Julio César López Heydeck, Taxco, Guerrero
Julio César López Heydeck is originally from Taxco, Guerrero, but currently lives in Guadalajara, Jalisco. The history of silver in Taxco is a fascinating combination of legend and fact.
"López" was the mark (see photo to left) used by Gerado López, Julio's father, in the 1950s when he was recommended as one of the best silversmiths in Taxco.
The type of silver jewelry made by Julio's family is known as holloware and is sterling silver or better and can be very heavy. The designs can often be strong and bold, although occasionally delicate as well. The visual and tactile impact of this type of silver jewelry exemplifies the work that has been produced in Taxco for generations. It has intrinsic value beyond the presence or lack or markings. Silver jewelry and objects, which are unsigned or bear marks which have not yet been identified, give pleasure to their owners regardless of their origin.
Located in the hills between Acapulco and about 100 miles southwest of Mexico City, Taxco in the state of Guerrero is one of the oldest mining sites located in the Americas. It has retained its natural charm with its colonial ambiance, red-tiled roofs, cobble-stoned, narrow winding streets and the towering, impressive 240 year old Santa Prisca Cathedral. Shown on the photo to the left is where the López' shop was located.
Taxco's natural wealth of silver attracted early Conquistadors. Before the Spanish arrived the native Indians called it Tlacho meaning the place of the ball game. According to local legend the Aztecs had the locals pay tribute to them with gold bars. Hernan Cortes arrived and the Spanish conquered the Aztecs in 1521. A year afterwards Cortes staked his mining claim in Taxco.
By the end of the century, silver from Taxco had spread across Europe, and remote Taxco was renowned for its wealth of silver. It had become Spain's primary source in the New World of precious metals and had become a busy mining area. Mining gradually decreased in the Taxco area as other richer and more accessible mining areas were discovered and developed, and eventually faded out for almost 200 years.
In 1716 Don Jose de la Borda (a Spaniard of French descent) rediscovered silver in Taxco, when as legend has it, he was riding and wandering in the hills and he spotted a rich silver vein. He struck a fortune in Taxco and in gratitude built schools, roads, houses, as well as the beautiful, and now famou,s Santa Prisca Cathedral, an ornate cathedral abundant with gold trim in the Spanish Baroque style (Don Jose's son served as a priest in this church). The church can be seen from all over Taxco as it glitters in the sunlight and has become a focal point for the pueblo.
During Mexico's 19th century war for Independence the Spanish barons destroyed their mines rather than lose them to the revolutionaries and the art of silver work died out in Taxco for quite some time.
In the late 1920s, the highway from Mexico City finally reached Taxco and in 1926, William Spratling, a U.S. citizen and associate architecture professor from Tulane University arrived in Taxco to study Mexico and its culture. In 1929, he moved to Mexico and was welcomed into the influential artistic circles there.
In 1931 U.S. Ambassador, Dwight Morrow, commented to Mr. Spratling that Taxco had been the site of silver mines for centuries, but unfortunately had never been considered a location where jewelry and objects of silver were designed and made. This seemingly insignificant comment changed the course of Taxco's artistic and economic history.
Mr. Spratling discovered the potential talent in the locals and motivated the community artisans to create designs and rediscover the craft of silversmithing. With his own designs he created an apprentice system of training young silversmiths with artistic talent and gave them the opportunity to develop their skill. He brought in from Iguala a highly regarded goldsmith to teach the art of working precious metal. The great beauty and craftsmanship coming out of Taxco earned worldwide recognition and fame once again for Mexico.
Gerardo López (center) is seen in this photo with William Spratling (right) and another artist of renown Antonio Castillo (left). Pioneers of a new era in silver jewelry, the López family continues to carry on Gerardo's tradition.
William Spratling passed away in 1967 in a car accident just outside his beloved Taxco. Throughout Mexico Spratling is widely regarded as "The Father of Mexican Silver." A silver bust of Mr. Spratling resides in the town's silver museum. The Spratling Museum behind the Santa Prisca Cathedral, houses the Spratling Collection of silver and pre-columbian figures that he left to the town of Taxco. Each November, during the last week of the month, Taxco honors its source of wealth and fame with the world famous Silver Fair (Feria Nacional de La Plata), when the craftsmen, artists and silversmiths show their work and a national prize is awarded to the best silver artist of the Fair.
Creating a piece of jewelry is time consuming and requires patience and a vision of the final outcome.
Av. John F. Kennedy #54
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