A Brief Guide to Our Natural & Treated Stones
We believe that our Taxco silver shines in a class of its own and some of our most stunning and treasured pieces are exclusively crafted from sterling or .950 silver. However, our artists are also skilled at blending the sleek grace of silver with the richness of natural and treated stones, many of them indigenous to Mexico. Here is a brief overview of our most popular stones to help you select and care for your favorite inlaid Mexican jewelry.
ABALONE is a shell not a stone, but its iridescent flash of color makes it very popular for jewelry. When polished, it can resemble the opal gemstone. Native Americans and the Maori tribe in New Zealand have used the abalone shell for decorative purposes for centuries. There are over one hundred varieties of abalone. The most prized variety is the paua which is only found in New Zealand but there are many other forms found in southern Australia, Africa, northern Japan and western North America.
Many indigenous cultures believed that abalone was a fountain for creativity and that it strengthened the heart by removing negative energies. The rainbow of colors and shimmering nature makes it easy to see why abalone has been associated with creativity for so many centuries. It is truly an inspirational stone!
To care for your abalone jewelry from Taxco.925 Mexican Silver Store:
Clean your abalone jewelry with warm water when needed and make sure to keep it out of direct sunlight which can easily cause fading.
AMBER isn’t an actual gemstone but rather a fossilized tree resin that can sometimes be as much as 40 million years old. Because of the way it is formed, some pieces of amber have fossilized insects of plant matter in them. It is often called a “solar stone” because it always feels warm to the touch due to its electromagnetic properties.
Archeologists have found amber stone decorating graves dating back to 2000 B.C. or before. Many other ancient artifacts have been discovered that were carved into hunting talismans and most often have insects in them. Those particular amber stones were probably chosen to craft into talismans because they were believed to have magical virtues.
The color of amber can vary widely due to the fact that the color of the resin it is made from varies according to type of tree, climate and other elemental conditions. The hue can range from a pale almost translucent yellow to a vibrant orange to a warm honeyed-brown which is most common. In rare forms, amber can be blue or a pale green.
The Baltic Sea is the most well known source for amber and was used in the region as currency as far back as 800 B.C. However, amber is also found in many other places around the world including Mexico, many South & North American countries, Sicily, Romania, Lebanon and New Zealand.
Amber has also been used as a polish for high end violins, as art sculptures and even as teething rings! It is the birthstone for those born under the Cancer zodiac sign and also has special significance to those born under the Leo, Virgo, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces or Taurus signs. It is important to so many different birth signs because of the warming energy attributed to it.
To care for your amber jewelry from Taxco.925 Mexican Silver Store:
Amber stones are very soft and need special care to prevent scratching and chips. Store jewelry in a padded box or bag. Do not apply hairspray while wearing amber jewelry as the chemicals can permanently damage the stone. Other chemical-based cleaners and harsh soaps can also damage amber. The best way to clean amber is with lukewarm water and a soft cloth. You can also use olive oil to add shine to your stones.
AMETHYST comes from the quartz family and is characterized by its calm and delicate shade of violet. It is February’s birthstone. One of our favorite “fun facts” about amethyst is the origin of its name: the ancient Greeks believed the stone protected its owner from drunkenness and thus called it ἀ (a-) for “not” and μέθυστος (methustos) for “intoxicated”. They not only wore amulets made from amethyst but actually made their drinking vessels from it to ward off intoxication!
The gemstone was also used as a decorative gemstone by ancient Egyptians and was worn by medieval European soldiers who believed the stone had a calming effect and would help them remain level headed during the heat of battle.
Amethyst is found all over the world including many locations in the United States, Brazil, South Korea, Zambia and Ontario, Canada. The color can vary from almost clear pale to a rich royal violet and often has hue variations within the same stone. On exposure to extreme heat or radiation, amethyst can become yellow or green and is called “burnt amethyst” which is considered its own class of beautiful quartz gemstone.
To care for your amethyst jewelry from Taxco.925 Mexican Silver Store:
Amethysts are a hearty gemstone and can be worn every day. But do take care to remove your jewelry during strenuous activities when you could damage your jewelry by force. Amethysts easily lose their shine from collecting everyday skin oils, dirt and soap film but can also easily be restored to their original luster by a quick clean with warm water and a soft cloth. You can use a soft brush to polish the stone as well but take care not to scratch the silver part of your jewelry!
RED CORAL is an organic gemstone formed from the hard skeleton of red marine coral branches. This skeleton is naturally matte but can be polished to a high gloss shine. Natural coral has a color range from warm reddish pink, red with orange undertones, pale pink to a deep ruby red. It is the recommended gift for 35th wedding anniversaries.
Coral was used in jewelry as far back as ancient Egyptian and prehistoric European burials. It also has a place in Greek mythology in the story of Perseus when the blood of Medusa turned seaweed into rich red coral. In fact, the Greek word for coral is “Gorgeia” because Medusa was one of the 3 Gorgons. In many stories of the sea, Poseidon was said to live in a palace crafted of coral.
In Roman times, coral jewelry was worn to protect children from harm and was also placed on snake & scorpion wounds. We aren’t sure if it actually worked to cure the wounds, but we bet they looked good!
Red Coral is considered to be lucky for anyone born on the 9th, 18th or 27th of any month because its rich red color is associated with the planet Mars which “rules” the number 9 and its multiples. Coral is also one of five sacred stones of the Tibetan, Hindu and American Indian tribes.
To care for your coral jewelry from Taxco.925 Mexican Silver Store:
Because it is an extremely soft and porous gem, coral needs gentle care. Exposure to chlorine, alcohol, ammonia or other chemicals may damage it. Remove coral jewelry when showering or swimming. The coral may gradually change color from every day wear – this is a beautiful organic experience! To clean the coral, wipe gently with a soft cloth and then store in its own container where it won’t be scratched by harder stones.
LAPIS LAZULI is an incredibly rich opaque blue gemstone that has natural golden flecks. It is no surprise that it was coveted by royalty for centuries in many cultures including Babylonia, Egypt and the Middle East. The golden flecks and rich color also made it a prized stone among religious societies and it was even used to pigment paint for renderings of the Madonna.
The golden flecks in lapis lazuli comes from pyrites, due to the presence of iron in the gemstone. The pricing of the gemstone is often dependent on the intensity of its royal blue color as well as the amount of golden points in the stone. Lapis lazuli is sourced in Argentina, Afghanistan, Canada, Chile and the western United States.
To care for your lapis lazuli jewelry from Taxco.925 Mexican Silver Store:
Lapis lazuli is actually quite fade-resistant but can easily be chipped or scratched. It is recommended that you only use a soft cloth to clean lapis lazuli jewelry and that you also store all of your pieces individually wrapped in soft cloth or in a space where it will not accidentally bump and scratch on other jewelry.
LARIMAR, also called “Stefilia’s Stone” is a rare blue variety of pectolite that is only found in the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. To keep our prices affordable, we use a “treated larimar” which is not authentic larimar but rather a simulated stone that is durable, easily cleaned and beautiful aquamarine shade of blue that harkens the jewel tones of the Caribbean sea. You will rarely find real larimar jewelry for sale outside of the Dominican Republic (and any international jewelers that specialize in Caribbean jewelry) so take caution if it is advertised otherwise.
MALACHITE is an opaque, green banded mineral that was named by the Greeks for its rich deep green color and its resemblance to the leaves of the mallow plant. The mineral was used as a pigment in green paints for centuries until the early 1800s. Many antique vases and other antiquities are made from malachite and was often used as diplomatic gifts between governments and royalty.
Malachite is often found in the same locations as copper and azurite deposits and the variations of color and in its banding patterns can often be attributed to the acidity of the soil around it and the climate.
To care for your malachite jewelry from Taxco.925 Mexican Silver Store:
Malachite is one of the softest gemstones which makes it quite easy to sculpt into beautiful jewelry but can also cause it to be easily damaged. We suggest you remove your malachite jewelry if participating in any activity that might cause it to be scratched or broken due to impact. Malachite polishes easily with a soft cloth and can be gently cleaned with warm soapy water. Never use any cleaner with ammonia on malachite as it will scratch and discolor the surface.
ONYX is a black chalcedony quartz. Its deep black color and high gloss gleam make it an obvious dramatic touch for jewelry design and other decorative art pieces. The name comes from the Greek word for fingernails based on the legend that Cupid cut Venus’ fingernails while she was sleeping and as they fell to the earth, the gods turned them into onyx so that they would not perish.
The dark brooding nature of onyx stone has lent itself to many reverential pieces, especially during the mourning period after Queen Victoria’s death in England when memorial cameo brooches became popular.
Onyx is most commonly found in India and South America but it is also mined in Mexio, China, Madagascar and the United States.
To care for your onyx jewelry from Taxco.925 Mexican Silver Store:
Onyx will not scratch easily but its brittle hardness can cause it to break if it receives a sharp blow. Warm water and a polish from a dry soft cloth will keep your onyx jewelry brilliant and beautiful for years!
TURQUOISE was among one of the first gems to be mined and many historic sites have now been deleted. For 2,000 years, Iran has been known as an important source of turquoise and it was so abundant in the region that it was used as a design feature in architecture for both royalty and commoners alike. The Southwest United states is also a significant source of turquoise and were mined since pre-Columbian times by Native Americans using stone tools.
The Aztecs in Mexico used turquoise in their ceremonial mosaic art and ceremonial pieces such as masks, knives, shields and wall murals. They also used turquoise in their amulets and often wore the gem in both sculpted bead and natural raw pendant form. The blending of silver and turquoise is actually a rather modern artistic movement, beginning with the Navajo and other Southwestern Native American tribes around 1880 when influenced by outsiders to develop their craft as a means of supporting the tribe and not just for religious purposes.
The Tibetans also use turquoise extensively in their shaman religious ceremonies and believe it promotes spiritual and mental clarity. The turquoise is December’s birthstone and is also the traditional gem for the fifth wedding anniversary.
To care for your turquoise jewelry from Taxco.925 Mexican Silver Store:
The color of turquoise can change with exposure to skin oils if the stone has not been stabilized and therefore, jewelry should be wiped clean to deter this. Any extreme temperatures will also effect the gem and may cause discoloration as well as cracking. Use a soft brush or polishing cloth to clean and shine the stone and store in a cool, dry place.