William Spratling's Legacy in Taxco's Silver

The history of silver jewelry in Taxco dates back centuries, to when the Spaniards arrived in America and discovered large silver deposits in the region. Taxco became a significant silver mining center during the colonial period after the Conquest when the legends of the rich minerals in the surroundings of Taxco began to spread.

Once Hernán Cortés settled in Mexico, he left this region to his two children. The period right after the revolution was pretty much a quiet time in Taxco; the mines were not as productive, and there wasn't a lot of actual silver making in the town itself.

However, the real revolution in Taxco's silver jewelry began in the 1930s, thanks to the vision and talent of the famous American artist and architect William Spratling. Spratling arrived in Taxco and was fascinated by the artisan tradition and the skills of the local silversmiths. He decided to make it his mission to grow and popularize the talent behind every mastermind in Taxco (a thought little bit too familiar for us, if we're being honest).

Today, as a homage to Manuel's hometown and to the Sterling Silver restock happening, we decided to highlight this exciting fragment of Taxco's history, which tells about a foreigner who had so much love for this town that he worked to raise its name and talent for generations to come (a century later, and here we are). This is the story of William Spratling and his legacy in the silver town of Taxco Guerrero.

Who was William Spratling?

William Spratling was born on September 22, 1900, in Sonyea, New York. He started his professional life as an architect in New Orleans. He was inspired to come to Mexico to draw Colonial buildings and write articles and books on this architectural treasure that was Taxco.

The Mexican cultural renaissance immediately fascinated him, so he returned several times to tour the country before settling down definitively in Taxco.

However, the task of writing a book about Mexico determined Spratling's decision to leave the bustling cultural life of New Orleans to move south. It was then, in 1929, that he chose Taxco, a place he considered a kind of Mexico in miniature, "no inhabitant is more Mexican than the Taxco resident," he believed. There, he would find the material he was looking for: his book titled *Little Mexico* (later reissued in English as *A Small Mexican World* and in Spanish as *México tras Lomita*), where he lived until the end of his days.

The advance given to the architect by the publisher to write his book soon ran out, and the royalties from its success once published were not as juicy as they should have been, as the Great Depression was rampant at the time. Thus, Spratling needed to find a way to make a living.

Taxco, in those years, produced silver that was only occasionally worked. Only a few artisans preserved the silver tradition. Dwight Morrow, the United States ambassador at the time, mentioned to Spratling that Taxco was a mining town by tradition, known for the production of silver but lacking an industry dedicated to designing and manufacturing quality jewelry with design.

Being the visionary he was, the architect sensed that silver had a great future. Knowledgeable and a student of American folk art, Spratling's knack for identifying talented artisans led him to locate in the nearby town of Iguala, close to Taxco, the master silversmiths Artemio Navarrete, Alfonso Mondragón, and Wenceslao Herrera, whom he convinced to start a silver workshop in Taxco with him, which he set up on Calle de las Delicias, to rescue the best of the old traditional techniques and contribute new ones.

That's how the now legendary workshop Las Delicias was set up, where he called several master silversmiths from the area to work throughout its existence. There, he tested new work methods – which are used today in most workshops – and created his own designs that are still being reproduced, often based on pre-Hispanic motifs.

Thus began "Taxco's Silversmith renaissance."

William Spratling organized and founded different workshops throughout Taxco. These workshops trained the master silversmiths of Taxco, who, in turn, founded their businesses and started their own legacy. Her did this intentionally and considered this teaching and empowerment as an essential part of his work. So much so that he also founded a silversmith school and began working with local artisans to create innovative designs that merged pre-Hispanic tradition and modern style.

Spratling's first workshop was located on Calle de las Delicias, where he came to have 100 workers. They continued with "La Aduana," "La casa amigos de Taxco," "La Florida," "Spratling y artesanos," "William Spratling, S.A." The latter workshop was closed due to the cancellation of some important orders from North American stores. After his death, the workshop "William Spratling Sucesores" was founded. 

By 1938, he had 150 people working for him and had expanded beyond silver to include furniture, tinware, copper, rugs, and textiles. He chose pre-Columbian art as his model and inspiration, which had an enormous influence on the visual arts of Mexico and, in particular, Taxco. In essence, he surpassed the commonly overused "Aztec" and/or "Mayan" Mexicanisms and used these as design motifs to implement the spirit of pre-Hispanic design and simplify it with a very modern idea. In fact, this is a trend that is still present in today's jewelry design with frets, spirals, and other themes that are subtly a reference to Pre-Hispanic designs.

Spratling is often credited with transforming Taxco into the "Silver Capital of the World" and played a crucial role in reviving and modernizing the local silver industry. Spratling's work attracted other artists and craftsmen to Taxco, leading to a flourishing community of silversmiths that continues to this day.

William Spratling’s focus on the quality of the craftsmanship and the original design inspired many other artisans to follow his path. Today, Taxco's silver jewelry is known worldwide for its quality and unique designs, a testament to his enduring legacy. With over 3 thousand silversmith artisans in Taxco, we at Lolo continue to work hard to promote and showcase Sterling Silver from Taxco, together with their innovative designs.

So, what do you think? Were you familiar with the name Wiliam Spratling before this blog post? What about his designs? If so, we would love to hear from you and your experiences and, if not, we would love to read about your thoughts as well! We always read what you have to say in the comments below!


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Also, we invite you to explore our mercadito, where you can shop sterling silver from Taxco, authentic artisanal crafts, and other wonders filled with culture and symbolism from Mexico! The same as these new additions, we continue to grow our hand-picked selection of Mexican crafts!

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I love Taxco. I have visited three times and have yet to see the Spratling museum—it is always closed. But the town is so lovely and of course my daughter and I loved buying the silver jewellery and other items in the market. The pretty square, with dancing and live music, so enchanting.
I chose to be there on my birthday and we had a nice dinner together. About five years after that I took my husband to Taxco for his first visit and we ate at the same restaurant. The waiter remembered me when I ordered my Margarita sin sal, wow.



Very glad to read this article on the LoLo blog. One (or actually two) of my best yard sale scores, back when my mom and I were buying and selling, was a beautiful and LARGE silver brooch designed by William Spratling. I liked it a lot, and so I ‘put it away’ because I didn’t want to sell it. Of course I promptly forgot where I put it… (Turned out it was in the glove compartment of our van!) I finally found it, and soon decided I needed to sell it to help make my car payment that month, but I didn’t know anything about it.

There was a mark on the back, but I was/am not a jewelry expert, and so I didn’t recognize it. This was before the internet, and doing a Google photo search certainly didn’t exist! So I asked a dealer friend of mine if it looked familiar, and she said she thought it looked like William Spratling, which was very good! So I went to the Downtown Berkeley Library, and in the reference section I was able to find a beautiful ‘coffee table’ book all about his designs. Sure enough the mark on the back was his. My brooch was not shown in the book, but it was definitely his.

My dealer friend said she knew a jewelry dealer nearby that would be really interested in it. I called her and we talked and she sure was interested in it. I didn’t want to just take that first offer, so I asked a few other dealers about her and about the offer. (Unusually for antique dealers…) Everyone was quite positive about her and the offer. Now mind you, I paid $2 for this beautiful thing… It was 1995. She gave me $500!!! Then crazily enough a few months later I found the MATCHING earrings at an estate sale for $15! She also bought those for $500!! And yes, it paid my car payment AND insurance for a few months! I always regretted selling them, but I was young and needed the cash ;(

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