mar-28 18:53
$610.00
LOS CASTILLO VTG TAXCO MEXICO MEXICAN STERLING SILVER REPOUSSE PENDANT NECKLACE
May-29 18:00
$598.88
Vintage Modernist Antonio Pineda Taxco Mexican 970 Silver Dangle Earrings 19136
Mar-26 12:09
$595.00
Margot de Taxco Vintage Silver Enameled Necklace 16 1/2" long
Apr-19 13:01
$588.00
MAGNIFICENT VTG MEXICO MEXICAN STERLING SILVER REPOUSSE RHODOCHROSITE BRACELET
May-26 18:10
$577.99
Vintage Taxco Mexican Sterling Silver Green Onyx Hands Flowers Necklace 19468
Jun-01 11:37
$575.00
DRAMATIC VTG TAXCO MEXICO MEXICAN STERLING 950 SILVER ONYX PECTORAL NECKLACE
Apr-28 18:00
$560.99
Vintage William Spratling Mask Cuff Sterling Silver Taxco Mexico
May-09 16:00
$550.00
Wow! Early Vintage MATL Mexican Silver Coral & Turquoise Bracelet Matilde Poulat
May-04 16:41
$554.01
Vintage Taxco 950 Sterling Silver Amethyst Hollow Chunky Necklace
Apr-12 18:02
$547.77
XRARE MARGOT DE TAXCO VTG MEXICO MEXICAN STERLING SILVER ENAMEL BRACELET
May-14 18:15
$527.88
Vintage Mexico silver jewelry sold on eBay for more than $500

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Do You Know Who Made This Watch?

I often see vintage Mexican jewelry that is difficult to determine who created it. Do you know who make this fabulous vintage Mexican watch? If you recognize the artist please leave a comment below.

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