Taxco is situated on steep hillside about hundred
miles outside of Mexico City. It is one of the best
preserved colonial cities in Mexico, and is popular with visitors
who can wander the narrow winding streets and soak up the
atmosphere in the picturesque plazas. Not only has Taxco been
declared a National Historical Monument, but its also
widely regarded as the silver capital of the world.
There are 6 working mines in the vicinity, and as many as
300 silversmiths sell their wares in shops throughout town.
If its genuine silver jewellery youre after, Taxco
is the place to visit.
The Spanish were the first to discover and exploit
silver in the Taxco area in the 16th century. They rapidly
cleaned out the mines and it was 200 years before another
rich lode was accidentally uncovered by a Frenchman called
Don Jose de la Borda. The story goes that his horse lost
its footing as he was riding through the city and unearthed
a gleaming seam of silver under a stone. Borda made his fortune
prospecting in Taxco, and built the church of Santa Prisca
on the site of the first seam he found.
In 1929 an American architect named William Spratling
set up a silver workshop in Taxco. Business boomed and before
long his associates and apprentices were opening outlets all
over town. Original Spalding pieces are very rare these days
and are worth a great deal, but Taxco has fostered the talent
of thousands of silversmiths, who continue to supply intricate
and ornate objects to tourists and collectors.
Where to Bag a Bargain
Youd have a hard time avoiding the silver shops in Taxco
- there are several on every street. Ranging from extortionately
priced high-end pieces to more modest trinkets for tourists,
youre bound to find the perfect silver souvenir somewhere
in town: everything from earrings, necklaces and bracelets
to baby rattles, berets and little silver boxes.
The Saturday market is a good place to find low-end silverware
and snap up some real bargains.
Every year in late November the best silversmiths from all
over Mexico converge on Taxco for the National Silver Fair.
Its a week of craft competitions and workshops,
exhibits, competitions dances and frivolity, and its
well worth timing your visit to co-incide with the festivities.
How to Spot a Good Buy
To ensure that the silver youve chosen is genuine, top
quality merchandise always check to see whether it bears a
government seal. Silver from Taxco is stamped with the silversmiths
initials, his number and the grade of silver used.
Commercial silver is graded 925, which is 92% pure silver
and anything less than this is unsatisfactory. Pure silver
is too soft to work with and needs to be compounded with at
least 2% copper to make it malleable. The highest grade silver
youll find is 980.
Be aware that different systems of silver classification
exist in other areas of Mexico: for example in Guadalajara
it might be stamped Mexico Sterling 925. The government
does now insist on some indication of quality to avoid unscrupulous
smiths passing off silver plate as the real thing, and falsifying
silver is punishable with a prison sentence.