New Grow Your Own Cress animals (sheep and llama) hand made in Mexico

Grow you own cress sheep (before and after) hand made in Mexico


These wonderfully ingenious sheep and llama “grow your own cress” figures are now available on the Tumi Jewellery website.  They are hand made in Mexico.

Exclusive design to Tumi limited, they consist of a simple clay figure of either a sheep or llama which is unglazed (except for head) and the surface is rough.  This comes in a box with a bag of cress seeds and full instructions.

The figure is hollow with a hole at the top and firstly needs to be soaked, ideally overnight.   The seeds also should be soaked overnight.  Once soaked the seeds become quite sticky.

The sticky seeds are then smeared over the surface of the animal.    Then fill the animal with water and leave somewhere light and not too cold – a window sill is ideal as long as it does not get too cold at night.

Keep an eye on it and over the next few days the seeds will begin to sprout and the animal will begin to grow a coat of cress!

Keep topped up with water.

Once fully grown the cress can be trimmed and eaten or just left and enjoyed as it is!


Makes a great and fun gift for everyone, including gardeners and animal lovers and is also a fun gift for children (with adult supervision).

Taxco and its History of Silver Jewellery

Church of Santa Prisca

Taxco de Alarcón (usually referred to as simply “Taxco”) is a small city and municipality located in the Mexican state of Guerrero.

Taxco is located in the north-central part of the state, 36 km from the city of Iguala, 135 km from the state capital of Chilpancingo and 170 km southwest of Mexico City. The city was named one of Mexico’s “Pueblos Mágicos” (Magical Towns) due to the quality of the silverwork, the colonial constructions and the surrounding scenery.

 The name Taxco is most likely derived from the Nahuatl word tlacheco, which means “place of the ballgame.” However, one interpretation has the name coming from the word tatzco which means “where the father of the water is,” due to the high waterfall near the town centre on Atatzin Mountain. “De Alarcón” is in honour of writer Juan Ruiz de Alarcón who was a native of the town. Like many municipalities in central Mexico, the municipality’s coat-of-arms is an Aztec glyph. This glyph is in the shape of a Mesoamerican ballcourt with rings, players and skulls, derived from the most likely source of Taxco’s name.

Rich in history, Taxco was originally discovered and conquered by Hernan Cortez 1552. Two hundred years later French prospector Joseph de la Borda discovered a rich silver deposit, which made him very wealthy. With this great wealth, Borda commissioned the seven year long construction of the Parish of Santa Prisca, giving rise to the famous words: “God gives to Borda, Borda gives to God”. Today Santa Prisca is both the visual and historical centre of Taxco, and the great cost of its elaborate construction and interior decoration left Borda nearly penniless at his death.

Eventually the silver mines became nearly exhausted – only one small mine remains in operation today. In 1929, American architect William Spratling arrived in Taxco intending to write a book. Taking notice of the local silver artisans, Spratling opened up a workshop and exported the goods back to the United States. The workshop grew and added apprentices, which eventually gave new life to the silver craftsmanship, and to the city. Thanks to Spratling Taxco is the world’s capital of silver, with over 200 shops and dozens of renowned silver jewellers.


 The main plaza of the town has the official name of “Plaza Borda” but it is commonly referred to as the Zócalo. On the north side of this plaza is the Casa Borda (Borda House) and is the most important non-religious construction in the city. The front facing the Zócalo has two stories, but the back, facing the Plaza de Bernal, has five. This is due to the uneven ground on which the house was built. Much of the house is now dedicated to the Casa de Cultura (Cultural Centre) where classes in languages, fine arts and sports such as judo are taught. The rest of the main plaza is surrounded by silver shops, restaurants and bars.

Near the main plaza are two museums, the William Spratling Museum and the Museum of Viceregal Art. The Spratling Museum contains 293 archeological pieces that were part of William Spratling’s personal collection.  There are bone and shell pieces, objects made with semi-precious stones, as well as jars and figurines, all from various parts of Mesoamerica. The most outstanding pieces are a skull covered in jade and a stele. There is a collection of counterfeit artifacts as well.  Another area is devoted to the silverwork designs and the workshops that Spratling created in Taxco and Taxco el Viejo. The Museum of Viceregal Art is located in the “Humboldt House,” named so because German writer Alexander Von Humboldt spent a night here in 1803. This house was restored in 1991 to become the Museum of Vice regal Art and contains colonial period art and artefacts, some of which belonged to José de la Borda.


Silver and silversmiths:


The city is heavily associated with silver, both with the mining of it and other metals and for the crafting of it into jewellery, silverware and other items. This reputation, along with the city’s picturesque homes and surrounding landscapes have made tourism the main economic activity as the only large-scale mining operation here is coming to a close.


An intriguing combination of legend and fact the history of silver in Taxco is a story worth knowing. Originally Cortes himself opened the mines in the hills of Taxco after discovering that the Aztecs had been using silver for barter for centuries. In 1716 silver was re-discovered in Taxco by Don Jose del le Borda, when as legend has it, he was riding in the hills above Taxco and spotted a rich silver vein from the back of his horse. He became very wealthy as a result during a time when silver was worth almost as much as gold and in gratitude to the area built schools, roads and houses for the township. His most famous contribution to the area is the Santa Prisca Cathedral, built in the Spanish Baroque style which can be seen from anywhere in Taxco as it glistens in the sunlight.

 Holy Week  and Easter in Taxco


In Taxco, the processions and ceremonies of Holy Week are elaborate and have gained international fame. Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, there are ten major processions, six during the evening and four during the day. Most processions are about two and a half kilometers long and take about two hours to complete. These commemorations date back to at least 1622 when they were begun in the atrium of the Church of the Ex monastery of San Bernadino de Siena. Now these processions and ceremonies center of the Santa Prisca Church.


The Parish of Santa Prisca y San Sebastían, commonly referred to as the Santa Prisca Church, is located on the east side of the main plaza of Taxco, and is one of the few Baroque buildings in the state of Guerrero. It was built between 1751 and 1758 by José de la Borda (ca.1700–1778), who had made a great fortune in the silver mines surrounding the town. Despite his wealth, however, the opulence of the church nearly bankrupted him. The church is narrower than most due to the lack of flat land on which to build in the area. It is built with pink stone, flanked by two towers which are plain in the lower half but highly decorated in the upper bell portions. The crown overlooking the main portal has a representation of the Assumption of Mary. The cupola is covered in coloured  tiles. Inside, there are a number of floor-to-ceiling altarpieces, all covered in gold. The main altarpiece is dedicated to the church’s two patron saints. Vibrations from blasts in nearby mining operations, earthquakes, and automobile traffic caused cracks in Santa Prisca’s vaults, and a restoration project began in 1997. To help the restoration project be carried to completion, the World Monuments Fund listed the church in the2000 World Monuments Watch and provided funding from American Express and the Robert W. Wilson Challenge to Conserve Our Heritage for the conservation of walls, vaults, and the sacristy of the church.

There is a legend associated with the Santa Prisca Church. While it was in construction, José de la Borda left Taxco on business to Guanajuato, leaving construction work to the builders. Soon after Borda left, the sky filled with black clouds and cold winds struck the streets, whistling through the towers of the unfinished church. The dark and cold terrified the workmen as the large storm approached. Suddenly a large bolt of lightning struck showing an undefined black silhouette that was swooping down on the church. Then it struck the cupola of the church, lighting it brilliantly. All of the tile covering the cupola began to shine with strange lights, allowing the inscription “Gloria a Dios en las alturas y paz en la tierra a los hombres de buena voluntad” (Glory to God in the Highest and peace on earth for men with good will) to be seen clearly. The whole town got down on their knees to pray, fearing that angry demons would destroy the church. Floating around the church were flashes of light and above the church appeared a beautiful woman who, smiling and with a peaceful face, caught the following lightning bolts in her hands.


They begin on Palm Sunday, when vendors, mostly from the small outlying village of Tlamacazapa, crowd around the church to sell palm leaves woven into intricate designs. Most designs are variations of a crucified Christ but there are others, like floral designs, as well. A wooden carving of Christ on a donkey leaves another outlying village, Tehuilotepec, and marches into Taxco to arrive to the Santa Prisca Church with much fanfare. The first sign of the procession is a large number of children on bicycles, each with palm leaves attached to the front. Next come drummers and people dressed as the Twelve Apostles, walking barefoot. Last comes the sculpture of Christ, with a canopy of flowers and palms, which is surrounded by a crowd of people waving palms to be sprinkled by holy water by the priests.

An “Animas penitente”

Processions occur each day of the week and grow more solemn as Good Friday approaches. The conquistadors brought the old medieval practice of painful and bloody self-penitence to Mexico from Spain about 500 years ago. Since this concept was very similar to Aztec blood rituals, this practice was easily adopted. Despite efforts by authorities in most parts of Mexico to suppress this tradition, it still reappears. However, in Taxco, this practice is not only not suppressed; it has evolved into forms unique to the city. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week is dedicated to processions made by three major religious cofradias, or brotherhoods, who spend this week doing penance, and thus called “penitentes.” There are three main cofradias in Taxco, Animas, Encruzados and Flagelentes. All penitentes wear long black robes cinched at the waist with a horsehair belt, and a black fabric hood with only eyeholes. These penitentes are never seen in public without the hood as to remain anonymous.

Animas penitentes have chains attached to their ankles that rattle as they walk. These walk bent at the waist 90 degrees carrying small crosses or lighted candles. Because of this, members of this cofradia are referred to as the “bent ones.” If the procession stops, they are allowed to rest only by going down on hands and knees. This is the only cofradia that permits women as members, who drag individual chains in the procession. The men are chained together in groups of twenty. Since they must always face the ground, these penitentes have attendants which guide them during the procession.

An “Encruzado penitente”

The Encruzados walk in procession, not nailed to a cross but rather with a bundle of thorned blackberry canes tied across their bare back and outstretched arms. The bundles typically weigh between 40 and 50 kilos. In each hand, the penitente carries a lighted candle. The weight and position of the bundle forces the penitente to stoop slightly. The only rest is through attendees who help with the weight for the periods when the procession does not move.

A “Flagelante penitente”

The Flagelantes walk the entire procession shirtless and carry a large wooden cross, which can weigh over 100 pounds in the crook of their arms. In their hands they carry a rosary and a whip with metal points on the end. At certain times and places, they hand the crosses to attendees, kneel and swing the whips over and onto their backs. This is done on alternating sides, creating two bloody areas. This is repeated every night during Holy Week, reopening the wounds from the night before.

Another type of “penitente” are those who carry the large wooden statues of the major figures of Holy Week. In other parts of Mexico, these personages are played by townspeople, but in Taxco, they are represented by large wooden statues that are kept in various neighborhoods and villages in and around Taxco. These statues are carried in processions on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

The morning of Maundy Thursday is dedicated to a recreation of the Garden of Gethsemane in the front atrium of the Church of Santa Prisca, done with laurel branches, flowers, caged birds and a statue of Jesus. In the afternoon, the quiet is broken by men dressed as Roman soldiers looking for Jesus, as he has been sentenced to death. A townsperson playing Judas Iscariot also roams the streets, with greasy hair, a yellow tunic and rattlingthirty pieces of silver. The Jesus statue in the Garden is replaced by one depicted blindfolded and with hands bound behind its back. This statue is taken to a “jail.” Penitentes and the Roman soldiers watch over this Christ statue all night rattling chains. The “Procession of the Christs” also happens this night with over 40 representations of the crucified Christ wandering the streets until morning.

On Good Friday, the Christ statue is taken from the “jail” and brought to the Santa Prisca Church for a reenactment of the Crucifixion. Inside and outside the church, the penitentes continue the penance they started earlier in the week. After the crucifixion, the statue is taken for its “sacred interment” which is a very solemn procession through the streets. That night, hundreds move through the streets carrying candles.[5] Saturday is quiet until the mass of the resurrection late in the evening at the Santa Prisca Church. The church overflows with people. Outside in the main plaza are the Roman soldiers. When they receive word from the Church that the Christ has risen, they fall to the ground en masse, becoming believers.   Most of Easter Sunday is a day of recovery from the events of the past week. Some youths will sing and walk through the streets accompanied by the “Savior Shepherd” However, most people spend the day at home.

 Tumi and Taxco :

The story of Tumi Jewellery with Taxco started in 1978 when the founder Mo Fini travelled for the first time to Taxco. being amazed by the quality and range made by the silversmithswho hand down their craft through traditional apprenticeships and along with an education these apprentices are given a passion and a love for their art. Using the same concept of fair trade already established by Tumi in other Latin American countries, the company established many workshops providing them both with tools, masks and capital. Within three years Tumi was working with over 200 families and investing in the  region of £1M per year in Taxco.

Sadly due to the high price of silver mostly due to the demand in China, today most craftsmen and women have left their ancestral silversmiths workshops and dedicate their lives to other businesses.  Another aspect of the success of silversmiths is Taxco was due to the purity of silver that they have used.  Most silver jewellery coming out of Mexico is made of sterling silver or 925 silver. Other countries more notably some of the Asian countries tend to dilute their silver to make it go further and it is common to find jewellery at .800 silver content. Today some 35 years later, we still work with several workshops providing us with high class exclusive range of Jewellery which can be appreciated in our website

Natural Amazon jewellery

In most cultures jewellery has traditionally been made out of metals such as gold, silver, copper or sometimes alloys.  However, traditional indigenous people still living in natural environments such as the rainforest continue to adorn themselves with jewellery made from what they find in their natural surroundings such as brightly coloured feathers, wild seeds, animal quills.

Feathers and natural jewellery worn by the indigenous of the Amazon

Brightly coloured feathers and natural jewellery adorn these indigenous people from the Brazilian Amazon.


A group of skilled artisans in Pucallpa in the Amazon basin started using surplus bits and pieces and applied silver wire in the early 1980s to make some fascinating and innovative jewellery. The finished products were then brought to Europe by Tumi

Peruvian bamboo bracelet

Bracelet made from lots of small lengths of bamboo connected with wire with oval turquoise in centre.


The idea proved so successful that later on due to high demand jewellers in Peru Lima took inspiration from the use of natural materials and started fashioning earrings as well, bringing raw material from the Amazon basin such as coconut shell, bamboo, cow-horn, wild seeds, even fish scales, feathers and sometimes animal bones.


Peruvian earrings made using walnut shell and animal quill

An unusual use of walnuts! – Here the shell is used as the main part of the earring with slender animal quills hanging below.

Coconut shell earrings with bamboo and turquoise, hand made in Peru.

Peruvian earrings with coconut shell, bamboo and turquoise.

Peruvian earrings made with fish scales, turquoise, wild seeds and silver wire.

Earrings made with fish scales, with wild seeds, turquoise and silver decorations.


















Feather earrings continue to be popular and are made in Lima as well as other parts of  Peru, sometimes brightly coloured and sometimes left in their natural form and combined with wild seeds and other natural elements.

Blue and turquoise feather earrings hand made in Peru.

Peruvian feather earrings featuring turquoise and dark blue feathers.

Single black feather earring with acai beads and tagua.

Long dangly black feather earring with black acai beads and tagua.



















Today, over 30 years later, many Indians from the Amazon who originally inspired the city craftsmen by their craftsmanship, maintain the custom of making jewellery which is bought by people all over the world.




Turquoise is naturally blue but learn how Tumi Crafts Artisans turn it into red, green, and other colours.

For over 30 years Tumi Jewellery has been working with Mexican Mexican artisans turning the blue coloured turquoise into other colours.

The process is simple but innovative. Crush lumps of turquoise and then add any other colour you want, mix it with resin and let it set, afterwards polish and clean.

Today Tumi crafts has many red and green silver necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings, but this is not the way turquoise has been used historically. Turquoise has been greatly treasured by cultures across the Middle East, Asia and the Americas for many centuries, not only for its beauty but also its mystical properties. The word turquoise is thought to have originated from the French phrase pierre turquoise, literally Turkish stone.  Europeans thought that turquoise came from Turkey when in reality it had most probably originated in Iran and then been traded in Turkish bazaars.

Turquoise occurs naturally in Iran where it is used to dramatic effect in architecture to cover the domes of palaces and mosques,   There are also large deposits in Egypt and the USA and lesser amounts in China, Afghanistan and Australia.

In the Aztec culture of Mexico turquoise was considered sacred and according to the Spanish missionary Bernardino de Sahagun who wrote extensively on Aztec culture,  no one was actually allowed to wear or own turquoise: it could only be used as an offering to the gods and for the decoration of their images   Examples of fine Aztec workmanship can be found in many of their masks such as the turquoise mask of Xiuhtecuhtli the god of fire as well as other artefacts and surviving pieces of jewellery.

Today Tumi crafts work much in Peru and Mexico make much turquoise jewellery. Turquoise jewellery is widely used for necklaces, rings, earrings and pendants in the town of Taxco in Mexico as well as in Cusco, Peru.

Contemporary Mexican jewellers continue to work with turquoise, sometimes using it in a crushed form such as in these earrings: If you are interested you can see them also in our web page or

Mexican leaf earrings with crushed turquoise

These leaf earrings are filled with crushed turquoise and are hand made in Taxco, Mexico


Long drop crushed turquoise earrings

Long turquoise earrings hand made in Taxco, Mexico


Turquoise is also used in its natural form showing off the beautiful markings in each  piece – this can be seen in the turquoise pendants below:


Silver pendants with natural turquoise, shell and pearl.

Silver pendants with natural turquoise, shell and pearl. The turquoise varies in each piece making them beautifully unique. Hand made in Taxco, Mexico.

Sometimes small nuggets or chips of turquoise are used to great effect:

Silver and turquoise 3 piece set

Silver and turquoise necklace, bracelet and earrings set made with nuggets or chips of turquoise combined with sterling silver. Hand made in Taxco, Mexico

At other times the designs are more traditional such as in this simple silver bracelet:

Silver and turquoise bracelet

Classic design of silver and turquoise chain link bracelet with toggle clasp hand made in Taxco, Mexico.

Ancient folklore tells us that turquoise is also said to possess powerful healing and protective powers. For centuries people from various cultures around the world have believed that turquoise has the ability to attract luck, love, and money.  As well as guarding against illness it is also believed to protect its owner against poverty and failure in everyday life and is the birthstone for December.

It was considered more precious than gold by Native Americans and rather beautifully,  legend has it that the Native American Indians danced and rejoiced when the rains came.  Their tears of joy mixed with the rain and seeped into Mother Earth to become turquoise.

This video was shot by Mo Fini of some 30 years ego, still interesting to watch.



“Tagua” beads and jewellery

This is a question often asked in the west, especially now that tagua jewellery is becoming so popular.

The tagua nut is the seed of a palm tree (Phytelephas aequatorialis) that grows naturally in the tropical rainforests of South America. These tagua seeds grow in a large spiny seed pod and when ripe the seeds fall to the ground where they are gathered up and left to dry naturally for up to 2 years.

Basket of tagua nuts and behind the spiney seed pod in which they grow.

A basket full of tagua nuts in their natural state and behind it the large spiney seed pod in which they grow.

During this time they become incredibly hard and can then be carved and made into jewellery and craft items.   Interestingly enough the rest of the palm tree is also of use: – the leaves can be used for thatching, the nuts can be eaten and the roots of the tree even have medicinal value so it is a highly valuable natural resource for the local population.   Also, the harvesting of the tagua seeds takes place naturally and so the tree remains unharmed and continues to grow in its natural state.

Tagua looks very similar to elephant ivory and is often referred to as “vegetable ivory”.  It is used both in its natural state which is a pale creamy colour and also dyed a wide range of vibrant colours.   However, the lovely thing about it is that even when it is dyed you can still see the attractive natural veins and markings, making each piece unique.

The use of tagua dates back to the 1920s when it was commonly used to manufacture buttons.  However, as these got replaced by plastic, demand for tagua dwindled and it is only relatively recently that it has become popular once again.

Tagua offers a viable and ethical alternative to animal ivory( vegetable Ivory) and in so doing helps to protect wildlife that would otherwise be slaughtered for ivory.  It also offers an economic incentive to people living near the rainforests to keep the rainforests in their natural state since they can earn an income from the harvest of tagua nuts.

As the demand for tagua items grows in the west so too do the number of artesans working with it in Latin America.  Production tends to be in small scale workshops and is growing across Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

Sr Alberto Tituana in his workshop, Otavalo, Ecuador.

Sr Tituana produces beautiful items in his workshop in Otavalo Ecuador including a range of hand carved tagua animals as well as a wide range of tagua necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

 Tagua jewellery is available in a wide range of designs and colours and includes necklaces, bracelets and earrings as you can see in the images below

Tagua bracelets on stretchy elastic made in Ecuador.

Tagua bracelets on stretchy elastic made in Ecuador.

Tagua necklace made using whole tagua nuts with small contrasting tagua beads

Tagua necklace made using whole tagua nuts strung onto cotton cord with contrasting tagua beads in brown and black.


Apart from being made into earrings, bracelets and necklaces, tagua nuts are also sold as whole nuts, polished and drilled with a hole, for use in jewellery and craft projects.

Whole polished tagua nuts with drilled hole for craft and jewellery projects.  Each one is unique.

whole polished tagua nuts with drilled hole for craft and jewellery projects. Each one is unique with its own natural markings.

Whole dyed tagua nuts for sale in a stall in Lima, Peru

Whole dyed tagua nuts in a stall in Lima, Peru showing some of the vibrant colours available.


Complimentary to the whole tagua nuts are delicate dyed tagua slices available in various colours which combine beautifully with metal and other beads to create earrings and necklaces.

Tagua slices dyed yellow and drilled with hole at top for threading.

Thin slices of tagua dyed vibrant yellow with a hole drilled at the top for threading onto wire or cord. The edges have been left the natural dark brown of the tagua nut which only adds to the effect

You can also use small chips of dyed tagua drilled with a hole which are fun as the shapes are totally random.  These often come in lovely bright colours.

Tagua beads dyed lime green and drilled with hole for threading

Tagua beads in random shapes made from small pieces of tagua and drilled with hole for threading. These have been dyed a lovely lime green but they come in all sorts of colours. Great fun for crafters!

Tagua jewellery suits all ages – its easy to wear, looks great and is lovely to give.  And now, when someone asks you what is tagua?  You can give them a full and informative answer!

Tagua beads are dyed in all diffrent colours: red, blue, black, pink, and all other shades and colours. The natural colour is white. offres all sorts of beads and jewlery and if you are intrested please send an email to

Traditional Mapuche Silver jewellery from southern Chile

Indigenous Mapuche woman wearing traditional silver jewellery

Mapuche woman wearing traditional silver earrings, silver necklace and pin (tupu) with her traditional costume, southern chile.


Mapuche Jewellery from Chile


Among indigenous groups who maintain elements of their traditional costume and jewelry are the Mapuche of southern Chile, who gained fame by their long stand against the Spanish during the sixteenth century.  Indeed they had maintained their territory against the Incas, who invaded a century before the Spanish, and who built an armed frontier by the Biobio river to proect themselves from their indigenous opponents.  Gradually, however, the Mapuche territory shrank during the nineteenth century, as European immigrants settled in the south, and today there are estimated to be a mere twenty thousand Mapuche living around Temuco.


It was with the circulation of silver coins in the eighteenth century that Mapuche metalwork gained momentum.  The silver was hammered or melted down to make the necklaces and other jewelry worn by important Mapuche women, who often kept their own metalsmiths to make articles exclusively for them.  The majority of pieces date from the nineteenth century, when the Mapuche remained a powerful and relatively prosperous group.  Photographs show Mapuche women wearing very large earrings, sometimes touching their shoulders.


Today production of the large, distinctive pieces of jewelry is limited, although there are Mapuche jewellers who continue to make the traditional designs.  Earrings are the most common form, made in various simple shapes – oval, oblong, trapezoidal, often with no decoration.  They are secured on the ear by pinching them on the earlobe.  Other traditional pieces included various brooches, decorated silver chains worn to connect two plaits of hair and tupus (metal pin with decorative head).

Taken from:  Arts and Crafts of South America, By Mo Fini (founder of Tumi Ltd) and Lucy Davies

Tumi jewellery offers a range of fair trade Chilean earrings hand made in small workshops in Santiago, including popular dove earrings, tumi earrings, lapis lazuli earrings and  various designs incorporating bamboo.

Metal earrings with tactile wire mesh and textured brass square in centre.

Unusual earrings incorporating wire mesh with brass decoration hand made in Santiago, Chile.

Earrings with traditional tumi knife design as used by Incas across Peru and Chile

Dangly earrings made in shape of traditional “tumi” knife, an important motif across Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Chile.

Fair trade earrings hand made in Santiago, Chile

Pair of earrings with textured brass detail hand made in workshops in Santiago, Chile.

Mexican Silver jewellery from Taxco, Mexico

Silver Jewellery from Mexico

Ever since the collapse of the Aztec culture and the arrival of Cortes with his army, gold and silver have been at the centre of exploitation of the region.  Soon after the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores the silver mines of Taxco as well as other regions where gold was extracted, became vitally important for their natural riches.  Taxco, located in the heart of the state of Guerrero, at an altitude of approximately 1500 metres is home to direct descendents of the Aztecs who themselves, were expert artesanos, not only working in stone but also with silver and gold, decorating offerings to their many gods.  The last king of the Aztecs, Moctezuma II was  buried in Ixcateopan de Cuauhtémoc is located in state of Guerrero near Taxco in Mexico

The Spanish not only used silver and gold to decorate their newly built churches but this also became their main source of income for the many expensive expeditions to Latin America as well as being used to help pay off their huge debt with Russia after liberating Southern Spain from North Africa and the Moorish culture.

Tumi started working with craftsmen and women from Taxco in 1978 with a small group of jewellers.  Within a few years the Tumi Jewellery family had grown to several hundred people in Taxco, where raw materials such as silver, turquoise, malachite, obsidian, opal, amber and other semi precious stones were used.

These craftsmen in Taxco used 2 different methods of jewellery making.  One, locally known as troclado involved using thin sheets of silver located under a moulding machine with the design of earrings cut into a jig and then, with enormous pressure the silver is shaped into the design.  This is then passed to the jeweller who decorates the design with cut stones or with crushed stone set in resin.  One of the popular ways of decorating  silver jewellery in Taxco is using natural stones like turquoise ground up and then mixed with resin and colouring.  When dried, it is polished and in this way, to make a pair of red earrings, the jewellers would mix crushed turquoise with resin and red dye to fill the design.  In the same way they would make green earrings using green dye and black earrings with black dye.

The second method of making jewellery in Taxco is more time consuming and traditional.  The earring is drawn on a piece of paper which is then glued to a sheet of silver and cut out with a very fine saw by hand.  This is then soldered onto another sheet of metal and is then ready to be filled and decorated in the same way as above.

Sadly, as the price of raw materials has risen and become more a matter for investors and speculators than craftsmen, this combined with the high demand by industrialised countries, has meant that these gifted jewellers and craftsmen have had no choice but to abandon their art and seek work in cities in order to survive.  How long will it be before we see the last craftsman of Taxco?  Only time will tell.

The history of Jewellery and Metalwork in South America

The history of Jewellery and Metalwork in South America


The discovery of the Sipan tomb in 1987 in the north of Peru, near Lambayeque, was a find of great interest and importance, for it had remained undiscovered by the huaqueros or tomb robbers, and contained many treasures in their original positions.  It was the burial of an important nobleman or possibly a priest of the Moche culture.  The dead man held a sacrificial knife in each hand.  On his wrists he wore bracelets of gold, shell and turquoise, and on his feet copper sandals, while a sheet of gold cradled his head.  All around him lay intricately worked pieces of jewelry: miniature human heads modelled in gold, strings of peanut-shaped gold and silver beads, feather ornaments, earrings of silver, gold and turquoise in the shape of duck, deer and human figures.


No less remarkable was the goldwork of the early cultures ofColombia.  The Museo de Oro in the capital,Bogota, displays the immense skills of these metalworkers, from the third century BC to the arrival of the Spanish.  The Quimbaya culture (AD 200 – 1600), for example, produced 24 carat gold containers to holding the lime chewed with coca leaves, and gold helmets and pendants, as well as pieces in tumbaga, a gold-and-copper alloy.  The Tolima culture of theMagdalenavalley also made pure gold artefacts, and one Tolima figure, a stylized human form with outstretched arms and legs, is often incorporated in modern jewelry designs.


As inPeru, so inColombia, early cultures panned for gold in the rivers of the foothills of theAndes, rich in gold deposits.  Some also diverted rivers by building or digging out small canals in order to flush out the gold more systematically from their sandy banks, a technique later adopted by the Spanish.  Some deep shaft mines have also been discovered in westernColombia, though goldmining was not commonly practised.  Copper was mined, and the gold-copper alloy tumbaga was common throughoutColombia.  Copper, being harder to mine than gold, was greatly valued by these early civilizations.  Platinum, too, has been found mixed with grains of gold in the Pacific coastal region.  It is important, however, to understand that these cultures held metals to be precious only when they had been fashioned into jewelry or objects for ritual use.


A study of the Muisca culture ofColombiahas shown that the metal-workers were divided into two distinct groups.  One group was responsible for the making of body ornaments or jewelry, such as earplugs, nose-rings and bracelets, while the other, which lived apart from the rest of society, was dedicated exclusively to creating objects to be used for sacrifices to the gods.  Both groups were highly respected; and indeed, to be a skilled goldsmith requires not only individual talent but also a long and studious apprenticeship supported economically by society.


The pre-Hispanic culture known as La Tolita inEcuador(500 BC-AD 500) is thought to be unique in having utilized platinum.  Their goldwork was impressive: pieces were often articulated; for instance human figures have moving limbs.  A particularly striking object is a model of the sun with a human face, encircled by moving golden rays.  Masks have separate ear-and-nose-rings that are finely worked pieces in their own right.

Taken from:  Arts and Crafts ofSouth America

By Mo Fini (founder of Tumi Ltd) and Lucy Davies

The story of Tumi


Tumi head became a patented trademark for us


Whilst the Spanish invaders were dazzled by the Incas’ use of gold, it was the pre-Inca cultures who mastered the art of working with metal.  Some of the earliest goldwork discoverred in Latin America originates from the Chavin culture of Peru (800 BC onwards), from where the art spread northwards to present-day Colombia and southwards into Argentina.  One of the most striking pre-Hispanic pieces is a gold tumi knife found in Lambayeque on Peru’s northern coast.  Tumi knives with their tapering handles and semi-circular blades first appeared in Peru in the Moche culture (AD 200-750), when they were associated with human sacrifice.  Five centuries later the Inca were using them for surgical operations such as trepanning the skull.  Today they are a common motif in jewellery and the other decorative arts.

The story of our “tumi” came about when Mo Fini, founder of Tumi, travelled to Latin America for the first time in 1978.  His journey took him some 12 months walking across the Andes and it was during this trip that he was given a small tumi knife pendant which he wore from then on.  Upon his return to the UK and having fallen in love with Latin America, he decided to import jewellery and crafts from Latin America and hence he based his company on the tumi knife he always wore.  By eliminating the bottom part, it became a circle showing only the tumi head.

Today not only can you still observe the original gold tumis in various museums but also miniature versions of tumi heads and knives are available in most shops across Peru.   While the tumi head was originally made from metal today you will find the design made out of fish hooks, clay, copper, brass and decorated with stones such as turquoise, lapis lazuli, malachite, amber, obsidian.  Also many painted ceramic articles around Cuzco and Pisac, hand painted beads often carried the tumi motif.

It is customary to use the tumi motif in jewellery across Latin America

Tumi knife earrings made by hand in Santiago, Chile.

Peruvian Hand painted clay beads from Cusco

Stones and beads from ore-Hispanic tombs sometimes appear in modern jewellery, but in Cuzco, the ceramic beads commonly referred to as “Inca Clay beads” have a surprisingly short history. Relatively large unglazed beads made in Cusco in the 1970′s were made for leather thronging and also strung as necklaces. These unglazed beads were not only rather large and not  water resistance .However, it was not till the potters experimented with smaller beads made from a little machine similar to a mince mint machine made in Leeds,UK. Then these machines were taken together with several electric kiln ovens by Mo Fini (founder of Tumi) to Peru and that is how all started. The clay was pushed into a main chamber and then with the help of a pressure plate pushed forward towards an exit with many different holes. The large minced type clay ribbons then were cut and dried before being fired, painted and glazed in the kiln again. These beads were then painted with Inca motifs that they were met with the success they enjoy today.

Today thousands of families still make beads and hand paint them  in Cusco, Pisaq and the capital of Peru, Lima. Some are made into earnings,necklaces and bracelets, but many thousands are sold loose to allow people to create their own designs and combinations. Tumi introduced these beads to the world in late 70′s first in UK. The beads then were sold to a famous bead shop in Covent gardens called “Covent Garden Beads shop” and then were distributed all over Europe through their outlets.

I myself Mo Fni of Tumi am grateful to the shop and the people  who ran it which gave livelihood not only to us working in UK but thousands of families in Peru.

If any of those people

Flat beads and painted bamboo make a nice combination for earnings

The flat beads painted by the late Llamoca in Cusco, Peru and then made into earnings in Pisaq near Cusco, Peru

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