What to Know About Different Mexican Jewelry Styles
There are few types of jewelry as vibrant as Mexican jewelry. Whether you’re looking for classic silver jewelry, gemstone-centered pieces, or something that represents your love of nature, there is a style of Mexican jewelry for you!
Keep reading to learn about the common metals and a few of the different styles commonly found in Mexican jewelry.
Common metals in Mexican jewelry
When it comes to Mexican jewelry, there is no more important metal, material, or style than Mexican silver. Mexico is actually the #1 producer of silver in the world. It’s no surprise that silver is such an important metal to Mexican jewelry!
Beyond jewelry, silver has a lot of importance to Mexican culture. It’s been used for thousands of years and contributes greatly to the Mexican economy. It was even used as currency in the colonial period of Mexican history.
Today, silver is used due to its stunning beauty, how easy it is to work with, and the rich tradition it signifies when used in the many designs that Mexican artisans use when making Mexican silver jewelry.
Not as popular of a jewelry material as silver or gold, copper is another metal that holds a lot of importance to Mexican culture.
Mexico produces lots of the material, and it is used for everything from piping to high-end kitchen cookware. Don’t let that utility fool you though. Copper is stunning metal that offers strength, beauty, and a unique look that only copper can offer.
An extremely common jewelry material the world over, gold has been an extremely popular material to Mexico since pre-Columbian times. The Aztec and Maya civilizations used gold in addition to silver as a symbol of social status. Today, gold is still used in jewelry in Mexico, often evoking the past in the designs.
Popular Mexican jewelry styles
It all starts here. While there are many different styles of Mexican jewelry, most are either derived or based on pre-Columbian styles, themes, and artifacts.
Some of the pre-Columbian societies that modern Mexican jewelry reference include:
- The Teotihuacan
- The Maya
- The Toltec
- The Aztec
These civilizations started the great tradition of Mexican jewelry through their artful craftsmanship and soulful imagery. Many of these societies actually had craftspeople that’s sole job was to craft jewelry, as well as tools, ceramics, and weapons. Even back then, jewelry was seen as an important cultural touchstone!
Jewelry was used for all types of uses, including for personal style. However, it was often worn by high members of society to show status. It was also used for trade, however, and was a noted store of value and currency.
Today’s pre-Columbian styles feature designs based on artifacts found from these societies. They feature themes and motifs surrounding warriors and the natural world, and often use geometric shapes in their designs.
Gemstones have been used in Mexican jewelry and crafts since jewelry was crafted in the pre-Columbian period. While the pieces from that period were striking, they were often used more as a symbol of wealth and power.
Today, gemstones are used in jewelry to show off the stunning beauty of stones and to complement the style of the wearer. Many gemstones also have unique and distinct meanings as well, adding a level of sophistication and soul to each item. Whether you’re looking for a gemstone that will represent strength (black onyx) or bring protection (obsidian), there is a gemstone that will fit the vibe you are looking for.
William Spratling style
Known as the godfather of Mexican silver jewelry, William Spratling was a leading silver jewelry designer and can be thanked for reinvigorating the silver jewelry business in the early 20th century.
Using the designs from pre-Columbian artifacts and relying heavily on the traditions of those cultures, Spratling started designing and producing jewelry in this style. The pieces not only honored the pre-Columbian cultures and traditions, but added new designs and production methods to modernize them.
Based out of Taxco, Mexico, Spratling started his own workshop in 1933 called Calle Las Delicias. Here, he ran a successful apprenticeship program which started a movement in Taxco, with multiple apprentices starting their own shop. This began the tradition of Taxco-style mexican silver jewelry, which continues to this day.
Frida Kahlo and artist influenced
As you can see, Mexican artisans like to reference and honor Mexican history and tradition. That doesn’t stop with jewelry makers. One of the top styles of Mexican jewelry is jewelry inspired by visual artists and their works. These pieces either reference specific pieces, or just common themes in an artist’s work.
Likely the most common of all of these styles is jewelry styled after Mexico’s most famous artist, Frida Kahlo. Her work is known for the expressive use of nature and animals, and the pieces that are a part of this style reference these themes. It is truly one of our favorite styles of Mexican jewelry!
Nature and animal-themed
Beyond Frida-inspired jewelry, natural-world inspired pieces are a big part of modern Mexican jewelry. The civilizations of the pre-Columbian era, as well as Mexican’s today, are closely connected to the natural world. This has created a segment of artisans who focus their efforts on pieces that represent the natural world.
In these pieces, you can find plants, animals, and other symbolism from the natural world. These pieces are often subtle, but can also be bold and exciting.
Some common themes include:
- Flowers, which represent the natural progression of life and beauty.
- Trees have appeared in jewelry since the Maya period and symbolize life and abundance.
- Jaguars symbolize power and confidence. They first appeared in Olmec art in 1200 B.C. were thought to be divine creatures.
- Snakes represent wholeness, fertility, and honor.
- Fish are a symbol of spirituality all over the world, representing life, creativity, and independence.