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Taxco, the heart of Mexican silversmithing
Monday, 17 April 2017 4:10:00 PM Australia/Sydney
Think they don’t make things like they used to? Good news! The tradition of silversmithing is alive in Mexico.
Still made by hand, still made in Mexico
Today, NAJO’s Mexican sterling silver jewellery is still handcrafted in the workshops of Taxco, southwest of Mexico City. This is where the NAJO story began 30 years ago, and where the rich tradition of Mexican silversmithing began much earlier.
Those were the days… of Mexican silver
Taxco’s extensive silver reserves were discovered by the Spanish as early as the 16th century, although the mining town only really became world-famous as an artisan centre for silversmithing in the 1930s, when William Spratling set up what would become the first of the Grand Workshops.
Taxco’s Grand Workshops
Along with Spratling’s Las Delicias, Taxco’s grand workshops comprised Margot’s, Los Castillo and Antonio Pineda. Together, these workshops employed thousands of silversmiths in Taxco in the 1930s and 1940s and firmly established the town as a must-visit destination for jewellery enthusiasts and artistic types. By the time NAJO founder Jo Tory first visited in the 1980s, as she recalls, “just about every local family worked in silver and had workshops in their homes.”
The ‘grand’ has gone, but the skills remain
Taxco today is very different to its heyday. Workshops have reduced dramatically in both number and size. And yet the skills and knowledge passed down through generations of apprentices are still to be found by those who are willing to seek it out.
The people behind the pieces
Over the decades, NAJO has built strong personal relationships with individual Taxco silversmiths, who masterfully maintain and execute the time-honoured techniques behind some of our most popular designs.
Silversmith Jesus Hernandez handcrafts our enduring Naj ‘O’ Bangle, using the technique of die stamping. In this method, a sheet of sterling silver is pressed into a concave die so that it reproduces the shape of the die. The pieces are then hand soldered together to form the distinctive ‘O’ bangle, and hand-polished to a gleaming, bright white finish.
Meanwhile, master silversmith Señor Melesio uses the intricate repoussé technique – along with his 68 years of experience – to handcraft our show-stopping Abanico Necklace. Repoussé involves meticulously working the metal from the back side by hand to produce a motif in low relief. For added drama, the traditional pattern is then accentuated with oxidation.
There’s something a little magical about knowing these techniques have hardly changed over generations, and that, even today, NAJO’s made-in-Mexico jewellery continues to preserve the noble legacy of Taxco silversmiths.