The Mexican silver jewelry revolution began in 1931, when American architect/artist William Spratling made his first piece of jewelry by melting silver pesos in his kitchen. Spratling unwittingly revitalized an entire city while also creating demand for Mexican jewelry that would last for decades to come.
Spratling settled in Taxco, Mexico in 1920. An unsuccessful writer, Spratling began making jewelry as a quick way to earn cash. Spratling's jewelry enterprise couldn't have come at a better time, or place; a supply of silver was readily available from a rich seam of silver in the area,
and recently completed roads to Taxco were bringing both tourists and money into the town.
The abundant silver in the Taxco region was Spratling's primary medium, but he also used native materials such as amethyst and turquoise, and other Mexican materials such as coral, obsidian and tortoise shell in his designs.
The unrest in Europe during World War II was a boon to Spratling and the silver jewelry industry that had sprung up around him in Taxco. War had all but stopped trade from Europe, creating huge demand for
fine jewelry in America, and Spratling began selling his silver designs to department
stores such as Bonwit Teller and Marshall Fields and jewelers like Tiffany & Co alike.
The heyday of Spratling Silver and William Spratling's stunning jewelry designs was over by the mid-1950s. His company fell into bankruptcy, but, by the mid-1960s, Spratling had reorganized, and begun working in jewelry again. His death in 1967 came in the midst of his company's renaissance. Following his death, Spratling's designs and hallmarks were purchased by a jewelry company that continued to produce silver jewelry stamped with the Spratling name.
Spratling's Taxco silver jewelry has enjoyed a renaissance in the past decade. Jewelry from his 1930s-1940s period is highly collectible, prized by private collectors and curators alike. Even "generic" designs by lesser known jewelers that still has the distinctive Taxco style Spratling pioneered has gained value in recent years, although it remains affordably priced both in new and resale markets.