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The home of handmade silver
Thursday, 22 September 2016 4:19:39 PM Australia/Sydney
Join us on a trip to Taxco, Mexico
The small town of Taxco, just south of Mexico City, is synonymous with the silversmith industry and is the birthplace of many of NAJO’s finest creations. Unlike other countries, where jewellery manufacture is mostly factory or machine made, Mexican silver is still largely handcrafted.
Taxco back in the day…
Taxco’s extensive silver reserves were discovered by the Spanish as early as the 16th century, although the mining town only really became internationally renowned as an artisan hub in the 1920s, when American William Spratling set up silversmith workshops and began exporting his fashionably exotic designs to an enthusiastic US market.
This new reputation for silverwork inspired Taxco’s burgeoning tourist trade, which continues even today. When NAJO founder Jo Tory first visited the bustling area 30 years ago, it inspired her to make silver jewellery her life’s work. “Just about every local family worked in silver and had workshops in their homes,” she recalls.
…And Taxco today
But much has changed in Taxco today. Silver reserves have been depleted and mining has been phased out. The cost of silver has risen sharply, and worldwide demand for Taxco’s creations has dropped. Sadly, the town’s silver workshops have reduced in both number and size.
This is old news for Jesus Hernandez, a Taxco silversmith who grew up in the trade. Jesus is one of NAJO’s premier silversmiths, and began developing his skills 30 years ago when he was only 13 years old, apprenticed to a workshop only a block from where his own outlet remains today. These days he works alone, manufacturing commissioned pieces for designers like NAJO as well as designing his own pieces, expertly crafting them via various time-honoured techniques including repoussé, cut-out patterning, lost wax casting and die stamping.
Meet our maker
Artisans like Jesus, although becoming increasingly rare, possess a knowledge and skill that is incredibly valuable, handed down through generations and little changed over time. You can see his skill at work creating NAJO’s most iconic design.
The classic Naj ‘O’ Bangle has endured for almost 30 years, thanks to its organic lines and highly polished sheen, all handcrafted using the technique of die stamping. “I make everything, from the granule that I melt here in the crucible, to the wire, the sheet, tubing, solder, balls – everything,” he explains proudly.