For the last 15 years I have been making frequent trips to Mexico City for work (and play). I am always on the lookout for old jewelry, especially silver, and I recently saw a small collection of Frida Kahlo’s (1907-1954) jewelry.
When the Mexican painter died, her bereft husband, Diego Rivera, locked the doors to her closets, sequestering many of her possessions. The exact contents were not known until the doors were opened in 2004, 50 years after Kahlo’s death. A rotating exhibition of these possessions is on show at her house in Mexico City until January 31, 2014, sponsored by the Museo Frida Kahlo, and Mexican Vogue magazine among others. The museum’s permanent collection also includes her clothes and jewelry, and usually there are beautiful pieces on display.
Kahlo wore magnificent Tehuana-style clothing, rebozos in rich colors, gorgeous fabrics, sometimes silk velvet, made into huipiles (squarish pullover tops), and long skirts, embroidered with bright flowers and graphic stitching, with white lace underskirts. The personal items on display are touching – a partially used bottle of red nail polish, a pair of cat-eye sunglasses, the primitive looking medical appliances that supported her polio- and accident-damaged upper body and right leg.
But the jewelry induced huge envy in me – heavy gold necklaces in graduated lengths, ornate lockets and pendants, and colorful rings. A portrait shows her wearing elaborate vintage gold and pearl earrings. I love vintage Mexican earrings, and have several pair, as well as several well-done replicas. Below are some photos of the jewelry that was displayed in early November 2013.
If you are yearning for similar jewelry and find yourself in Mexico City, vintage silver pieces are for sale in various antique shops at Plaza San Angel, Zona Rosa, Mexico City. Warning – neither vintage pieces nor replicas are low priced. Vendors hold an upscale antiques market on Saturdays at this plaza, where you can find both vintage jewelry and precious metal replicas in traditional styles. A lower-end flea market on Sundays is held at La Lagunilla, and there are several silver vendors with vintage jewelry. At either market you should check pieces for the .925 sterling mark, or other marks of purity. The Museo de Artes Populares (popular arts museum MAP) exhibits many handcrafts, including jewelry. Last, there is a large pawn shop in the center of Mexico City, Monte de Piedad, which is full of small kiosks that sell unclaimed pawned jewelry. You are unlikely to find vintage silver here, although if you put in the time searching through the kiosks you might find some interesting vintage gold pieces.
For more information on Frida Kahlo and the exhibition, metal work and jewelry in Mexico, Mexican popular arts and crafts, the flea markets and pawn shop, and Tehuana-style, check out these websites: