Tag Archives: jewelry

San Pedro Quiatoni, Oaxaca Jewelry: Quest for the Past

San Pedro Quiatoni is a small Zapotec mountain village in the eastern region of the Tlacolula Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. For some inexplicable reason, the village collected Venetian glass beads that came into Mexico with the Spanish galleons along the trade routes between Veracruz, Acapulco and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The necklaces and earrings have become hard-to-find collectibles.

San Pedro Quiatoni necklace, Museo Nacional de Anthropologica

San Pedro Quiatoni necklace, Museo Nacional de Anthropologica, Mexico City

Early necklaces were strung with finely woven ixtle fiber, then later cotton. They typically included a mix of brown, clear, cobalt blue and light turquoise hand-blown slender glass rods of varying lengths, from one to three inches, interspersed with Venetian skunk (black and white) and colored handmade glass beads. Some say the rods originated from Puebla craftsmen. Others dispute this and insist they were part of the bounty coming from Europe to trade for gold, silver and cochineal.

We do know that these particular necklaces have a unique provenance only to this one Oaxaca village, San Pedro Quiatoni. The women wore them for ceremonial occasions, part of the gala traje. Some were single strands. Others, double strands. Each one I found seemed to be unique to the person who assembled the beads based upon what was available and personal aesthetic.

The necklaces, along with complementary earrings, were passed down through the generations, safeguarded in baules (treasure chest, hope chest) in the isolated village that is a good three hours from Oaxaca city.  It wasn’t until the 1970’s, when the Pan-American Highway (Mexico 190) was paved that there was easier access.

Xaquixe reproduction San Pedro Quiatoni necklace

Xaquixe reproduction San Pedro Quiatoni necklace

The old jewelry became a source of needed income for local families as collectors recognized the originality of design and age of the beads. It is difficult now to find an intact strand of these glass beads on their original cord anywhere other than in museums or among private collections.

I became interested in the history of these necklaces last year at a Museo Textil de Oaxaca exhibition that included vintage San Pedro Quiatoni daily traje (dress) and accompanying necklaces. I tried to find glass rods in local antique shops to make my own necklace but was unsuccessful. The reproduction necklaces for sale in the MTO gift shop, made by Xaquixe, sold out in days.

Close-up, Museo Textil de Oaxaca collection

Close-up, Museo Textil de Oaxaca collection, San Pedro Quiatoni

My interest was sparked again this month when I went to visit the Mitla antique dealer I wrote about before. He pulled out three of these Quiatoni necklaces, obviously recently strung on silk cord, to show me. The prices were in the stratosphere even with the favorable dollar to peso exchange rate ($1=17 pesos).

Researching Provenance and Value

To even consider a purchase, I had to know more. So, I searched the Internet for a history of San Pedro Quiatoni beaded necklaces and what was available for sale to find comparables in quality and pricing. I wanted to know if what he was selling was really real! I saw old photos of village women wearing them. I saw 2002 festival photos with beautiful girls each laden with several strands.

I sent an email to Old Beads owner Silva Nielands, an expert in old Mexican beads, as well as old beads from around the world. She had a Quiatoni necklace for sale, one of two that I was able to find online. It was a beauty and had already sold within days of being listed, she told me. Silva was incredibly generous with her advice and time, offering to look at photos I sent her to authenticate age and quality.

Asking for Expert Opinion

She suggested a reasonable retail price for the necklace strung with old coral and I gulped again. She noted that the white oblong beads with the blue squiggles on the necklace I was looking at are typical of those that came into Mexico and South America over 100 years ago, and the light turquoise rods are more rare and valuable than the clear or blue ones. Most of these necklaces are adorned with red glass tubes, not coral, and may be newer.

Quiatoni necklace, Museo Textil de Oaxaca collection

Close-up, Quiatoni necklace

On my recent visit to the USA, I bought an old copy of Mexican Jewelry, the bible written in 1964 by Mary Davis and Greta Pack, and referred to it often during my investigations. I also found, online, a history of beads in Mexico, The Margaretologist, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1987, Journal for the Center of Bead Research (see page 9 of the linked journal).

I visited the necklace four times.  I examined each bead and the stringing. I found several broken tips on the rods. I walked away. He called me and asked me to make an offer. I returned, questioned whether the stringing was done correctly to honor the original design — from my research, it wasn’t. So, I asked for the necklace to be strung correctly and then I would look at it again.

One of three necklaces for sale in Mitla that I was considering

One of three San Pedro Quiatoni necklaces for sale in Mitla that I was considering

According to my sources, the ribbons were originally used for decorations, not to tie the necklace. So this was a dead giveaway that the necklaces were strung improperly. The beads would have been strung on a cotton cord, which would be braided from the last bead to the terminus.

Bargaining and Walking

In the two-week process, I also got negotiating coaching from my friend Scott who has been a trader here in the region for over 40 years. He advised that I admire, inquire and walk away. He suggested I do this several times, not my usual style, but I disciplined myself.  I courageously asked the dealer to restring the beads and replace the rods with broken tips.

This 14" strand came in on turquoise embroidery floss. The short brown beads are old.

This 14″ strand came in on turquoise embroidery floss. The short brown beads are old, and you can see the beautiful glass lamp work.

Scott counseled that the dealer would respect me more if I made a reasonable offer that was fair to us both. Being that the dealer was as close to the source as I was going to get, on the return for the fourth time, I decided to start out by offering half his asking price to test what a reasonable offer might be.  When we reached an agreement for less than what I had in mind, he invited me to return for a family dinner and gave me a warm embrace. I guess Scott was right!

San Pedro Quiatoni necklace and earrings

San Pedro Quiatoni necklace and earrings

The earrings above have a silver disc hammered from an old coin, then cut along the edge to form a double-headed guajolote with feathers. The ear findings are original, too. They are now part of my collection along with the necklace, which now has a cotton cord for proper tying. The navy blue ribbon mimics some of the old pieces, but I’ve also seen photos of these necklaces without the ribbon.

San Pedro Quiatoni Necklace, restrung, Norma Schafer Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC

San Pedro Quiatoni Necklace, restrung, Norma Schafer Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC



Brigitte Huet, Kandart Sterling Silver Jewelry Sale

This is a show and sale for 10 pieces of Kandart sterling silver jewelry made in Oaxaca, Mexico, by French silversmith Brigitte Huet and her husband Ivan Campant.

Bracelet, slide clasp, 7" long x 2" wide. $665 USD plus shipping + insurance

Bracelet, slide clasp, 7″ long x 2″ wide. $665 USD plus shipping + insurance

The one-of-a-kind pieces are the last remaining for sale from the Oaxaca collection.

26" pendant, $595 USD plus shipping + insurance

26″ pendant, $595 USD plus shipping + insurance

Many of them were made 15 and 20 years ago and put away as keepsakes that Brigitte and Ivan have now decided to sell. This may be your last opportunity to buy these unique collector pieces.

If you want something, please choose quickly, then contact me by email and include your mailing address with ZIP Code. I will send you a PayPal invoice for the piece plus shipping and insurance at the sale value.

Brigitte and Ivan thank you and send best wishes.

They left Oaxaca in early 2014 to return to southern France. They are living in a small village near Toulouse, creating new wax carved designs that will be made in limited editions with silver casting as soon as they are able to move to a house that will accommodate a working studio. Meanwhile, Brigitte continues to develop new ideas, most recently implemented in wood sculpture, too.

Eagle bracelet, small is 6-1/2" x 2", $550. Longer is 7-5/8" x 2", $600.

Eagle bracelet, small is 6-1/2″ x 2″, $550. Longer is 7-5/8″ x 2″, $600.

Bracelet, 6-7/8" long x 1" wide, $445.

Bracelet, 6-7/8″ long x 1″ wide, $445.

17" long necklace, 1/4-1/2" wide, $295 USD

17″ long necklace, 1/4-1/2″ wide, $295 USD16" necklace, $335  necklace, $335, 16″ long

Eagle pendant, 3-1/2"long x 1-5/8" wide, $245.

Eagle pendant, 3-1/2″long x 1-5/8″ wide, $245.

Pendant, 2-3/4" long x 1-5/8" wide, $250.

Pendant, 2-3/4″ long x 1-5/8″ wide, $275.

Lady Pendant, 3-1/4" long x 2-1/4" wide, $275.

Lady Pendant, 3-1/4″ long x 2-1/4″ wide, $300.

How to order: First send me an email.

  1. Tell me which piece you want.
  2. Tell me your mailing address with ZIP Code
  3. Tell me if you want insurance for the full value of your purchase.
  4. Order and pay by Monday, June 2: I will ship from California.
  5. Order and pay after June 2: I will ship from California after July 9.
  6. I will send you a PayPal invoice for the amount of the piece(s) and add shipping and insurance to the total.
  7. Upon payment, I will ship within one day if order received by June 2, 2015.

P.S. I have no earrings or rings from Brigitte to offer for sale at this time.

Bilbao Reunion with Brigitte Huet, Silversmith and Jeweler

Our reunion with artist, jeweler, silversmith and dear friend Brigitte S. Huet has been in the making for over a year when Barbara and I first planned to visit Spain. Brigitte and her husband Ivan returned to France in early 2014 after making Oaxaca their home and creative inspiration for over 20 years. We miss them.

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So, we made a meet-up plan for Bilbao, which is about four hours by car from the Toulouse area where they now live, to visit the Guggenheim Museum together.


Barbara asked Brigitte to bring a trunk show of collector pieces she had created in the early years. We spent time looking at designs we had never seen before that had been tucked away in Brigitte’s treasure chest in France. They included belt buckles, deeply carved silver beads, pendents, rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets.

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Some of these, mostly necklaces and bracelets, are now available for sale. I have them with me and I will be posting photos and prices soon.

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We reminisced, drank good red wine, ate stinky unpasteurized cheese, walked and giggled. It was wonderful to be with Brigitte again. They have not produced jewelry since returning to France.

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There is no place where they live now to set up a casting studio. But, Brigitte has carved wax designs in preparation for what comes next and she has been carving wood, too. The creative life continues.


Enviando besos y abrazos de Brigitte y Ivan de Francia.  Sending kisses and hugs from Brigitte and Ivan from France.



More About Mexico City: Museums

For the past week, before returning today to North Carolina for knee replacement surgery next week, I have been in Mexico City where some of the world’s best museums are found. I added on two days on my own before we started our fifth Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Art History Study Tour this year!

Highlights to share with you:

At the Franz Mayer Museum there is a special exhibition of the collection of Ruth Lechuga’s folk art collection. A physician and photographer, Ruth Lechuga left Vienna, Austria with her family at age eighteen to escape the Holocaust. Mexican people and their creativity became her passion. (Mexico received many who sought asylum when the United States closed its doors.)

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In another exhibit hall at the Franz Mayer Museum is the art of TANE, the Mexico City silver and gold jewelry and design studio. Their bench artists have been working in precious metals since 1942.

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What is not to admire? Even Oaxaca’s great artist Francisco Toledo has worked with TANE to design this extraordinary silver fish that you see above.

2014MuseumsB-83 2014MuseumsB-86          In addition to contemporary jewelry designs, TANE creates traditional hammered and woven silver pieces, like this exceptional hammered rooster chandelier, above left.  This is an extraordinary exhibition if you love the history of silver and silversmithing in Mexico. And, if you want to shop, there’s a TANE boutique at El Palacio de Hierro, Mexico City’s great department store, just a block from the Zocalo in the historic center of town. Pay attention to the Tiffany glass ceiling there, too.

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The courtyard patio of the Franz Mayer Museum offers a lovely respite for espresso, sweets and good sandwiches, plus a perfect venue for a fashion photo shoot where amazing posters of social and political commentary from around the world hang.

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We packed it in that day. Our next stop was to see the collection at the Soumaya Museum and the Jumex Museum in the wealthy Polanco district of Mexico City. These are both private museums owned by family foundations. The collections range from classical to contemporary.

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We were blown away by the extent of the Soumaya Museum’s collection of Rodin and Dali bronze sculptures, and a floor devoted to Sophia Loren in Mexico.

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Photos above show museum architecture and the office complex backdrop. This is not far from Chapultepec Park where we returned the next day to immerse ourselves in the art at the Rufino Tamayo Museum (the BEST museum store in the city, IMHO) and where we saw the temporary exhibition of Japanese-American artist Yayoi Kusama.



Then, on to the Museum of Modern Art that houses Frida Kahlo’s The Two Fridas and Diego Rivera’s portrait of his second wife Lupe Marin, plus other important works. We followed this with dinner at Chef Alejandro Rios’ Guzina Oaxaca.

How do we get around Mexico City?  If I can’t get there on foot, I call UBER.  Yes, Mexico City is served by UBER and you can usually get a private, secure car and driver to come pick you up in less than ten minutes. All cars have seat belts, most drivers provide a small bottle of water as a courtesy, and there is no exchange of money and no tipping.  It’s the best!

Oaxaca Portrait Photography Workshop starts January 30.

Scheduling 2015 Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Art History Study Tour. Are you interested? Send an email!

Oaxaca Gold, Silver Filigree Earrings, Plus Woven Tapestry Bags for Sale

After a long day of travel yesterday, by bus from Puebla to the Mexico City airport, then to San Francisco with a connection to Orange County, California, I have settled into my son’s home in Huntington Beach.

Shoulder bag, approx. 14"x16" with leather straps, $85 + shipping.  Dyed with wild marigold and nuts.

Handbag, approx. 15″ high x16″ wide, $85 + shipping. Dyed with wild marigold and nuts, lined with strong zipper closure, strong leather straps approx. 28″ long.

I’m carrying with me two beautiful hand-woven, tapestry wool bags that with natural dyes, made by my friend Lupe from Teotitlan del Valle, and a group of gold vintage filigree earrings and a pair of silver filigree from my personal collection. All are for sale here.

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Lupe is a single mother of three sons ranging in age from elementary school to college. Her goal is that all boys receive a college education. She makes ends meet, uses her small income to pay tuition and has few opportunities to market her work.

Handbag, approx. 14"x16", $85 + shipping. Handwoven, leather straps, zipper, lined.

Handbag, approx. 15″high x16″ wide, $85 + shipping. Hand-woven, 28″ leather straps, zipper, lined. Dyed with cochineal, wild marigold, nuts.

Lupe is talented and resourceful. Recently, she got a grant from the state economic development office to take a course to learn leather-work. The leather is soft, the workmanship excellent. She is making lined shoulder handbags and I offered to help her sell these two.  The leather shoulder strap measurements are approximately 28″ long, end-to-end where they are attached to the bag.

Are you interested?  Send me an email.

Now, for the jewelry!

#1: Frida Kahlo Style 3-Tier Chandelier Earrings: Luscious 10K Gold Filigree, Pearl, Purple Stones, $495. plus shipping and insurance. 2-3/4″ drop from ear hole! Approx. 1-1/2″ at widest point of the two leaves.

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I came by this amazing pair of vintage 10K gold, pearl and stone earrings because another indigenous friend needed money to buy a refrigerator. How could I say no? The filigree work is gorgeous. She says her father gave them to her about thirty-five years ago. These earrings are substantial, elegant, dramatic. A true statement.

Selling these and all the rest  for the price I paid (smile).

#2. Juicy Red Vintage 10K Gold Filigree and Pearl Earrings. $195. + shipping and insurance.  Deep bezel setting. You don’t find workmanship like this now! 1-3/4″ long from the ear hole and 3/4″ wide.

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FiligreeJewelry_WovenBags-23#3. Mario Perez Sterling Silver Filigree Earrings, new. $225 + shipping and insurance.

Among the finest, most intricate filigree workmanship in Oaxaca. Mario has his gallery on the Macedonio Alcala walking street in Oaxaca. These earrings have secure French-style hooks. The dangling drop is about the size of a quarter. 1-1/2″ long from the ear hole, 1″ wide. For more detail, click on the photo.

#4. Vintage 8K Gold and Pearl Earrings. These dramatic dangles have a huge, oval, clear cubic zirconia stone that sparkle with every move. $165+ shipping and insurance. 1-3/4″ long from the ear hole and 3/4″ wide.

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#5. Vintage 10K Gold Filigree Traditional Zapotec Earrings from Teotitlan del Valle. These are probably at least forty years old. They were part of a family collection and the owner needed to raise money for home improvements. $385. + shipping and insurance. Hook goes from back of ear to front, with gold disk facing forward. 2-1/4″ drop from ear hole, 1-7/16″ wide.

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