The magic of JOSE FEDERICO’s Enamels

on Mar 28, 2012 in jewelry

I am finally back after months and months of promising myself that tomorrow would be the day to start a new post. I guess later is better than never but you would have to be the judge of this…



And since Spring seems to be with us already this year, I thought I’d write about enamel jewelry because I always found them perfect for the sunny days of spring and summer…


I have an old fascination with enameled jewelry – there is something about the transparent lucidity of guilloche that reminds me of enchanted waters and fragile aquatic Nymphs while the saturated opaqueness of champleve takes my breath away with its strong, almost primordial presence.

When I got to know Mexican jewelry, circumstances were already mature for a love affair with Margot’s exquisite enamels – I don’t need to talk about her here; who doesn’t know Margot or the latest book about her enamel work by Penny Morrill (if you don’t, just look up Penny Morrill, Margot Van Voorhies, The Art of Mexican Enamelwork).


I do feel the need, however, to feature some of the pieces by Jose Federico, an artist whose enamelwork, in my humble opinion, is the closest thing to the Great Lady’s jewelry. I have never seen better matching colors and higher quality in the work of any of Margot’s contemporaries or the ones that still today produce her designs using the old molds that she had to give up as a result of her bankruptcy in the early 1970s.


Interestingly enough Jose Federico is not mentioned – at least to my knowledge – in any of the classic reference books on vintage Mexican silver jewelry with one exception; the work of Leslie Pina (Mexican Silver Jewelry Details, see p. 8-9). Yet his work is absolutely gorgeous!


Over the years I have had several of his pieces – mostly brooches – all of them in emulation of classic Margot designs. Very recently I sold a rare necklace signed by him in a difficult to find color as well. And even though for the longest time I thought that he stopped producing before 1980, my theory was abruptly demolished when last year, I found a pin with his initials side by side a post-1980 registration code.


And then I was told that “JF”, whom I knew as Jose Federico, the Mexican silver enamelist following into Margot de Taxco’s footsteps, was also known as Federico Jimenez. Using the same signature, Jimenez who was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, lives in the American Southwest and creates jewelry combining his Mexican heritage with Native American influences.



I had my doubts about this identification but came very close to believing it might be true (actually in an earlier version of this posting I wrote so) until a customer of mine, who bought the Jimenez armband, emailed me to tell me that she had the artist inscribe one of his pieces that she already owned at a show.

The inscription read:
“As the Stars are to the Night, So are Jewels to the Woman”.

That inscription made me believe that my Jose Federico and Federico Jimenez had to be the same person. Why else would a silversmith and designer of Native American inspired jewelry use Margot de Taxco’s famous motto unless there was a very close connection between them?
I have to say that I was happy for a little while thinking that a discovery had been made – until a couple of people kindly wrote to inform me that they knew Jimenez and that the two “JF”s are not the same person (you can read their comments on this post for more)…