Starting with the less celebrated…

on Jun 19, 2011 in jewelry

Well, it would make sense when inaugurating a blog about vintage Mexican silver jewelry to begin with an ode to one of the big maestros, wouldn’t it? But then, this is just so predictable!
Without wanting to belittle the creative genius of Spratling or Aguilar or Margot de Taxco (how could I anyway?), wouldn’t it be fun if I started with someone whose work is of the highest quality yet about whom we don’t really know that much?


Among my most favorite less celebrated silversmiths and designers (and for some reason I am assuming that we are dealing with a man here – don’t ask me why!), I like to refer to him as “the heart artist” because he signs his pieces with the initials “A” and “E” inside a heart-shaped “M”.

Unfortunately, though he is listed in Bille Hougart’s, The Little Book of Mexican Silver, we don’t really know much about him (by the way, if you are interested in vintage Mexican jewelry and you don’t already have Hougart’s book, rush and get it; it’s one of those essential references that I keep within reach at all times).

So what do we know about “AEM”? For starters that he operated out of Mexico City as his pieces always bear the indication “D.F” in the hallmarks, which stands for “Distrito Federal”, aka… Mexico City.

We also see his signature on jewelry made for Estela Popowski and Rancho Alegre – in fact many a times I have noticed sellers on Ebay identifying “AEM” jewelry as Estela’s without the rest of the hallmarks justifying the attribution. All jewelry I have had by “the heart artist” over the last few years belonged in the middle period of Mexico’s 20th c. Silver Renaissance so I tend to think that he worked mostly in the 1950s and 1960s?


The “heart artist’s” work has never disappointed me. His sense of design is excellent; the quality and craftsmanship on his pieces well above average and quite often, en par with “big name” jewelry. And though he does successfully ply the waters of the more traditional, “archeological” designs, today I would like to share a mod piece of his that is both rare and just so cool… I could not believe my eyes when I saw his signature on it.


Made in the 1950s to early 1960s, I believe, its design creatively follows the trend that big talleres like the Los Castillo and the Los Ballesteros helped establish at the time. You know what I am referring to, right? Modernist, slick pieces in all forms – from necklaces to bracelets to earrings and brooches and rings – that are dominated by the presence of this minimalist shallow “bowl”(?) or “dish”, which usually houses a big, assymetrical semi-precious gem or hardstone set in sturdy, hand-made prongs.


I have seen this design with tumbled amethyst, obsidian, all kinds of colored quartz, chrysocolla even – but I had never before encountered a similar piece housing a carved figurine, like the sea blue agate seahorse in this bracelet… It is so refreshing to know that even after years of looking at and handling Mexican silver jewelry, there is always something around the corner that will make you feel there is definitely more in stock!


What I really love about this bracelet is that the lapidary took advantage of the inclusions in the stone to highlight the seahorse’s face, underbelly and fins. I find the way the silver background reflects the blue of the agate fascinating. And last but definitely not least, I can’t get over the perfect casting of the decorative elements on the “bowl’s” either side. They look like stylized waves and bring to mind the salty aroma of late summer nights by the sea…