by Carol Berk and Penny Morrill
review by Sandra Todaro
Silver jewelry. Some people associate those words with the thin herringbone chains and tiny stamped earrings so common a few years ago. For me they conjure a vastly different vision, one of heavy link necklaces and bracelets, burnished to a high gloss. I see enameled pins and earrings, glowing with translucent color against a polished gray background. In short, I see Mexican silver.
I’ve always loved and admired silver jewelry. I wonder how much of the beautiful product of this era was destroyed in the precious metal feeding frenzy of the early 1980s. I clearly remember walking into a local coin shop and seeing large cardboard boxes piled with flatware, jewelry and decorative objects destined for the smelter. In the back a man sat at a table, prying stones from their settings and hammering the silver mounts flat before throwing them over his shoulder into another box on the floor. Next to him another man was cutting a large silver tray in half with a chain saw. I reached into the box of undamaged jewelry and pulled out a beautifully wrought link bracelet set with
amethysts. I asked th price and the man behind the counter tossed it on a scale. Silver was selling for about $45 an ounce and this was a heavy piece. The price he quoted me was in excess of $300. Trying to stretch our budget to accommodate this bracelet was beyond me, a young married woman with a small baby, and I saw it destroyed for the weight of the metal.
Fortunately not all silver jewelry met this fate. For those drawn to it, this book is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Carole Berk and Penny Morrill have produced a work both scholarly and informative. Long overdue, Mexican Silver is a must for anyone interested in this magnificent integration of folk culture and fashion. Replete with clear, detailed photographs, the text is a veritable bounty of knowledge.
Development of the industry is taken from its early 20th century revolutionary beginnings to present day production. The famous workshops of William
Spratling, Los Castillos, and Antonio Pineda among others, are profiled and significant new information is presented for the collector. Many worthy but less known artisans such as
Sigi, Victoria and Bernice Goodspeed are also researched and discussed. The volume deserves a place of respect in the library of jewelry lovers and historians. The authors are to be commended for the magnificent job they’ve done in presenting this fascinating material. Their dedication to and love of their subject is evident in every word. Schiffer Publications has produced another winner.
Review reprinted with
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