The History of Traditional Mexico Silver in Taxco

It’s hard to think of a place in the world more famous for its beautiful silver jewelry than Taxco, Mexico. That’s no coincidence. Silver has a long and rich history in the city whose history extends back to well before Spanish colonization.

Get ready to travel back in time and learn about the tradition of Mexico silver in Taxco, and why Taxco artisans are still considered some of the best in the world.

Where is Taxco?

Taxco de Alarcón is located in the state of Guerrero in the southern half of Mexico. Taxco itself is about 100 miles southwest of the nation’s capital, Mexico City.

Guerrero mexicoThe State of Guerrero in Mexico

Taxco is one of the most beautiful and popular destinations in Mexico, and it’s not hard to see why. The city’s historic architecture is a mix of antique, traditional houses, colonial building facades, and breathtaking churches.

The city’s landscape is just as picturesque. Rolling hills and mountains surround and run through the city. It’s no wonder Taxco is one of the oldest mining sites in all of the Americas.

Today, silver is no longer mined in Taxco itself — the mines are empty! Silver is mined in a town several hours away, and brought to Taxco. The silver jewelry we sell is made by local Taxco artisans.

A History of Silver in Taxco

Pre-Hispanic Origins

The people who lived in the area now known as Taxco were using silver long before the Spanish arrived in the Americas. They mined silver and used it to make gifts for Aztec gods and for other ceremonial purposes.

The Aztecs used silver for jewelry too, and Aztec jewelers were incredible craftsmen. Unfortunately, not much Aztec jewelry survived the Spanish conquest, but the few pieces that are still around are incredible.

The creativity and attention to detail are amazing! Would you believe the colors and patterns would have been even more vibrant back then? Check out this example of what Moctezuma II, a famous Aztec ruler, may have looked like in his jewelry.

Spanish Arrival

santa prisca taxcoSpanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, established the modern city of Taxco in the 1520s specifically because of it’s rich resources of silver. Before the end of the century, Taxco silver was famous across Europe and had become Spain’s main American source of precious metals.

By the early 1700s, though, mining activity had decreased in Taxco as Europeans found more convenient places to mine silver. It wasn’t until 1716 that José de la Borda, the son of a French army officer and a Spaniard, joined his brother in Taxco to mine for silver, gold, and iron.

José stuck gold — or should I say silver — in Taxco, when his success in silver mining made him the richest man in Mexico. His wealth had a huge impact on the city’s economy, culture, and architecture.

His most impressive architectural work is, without a doubt, the famous Santa Prisca Church in Taxco. The church is huge in scale (the tallest building in Mexico until 1806!) and beautifully designed with ornate stone work, gold covered altars, and a magnificent chapel decorated with Talavera tiles. It’s worth a visit if you’re ever near Taxco!

William Spratling

The Aztecs made silver jewelry, but the Spanish in Taxco were mainly after raw silver. So how did modern day Taxco become famous for its jewelry?

It started in the 1920s, when an American named William Spratling moved to Mexico after befriending and working with Diego Rivera.

As an architecture professor and artist, Spratling was fascinated by pre-Colombian and Aztec art, and used it as inspiration for his silver jewelry designs. As Spratling and his jewelry became more and more successful, he started teaching local aspiring silver designers how to produce his designs. He even created an apprenticeship program for local aspiring jewelry makers.

His influence on the community and his love for traditional Mexican designs earned him the nickname El Padre de la Plata de México (“The Father of Mexican Silver”).

World Class Craftsmanship

Spratling’s influence on Taxco silver jewelry is undoubtable, but the city’s reputation for beautiful jewelry and expert craftsmanship has only grown since then. Taxco and its surrounding areas are now home to talented and well-recognized artisans like Melesio Rodriguez, Ignacio Gomez, and the Molina family.

Pre-Colombian and Aztec Inspiration

At Taxco .925, much of our own jewelry is inspired by traditional, pre-Columbian and native Mexican styles.

Here are a few of our favorite pieces of Taxco silver:

Turquoise Warrior Motif Necklace

Turquoise Warrior Motif NecklaceThis colorful and unique warrior head necklace is an example of beautiful silverwork and fine pre-Columbian style craftsmanship. Don’t forget to check out this matching La Cara de Historia Cuff Bracelet!

Native Pre-Columbian Warrior Necklace

Native Pre-Columbian Warrior NecklaceIf turquoise isn’t your thing, this Pre-Columbian Warrior Necklace is a beautiful alternative. It’s a nine-panel piece made with superior 925 silver! Or take a look at our Native Tribal Motif Necklace, another example of exquisite silver work showcasing dynamic patterns and depth.

Mexican Jaguar Necklace

Mexican Jaguar Necklace

Incredibly detailed and textured, this necklace brings the native Mexican jaguar to life. The design of this gorgeous necklace was crafted from a superior 950 silver. The fine lines and movement in the piece make it truly one of a kind, and a perfect example of pre-Columbian design.

Native Tribal Art Cuff

native tribal art cuff

What craftsmanship! The attention to detail on this native Mexican cuff is incredible. The dark colors created by the uneven niello-darkened finish add depth and highlight the incredible attention to detail that went into that piece.

Dragon Clamper Bracelet

dragon clamper braceletThe design of the dragon in this clamper bracelet is an excellent example of pre-Columbian motifs in Mexican silver jewelry. The partially oxidized finish and three-dimensional design really make the piece pop!

Mexican Tribal Art Earrings

Mexican Tribal Art EarringsThink of this gorgeous Mexican silver earring set as an homage to native tribal artwork. Silver work doesn’t get better than this. And the movement in the earrings when you wear them is incredible!

Are You a Fan of Taxco Silver Jewelry?

Silver has a long and fascinating history in Taxco, Mexico. Did we miss anything? Do you have any amazing facts about Mexico silver you wish we had included? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re interested in one of the silver jewelry pieces in this post, we’d love to talk about sizing and personalization options. Get in touch!

Photos: Laurent EspitallierSangall90

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