Monday, August 9, 2010


Located in Mexico City, Mexico stands the majestic Palacio Nacional (National Palace) building. At over four centuries old, the structure serves as a government building and highlights the beautiful yet foreboding baroque architectural style. Mexico is also home to the late jewelry designer Antonio Pineda.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, all aspects of society, including literature, religious beliefs, and social organizations, were impacted by the progressive ideology of the modernist movement.

The cultivation of new concepts and innovative approaches was a driving force in Western society influencing the ideas of everyone from political scientists to poets.

This period of enthusiastic exploration found its way into Taxco, Mexico in the form of American William Spratling.

At the time of his arrival in 1928, according to Pineda the city of Taxco was home to only one sterling silver workshop despite the issue that Taxco was the premier location for silver mining.

Spratling's presence motivated talented Mexican silversmiths to expand on their knowledge and metalwork techniques laying the groundwork for the emergence of such artists as Pineda.

"Spratling opened his workshop in 1933. I was 14 years old at the time, and was his very first apprentice. He ignited the fuse for the whole modern Mexican silver movement in Taxco," said Pineda.

In another six years, Pineda would venture out on his own establishing his studio in 1939. He continued to mature his design quality finding his own visual language and by 1945, he participated in a California-based exhibition, Palace of the Legion of Honor. Pineda's involvement was prompted by the interest of arts connoisseur Richard Gump who was also the proprietor for Gump's Department Store.

"I thought he was joking when he contacted me saying he wanted to show my collection. I had a very small collection, only 60 or 70 pieces but Gump was very excited about it," recalled Pineda.

"He told me I had a big future and that he wanted me to go to an exhibition in San Francisco. It was in February 1946 when we talked and his people told me to be ready with a complete collection by May. It was quite an experience."

Gump's excitement carried on throughout the exhibition as Pineda was given eight "windows" instead of the standard two to display his wares. A great advantage considering his collections sat alongside the likes of Danish jeweler Georg Jensen.

Pineda's style marked by his signature .970 silver, and distinctive identifying ZZ and YY hallmarks, is geometric yet fluid, contemporary yet lyrical.

His aesthetic is so powerfully clean and modern his vintage pieces from the 60s and 70s--his most popular designs--could easily be incorporated into a present-day ensemble without looking dated. It is no wonder he is deemed one of Mexico's greatest modern silversmiths.

Up until his death, from kidney failure in December 2009 at the age of 90, Pineda continued expanding his artistic vision while keeping his aesthetic fresh and modern. "I have been lazy for awhile, and I am taking on new projects. I am working on lots of sculpture," he said in 2000.

"I don't want to repeat old designs but the collectors ask for them. Taxco produced some of the best silversmiths in the world. Most of the great ones have already passed away. For that reason, I try to spur new directions."

A collection of Pineda's pieces from the 60s and 70s is available at Silver for $1,850 and up.
Photo 1 (top right): .970 Silver Necklace for Tiffany & Co.Photo 2 (center): .970 Silver, Stone, Pearl and Gold-Washed Cross Ring
Photo 3 (bottom left): .970 Silver Cosmos Bracelet
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