If you hear the term "Taxco silver," you may have no idea what it means unless you're familiar with the unique history of the remarkable town and its place in the silver jewelry industry. If you're lucky enough to own Taxco silver, make sure that you have it appraised for its commercial value as art - not just its metal weight alone. This is what you should know:
William Spratling And Taxco History
Silversmithing is an ancient art and it was practised in Mexico for centuries. However, a lot of the beautiful jewelry that eventually came onto the American market was brought there by a man named William Spratling, who established the first retail outlet for Mexican silver jewelry in 1931 near the silvermine of Taxco, Mexico.
Spratling himself contributed heavily to the market. His earliest pieces were marked with an just an interlocking WS. As Taxco community fame spread and the artistic achievements of the silversmiths that gathered there became more recognized, his mark became more elaborate: he used a WS inside a circle, around which read the words "Spratling Made In Mexico." Later, variations of these marks were used, depending on the time period, along with numbers 1, 13, and 30.
Other Artists And Styles
Spratling was just the first of many silversmiths to popularize Mexican silver jewelry from Taxco. Numerous other artists have followed since, including artists like Antonio Castillo, Margot de Taxco, and Gerardo Lopez.
Dozens of famous names in silver jewelry have had success from Taxco, often incorporating bold designs based on Aztec, Mayan, and other Mesoamerican designs. Many of the designs began to take on an Art Deco-inspired look, with geometric shapes and clean lines. The vintage silver pieces from Taxco are often correspondingly heavy, bold, "statement" style pieces.
Identification and Appraisal
If you have a piece or two of heavy silver jewelry that you either know or believe to have been made in Taxco, it's to your benefit to have the items appraised. If you suspect that a piece was made in Taxco, but don't know for sure, get out a magnifying glass and carefully examine it for any identifying marks by its maker. There are numerous online sites that can help you identify a particular artist by his or her mark.
Keep in mind that older pieces often have a natural patina - which is a sort of natural glow combined with darker areas in recessed spots. Don't clean the patina off if you are about to have the jewelry appraised! Many collectors prefer the patina that vintage jewelry gets and you can actually reduce the value of your piece by removing it.
When having your Taxco silver appraised, keep in mind that the silver weight alone is only part of its value. Its actual value could be much higher, depending on the artist, how well cared for the piece is, if you have one or more items in a set, and the time period in which it was made. Contact a jewelry appraisal expert for more information.