Far Fetched jewelry is probably the best example of artisan jewelry with the richest history and culture associated with it. As more people explore vintage jewelry online and physical outlets where they can explore beautiful vintage jewelry for sale, just what makes Far Fetched jewelry so unique in the world of the vintage aesthetic? And what makes artisan jewelry from Taxco, Mexico, one of a kind in this world?
What is Far Fetched Jewelry?
Far Fetched jewelry is artisan jewelry from Far Fetched Imports, which Richard Wolf in the 1980s founded. In the seventies, Richard Wolf was only a student at Sonoma State University when he came up with the idea of “traveling far and fetching the unusual and upbeat.” This led him to the Guerrero state in Mexico – to the villages in Taxco (Taxco de Alarcon).
These villages outside Taxco were situated on the slopes of Atache Hill in the Taxco Mountains, which was about 5,758 feet above sea level. In pre-Columbian times, the area was a mining hub. Taxco was one of the first early mining centers in Spain to be settled by Spaniards, and it grew out of the Indian settlement (Tlacho) and the settlement founded by the Spanish in 1528.
The silver mines of the José de la Borda family, a miner of French ancestry, produced enormous wealth for the city in the 18th century. Poet and playwright Juan Ruiz de Alarcón y Mendoza were born here in the 18th century, and his name lives on in the town’s full name.
Today, the city is still known for its silver production and fluorite, lead, zinc, and copper. These minerals are mined within short distances of each other.
Artisan crafts and silverwork are Taxco’s main attractions; the ancient craft of silverwork was revived in the 1930s by a US resident, William Spratling, who established a workshop there. It was only a matter of time before Far Fetched jewelry was born.
Known as a national monument for its steep, narrow, cobblestone streets lined with churches and other historic structures dating from the colonial era, this area is a popular tourist destination and a hub for local artists due to its colonial architecture. Commercial activity in Taxco revolves around its agricultural products such as corn (maize), beans (peas), sugarcane (sugar), and fruits.
History of Far Fetched Jewelry
Richard Wolf discovered excellent and skilled artisans and their talented families but needed income. These artisans led humble lives but could produce unique artisan jewelry that the world needed to see. But, unfortunately, they lived on dirt floors with one or two bedrooms.
To a young person like Richard (this was over 35 years ago, mind you), the idea of making a living and contributing to the uplifting of these artisans and their families was genuinely compelling. Who wouldn’t want to present the beauty of artisan jewelry and mixed metal jewelry while ensuring that the enterprise enriched everyone involved?
Thus began Richard’s journey with Far Fetched Imports. He didn’t mind that one-hour bus trip and the long hike up dirt roads and unpaved trails to find these artisans and their handcrafted items. The artisans specialized in abalone jewelry, and Richard helped wholesale this jewelry on the West Coast.
When Far Fetched jewelry was still a budding dream, the only way for Richard to bring the artisan jewelry out of Taxco was through hand-carried luggage. He filled numerous suitcases with donated clothes and returned with them filled with jewelry. In addition, Richard had a camper pick-up truck, which he used to travel up and down California so he could sell the artisan jewelry, many of which by now have become vintage jewelry as well.
The young man found himself selling artisan jewelry in flea markets and craft fairs, and of course, he wholesaled his jewelry to small retailers. His first big customer was Disneyland, and after that encounter, he decided to register Far Fetched Imports, renting his dad’s basement initially.
In the 1980s, the price of raw silver experienced a dramatic drop, which meant it was only a matter of time before sterling silver entered the mainstream jewelry market in a big way once again.
Richard integrated silver into Far Fetched Imports during this period, and the brand rode a powerful wave of popularity because of its bold and unique designs. Neck Collars from Far Fetched jewelry became all the rage. The artisan jewelry found itself in so many locations, including department stores. Unfortunately, the humble team had reached their capacity at this point. When Broadway Stores began asking them for more jewelry, they declined because they couldn’t keep up with the demand anymore.
Richard decided that they would need to evolve to keep up with the times. So they hired an in-house designer to streamline the integration of new ideas into the products. The goal was to use the unique skill sets of the traditional artisans to keep producing unique and one-of-a-kind designs that people will continue to love for years.
Evan David, Richard’s friend from Crown Corning, decided to change and jumped in. Their first collection together was called Mex/West. The Mex/West collection was very cheerful and upbeat. The goal of the Mex/West Far Fetched jewelry collection was to highlight the commonalities between West Coast culture and Mexican culture. Richard first introduced the exhibition at The New York Boutique Show.
The Rich History of Mexican Silver: From Platerias to Far Fetched Jewelry
The traditional, well-preserved colonial town is ideal for a romantic getaway or a day trip. It is sure to charm you with its stunning architecture, fantastic artistry, and challenging steep cobbled streets.
There are also numerous historic buildings to explore and plenty of silver to be found. But, of course, a trip to Taxco isn’t complete without seeing some form of precious metal, and there are hundreds of places to do so. As a result of its silver mining past, the city has maintained its reputation as a haven for silver enthusiasts.
One of the Americas’ oldest mining towns, Taxco drew early conquistadors with its silver bounty. During the last week of November in Taxco, the world-famous Silver Fair is held to honor this natural gift (Feria Nacional de La Plata). The “best silver artist of the Fair” prize is up for grabs for silversmiths, craftsmen, and artists, and this is the perfect venue for them to display their work.
There is a never-ending string of silver shops (platerias) selling traditional Mexican silver pieces, such as jewelry, statuettes, platters, etc., in this little corner of paradise (Taxco is also known as “el pueblo magico”). Many of these items are handcrafted by talented artisans right there on the street, making them a visual treat for onlookers. One of Mexico’s most famous exports, silver, has a long and colorful history dating back to the time of the Aztecs.
A handful of Aztec jewels that remained after the Spanish conquest are a testament to their mastery of silver mining in the Sierra Madre Mountains. There’s a lot to be learned from Mexican jewelry alongside the history of jewelry of other places.
When the Spanish arrived in Mexico after the fall of the Aztec Empire, they were looking for tin but found silver instead. Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes staked his claim to silver mining in Taxco de Alarcón early in the 16th century because he saw the enormous potential in the local natural resources. A “silver revolution” hadn’t even occurred to him yet.
When Taxco was established as a significant source of precious metals for Spain, it was already renowned on the European continent for its exquisite silver. Local artisans eagerly purchased the metal and then used it to create beautiful handcrafted silver jewelry, which was sought after by European royalty.
Taxco’s mines were quickly depleted following this initial boom, and it took around 200 years to find the following veins. The discovery of a new silver deposit by Spanish miner Don Jose de la Borda in 1743 marked the beginning of a long and prosperous period for Taxco. It was only after the Mexican War of Independence that Taxco’s silver mining industry ended, and the city went into a long period of decline.
To this day, Taxco can be proud of its countless workshops and its world-renowned artisans. Taxco is known worldwide for producing some of the finest and most beautiful silver jewelry, making it one of Mexico’s most well-known art forms. What if Spratling had been here to see all this?
Mexican silver jewelry is now ubiquitous, from the Paris fashion runways to the Hollywood red carpet. Long gone are the days when you could only buy traditional items from local kiosks or folklore stores. In addition to international celebrities and fashionistas, high-end department stores carry Mexican-made jewelry. And that’s quite an accomplishment.
Taxco jewelry has something for everyone’s taste, which is one of the best things about it. Pop Art, Postmodernism, and Art Deco are just a few of the influences that Mexican silversmiths have drawn upon to create stunning works of art.
Two major types of Mexican jewelry come to mind when we think of the country: cultural jewelry (i.e., the souvenirs that tourists bring back from their trips to Mexico) and art jewelry. Far Fetched jewelry defied these categories.
Pre-Columbian geometrics, superstitions, religion, animals, and even war are among the many sources of inspiration for the artwork. In addition, semi-precious stones like turquoise and coral are frequently used in their designs.
On the other hand, artworks are often influenced by various art movements as well as the personal preferences and visions of the artist, despite depicting traditional and aboriginal themes.
For decades, Mexican jewelers in Taxco have been innovating and setting trends in jewelry design, whether they are artisans or members of a family business carrying on a long family tradition. The use of traditional molds has waned in favor of newer technologies like software, 3D printing, and laser cutting, but as with all things, the practices have changed over time. This clever fusion of traditions and technology results is nothing short of spectacular.
Mexico’s nature, culture, and rich history are all reflected in the country’s jewelry. Mexican silver jewelry is a massive hit worldwide because of its mix of ancient traditions and modern sophistication.
Most precious metals sold in the United States, including sterling silver and gold, originate in Mexico, making Mexico the world’s leading producer of silver. In addition, Mexican jewelry’s high-quality materials and stunning designs have made it a significant player in the American jewelry market.
In the eyes of the rest of the world, Mexico’s jewelry industry is unrivaled. Silversmiths and jewelry connoisseurs alike have praised and sought after Taxco silver for its exceptional quality despite an ever-changing landscape of jewelry styles over the years (infinite techniques that have gained and lost favor). Far Fetched jewelry is a good example of what high standards meant in handcrafted jewelry.
For most people, jewelry is a sentimental and symbolic possession (if we think about it, almost every critical moment in our lives is sealed with a precious piece of jewelry). However, it’s also worth noting that the value of high-end jewelry can rise over time, making it a viable investment. And that’s always a nice perk.
Mexican Artisan Jewelry: Fast Facts
Everything Began in Pre-Columbian Times
For thousands of years, Mexicans have made and worn jewelry. To this day, modern Mexican jewelry draws inspiration from the earliest Mexican jewelry designs.
During the pre-Columbian era, indigenous peoples of Mexico inhabited the land.
This period began with more explicit materials and designs but progressed over time. Jewelry making was critical to the culture that craftspeople worked solely in the field.
The elites of these civilizations wore jewelry as a fashion statement and as a symbol of their social status. In addition, it was used as a currency and a means of exchange.
Silver Has Long Been a Traditional Component Of Mexican Jewelry Design
Silver has been an essential resource in Mexico for as long as humans have been present. Silver continues to be a significant economic driver for Mexico and a significant component of the country’s cultural exports.
Silver was mined and traded by pre-Columbian civilizations early on. They also used the material to make jewelry to honor the gods, creating intricate and delicate pieces that they left behind. They viewed New Spain’s abundance of silver to raise money and generate wealth when they arrived. Today, the country is still dotted with silver mines, and Mexican jewelry remains a cultural icon.
The Natural World Has Always Had an Impact On Mexican Jewelry Design
Today, a common theme in Mexican jewelry is that it is heavily inspired by nature. However, this style is rooted in pre-Columbian jewelry designs despite its modern appeal.
Pre-Columbian civilizations highly revered the natural world, and this reverence was frequently reflected in the jewelry they made. For example, different cultures incorporated images like trees, fish, flowers, jaguars, and other figures into their designs. The images and symbols were thought to impact the wearer’s quality of life.
There Is a Strong Spanish Influence In Contemporary Mexican Jewelry
While in Mexico, the Spanish saw the beauty and potential for jewelry production in the country’s abundant supply of silver.
Spanish designers used silver and gemstones from Europe to create hybrid designs.
Earrings with elaborate designs were popular in mainland Europe during the Spanish settlement. This style has been incorporated into Mexican jewelry designs and is still prevalent in Mexican jewelry designs.
Filigree and repousse were among the Spaniards’ new techniques introduced to Mexico. In addition, smaller gemstones were also incorporated into their designs, introducing new styles to the market.
Taxco is a Veritable Jewelry Capital
After Spratling moved to Taxco in 1929, the city gradually became the most important city in Mexico to design and produce Mexican jewelry.
Taxco used to be well-known for its abundance of silver mines before Spratling made his move. Pre-Columbian people settled in what is now Taxco for the same reason: to mine silver for jewelry and religious offerings.
In the 1930s, Taxco had a long history of silver production, but there was little silver working activity in the city at the time. Spratling opened his first jewelry workshop, Calle Las Delicias, in 1933 after he began designing jewelry and collaborating with other local craftspeople. He started an apprentice program there.
As a result, the city’s jewelry industry saw a surge in activity as more local artisans were trained to create stunning Mexican-inspired jewelry. This tradition is alive and well today, with new and exciting pieces of jewelry being created every day!
Artisans in Taxco, Mexico, continue to carry on the tradition of Mexican jewelry today. These artisans aim to bring the wonders of Mexican jewelry and Mexican history to the world by working faithfully with tradition and innovating when needed.