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Modern Mexican sterling silver jewellery
Monday, 27 February 2017 9:09:00 AM Australia/Sydney
Where it all began
Anyone following the NAJO story knows that it is inextricably linked to Mexico. It’s where our story begins, and it’s at the heart of so many of our most important jewellery designs. Watch how one of our artisan silvermiths flawlessly handcrafts our infamous Naj'O' bangle here!
The father of Mexican Silver
But long before NAJO, the sterling silver jewellery of modern Mexico found worldwide attention largely thanks to one man, American architect William Spratling (1900-1967). An artistic all-rounder, Spratling first visited Mexico in 1926 and was so taken by its landscape and its dynamic creative community that he made it his home. By 1930s he had set up an artisan workshop in Taxco, the traditional home of Mexican silver production, filled with skilled silversmiths who would produce objects of his own design.
Spratling was instrumental in transforming Taxco from a sleepy mining town into a thriving cottage industry, which would provide a livelihood for the most of town’s people. His workshop, Las Delicias, was the first in what would become the grand silver workshops of Taxco, which in its heyday was home to thousands of silversmiths.
A new era of jewellery design
Spratling’s innovative sterling silver designs combined the contemporary art deco stylings with pre-Columbian motifs and Mexican folk references. He looked to his own collection of local, historic sculpture and art for inspiration, incorporating his architecture training and with the materials readily available, not just silver but also stones found in the Taxco mines, native rosewood, as well as gold, copper, brass and other semiprecious stones.
The result is a proliferation of extraordinary jewellery designs featuring stylised birds and animals, sun and sunburst motifs, geometric shapes, oxidised silver patterns, two-tone designs combining copper with silver, sterling silver cuffs studded with cabochon stones, Aztec-inspired statement collars and so much more. What was remarkable about Spratling’s work was that he celebrated a Mexican culture from a time before European conquest, contributing to a re-imagining of Mexican identity.
Without visionaries like Spratling and the many others after him who designed and produced high-quality sterling silver jewellery in Taxco, brands like NAJO wouldn’t be here today. We owe so much to the designers who came before us and the talented Mexican silversmiths who brought their visions to life in beautiful, wearable, narrative-rich jewellery.