Friday, July 22, 2016

The thrill of experimentation ~ Two Los Castillo copper over sterling silver bracelets

It is true that among collectors, be they Mexican jewelry afficionados or lovers of American antiques, "transitional" or "experimental" pieces, in other words items that leave the well-trodden path of design and execution to savor the thrill of uncharted waters, are either totally shunned despite their artistic merits or frantically sought after, the ranks of the latter admittedly much thinner than the former.

I think I belong in the second group and when I bumped into this Los Castillo cuff quite some time ago, I was elated!

 Yes, I was familiar with the "metales casados" or mixed metals technique, the marrying of sterling silver with copper and brass, within the field of Mexican silversmithing yet here I was holding in my very hands a fabulous bracelet that was wrought in solid sterling silver and then had its face... covered in copper. It's usually the other way around, right?

I had to run to my books and search again - could I find another listed example? And low and behold, there it was, on page 125 of Penny Morril's latest work, her book on Margot de Taxco's enamels! A gorgeous copper over sterling silver demi comprised of necklace and bracelet by Margot in a classic "pre-Colombian" design...

Penny Morrill, Margot Van Voorhies, the Art of Mexican Enamelwork, p. 125

Should we assume that the two talleres shared in a rather bold experiment yet ended up not producing many similar pieces? If I were to suggest a reason for their scarcity, I would say that the idea of covering good old sterling in what is generally perceived as a "lesser" metal probably failed to strike a cord with prospective customers. It was a bold move; one bound to be appreciated by the few imaginative enough to plunge into that deep Taxco sea of experimentation.

Yet I did find a second example in the real world - a fantastic Los Castillo clamper available on Etsy by TexomaVintage (thank you, Jane, for kindly sharing the photos!).

Los Castillo copper over sterling silver clamper bracelet


Both pieces have sold since I started thinking of this entry - which shows that there is an audience out there for jewelry that breaks the mold of the ordinary and the expected to venture into the thrilling realm which defying the canon creates. So let me wrap this up with a few more details of this post's protagonists...

First the Los Castillo cuff bracelet, des. no 909:

Los Castillo copper over sterling silver Cuff Bracelet
Another view of the cuff
Los Castillo des. no 909 hallmarks



For all the specifics and more photos, you can visit the original listing on my site at

Last but not least, the clamper bracelet from Texoma Vintage on Etsy:

Los Castillo des. no 250 clamper
Hallmarks on the Los Castillo copper over silver clamper

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I just researched a stunning Jimmy Herald (Navajo) cuff with this effect! Literally yesterday! Of the balance of the 925 parts of 1000 parts in sterling silver, copper is a major component. Smiths know to "pickle" pieces with flux when heating, otherwise a "firestain" cupric oxide blooms on the surface, sometimes used to highlight hammering. Voila! Lee Chevalier/BRS Associates, Dallas