I’m a former silversmithing student, so living in Mexico got me excited to do some research on Mexican silver arts. I wanted to know, can you find good quality sterling silver jewelry in Cozumel?
There are lots of places to buy cool silver jewelry in Cozumel, but if you’re shopping only for the finest quality and established reputations, that list gets shorter. The two criteria to look for are high-quality sterling silver (marked .925, at least), and that you are buying from talented and reputable jewelers or retailers. I’ve done plenty of browsing and local research, now. A few high-quality and trusted silver jewelry stores here in Cozumel always rise to the top.
Stemming from both personal experience and word of mouth, these shops are our shortlist of recommendations. Bear in mind there are likely other really good ones.
As you shop around, though, just be sure to keep some of the following factors in mind.
Mexican Silver – Timeless and Traditional
Silver mining and beautifully crafted silver jewelry have long been associated with Mexico.
Evidence exists of pre-hispanic silver mining in Mexico, but larger levels of discovery and mining are recorded after the arrival of Cortés and the Spanish (circa 1521). Great deposits were notably found around current-day Taxco and were used to supply silver to Spain and Europe.
Today, Mexico produces the majority of the world’s silver. (as of 2016)
People tend to think immediately of silver jewelry, formal silver flatware, and coins. But silver metal, itself, has many inherent properties that make it of value, beyond simply its beauty.
It’s a highly conductive material used in a wide array of electronics, now including the production of solar panels and other emerging technologies.
Silver is also a non-toxic substance and has natural antibiotic qualities, so a valuable component in many medical applications, including instruments, bandages, and ointments. (This overview here from geology.com can explain more.)
For many travelers, as we know, shopping for locally crafted jewelry can be an activity in and of itself, and the reward is to discover that perfect prized collectible. Pieces are treasured as souvenirs, but also as investments and potentially as meaningful family heirlooms.
Shopping for sterling silver jewelry in Mexico is a perfect example. Here in Cozumel, we have a lot of beautiful work to discover.
What Makes Silver from Taxco so Special?
In Cozumel, as all over the Riviera Maya and Mexico, you’ll often encounter shops highlighting “genuine Taxco silver.”
Before moving here, I wasn’t aware of this specific region, so I was intrigued. Should you only buy silver from mines in Taxco? I’ve done a fair amount of research, but it’s still a little bit confusing.
Taxco, Mexico (pronounced “tass-co”) is a city in the state of Guerrero, located to the South of Mexico City.
Taxco was an early silver mining center in Mexico, as mentioned above, with big waves of extraction in the 16th century. Silver mining in Taxco was revived again in the 18th century when the city really flourished under another Spanish mining owner, José de la Borda.
These days, however, most of Mexico’s raw silver (by far) comes from the state of Zacatecas, farther to the north. Other top producing states include Chihuahua, Durango, and Sonora. Guerrero no longer really makes the list. (for more info, see here at geo-mexico.com)
So why does Taxco retain its reputable nick-name of the “silver capital of the world”?
This is primarily due now to its history of fine artistry and craftsmanship, as well as the sheer number of artists and silversmith shops still working in the city today. A city, by the way, that’s also known for its quaint architecture and charm.
The reputation for elevated jewelry arts and production began in the 1930s, after an American professor and metal artist, William Spratling, started an educational studio in Taxco, planting the seed for decades of silversmithing skill and production. (Read more about Taxco and Spratling, here.)
So just be aware. It’s not necessarily that the quality of the silver metal itself is superior. It’s the history and reputation for artistry and production have given Taxco an elevated name.
Using “Taxco” as an indication of status and refined artistry might be entirely legitimate and earned. At other times, it might just be savvy marketing.
Different Levels of Silver Metal (look for .925 stamp)
A quick primer on silver metal and its grading.
When shopping for silver, you should always look to find its pedigree stamp(s) – usually a very small stamped number that indicates the level of silver you’re inspecting.
“Pure” silver sounds like the best, right? But it’s rarely used in jewelry making, and for good reason.
Silver is a very soft metal, so while “pure silver” sounds good, it will easily scratch and bend. If you encounter pure silver, it is considered 99.9% pure, so would have a stamp of “.999”
Sterling Silver is a beautiful metal and the standard high quality in silver that most of us want for jewelry. Sterling refers to pure silver that is mixed with a bit of other metal – most typically copper. This gives it both the durability and nice visual finish appropriate to jewelry work.
Technically, that mix is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper (or other), hence the “92.5” classification or more common “.925” stamp you’ll see on genuine sterling silver pieces.
Tarnishing, by the way, doesn’t indicate poor quality sterling. Most pure and sterling silvers will tarnish when they are exposed to air.
Your best bet is to polish them often and try to store them in special bags and/or ways that keep them away from open air.
But even good silver will frequently tarnish to a grey or black – just not to a green, or rust, or pink. Those colors (or a green hue to your skin) would probably indicate another alloy combination. Or perhaps that the piece was a lesser metal that had been “plated” (thinly coated) with real silver, in the first place.
For the best satisfaction when looking for Sterling Silver:
- Always look for the “.925” stamped somewhere on the back or underside of the piece (though it may be impossible on tiny or delicate earrings, etc.)
- ASK the questions!
There are certainly deceptive sellers out there, but the base metal is usually stamped appropriately.
If you spend a little time, you’ll usually be able to tell if the craftsman or retailer takes pride in their stock, and will stand by the quality. (When in doubt, move along – there are plenty of honest merchants nearby.)
I’ve always found a good well-established shop will be happy to answer those questions, and proud to explain their process.
Best Silver Jewelry Shops in Cozumel
This brings me to my favorite jewelers and shops for sterling silver in Cozumel.
These are all places that I’ve dealt with on more than one occasion and I have nice pieces from all three – that have stood the test of time.
I know they not only source high-quality silver, but also create and take great pride in their own pieces, or work with talented jewelry artists within Mexico.
Deja Vú Cozumel Leather and Jewelry
I knew from the first time I entered Deja Vú that it wouldn’t be my last.
The owner, Antonio, greeted me warmly and patiently. He explained his family’s history in the business. He even invited me in to see his jewelry workbench and studio in the back when I mentioned that I had a little history with silversmithing work.
That first time, I was looking for a craftsman who could transform some of my mother’s silver (she had recently passed) into pendants for me and my sisters. Antonio did a beautiful job.
I went on to have several other pieces made. Deja Vú has an impressive inventory of men’s and women’s jewelry with a variety of set stones and inlay work, but they also do a great deal of custom-carved pieces for customers, and lots of personalized wedding rings.
I’ve also bought several small gifts over the years for friends, and some very cool handmade leather sandals for myself – those made by his family members on the mainland.
Every time I’ve encountered Antonio and Deja Vú, I’ve felt like a friend – and also admired their beautiful work.
Deja Vú Cozumel Leather and Jewelry, Cozumel, MX
Melgar Avenue, just south of Punta Langosta
(across the street from the Mega supermarket)
Sergio’s Silver from Taxco
This is an instance where silver “from Taxco” is legit. In fact, it makes your jaw drop seeing the array of beautiful and intricate jewelry art here. Sergio’s has also been an establishment on Cozumel for years – opening its Cozumel location in 1994.
This is where I take friends who specifically want a sterling silver charm for their collection. Sergio’s has several tables FULL of charms representing everything – scuba diving, marine life, Mexican symbols, and a host of other fun themes, hobbies, and personal interests. And given time, they’ll create a custom design for you in days!
But the Sergios (Sr. and Jr. – it’s also a family place) don’t stop there.
Their large selection is full of beautiful gift sets, amazingly intricate chain work, custom wedding rings, stunning pieces with set- or inlaid- stones, and more.
Located in the town center’s Plaza area, this is also a great stop when taking in the various shops, restaurants, and people-watching of downtown Cozumel.
Sergio’s Silver from Taxco.
Within Benito Juarez Park, close to the Church of San Miguel
Cinco Soles – A-List Authenticity
It’s also well-known now to those who travel to Cancun, as over the years it’s expanded and now has locations in both the Cozumel (CZM) and Cancun (CUN) departure terminals. (This is great news for those who’ve left their shopping to the last minute!)
But the original Cinco Soles is here on Cozumel island.
Cinco Soles is known to source authentic and high-quality arts and crafts from throughout the country of Mexico, so it is a great place to visit on a trip to Cozumel – no matter what gifts or keepsakes you have in mind.
You’ll find a wide variety of pottery, decorative goods, special items highlighting Mexican holidays and traditions, as well as designer garments, soft goods, Mexican vanilla and chocolate, and even fun novelty t-shirts and souvenirs.
Make no mistake, though – their jewelry collections are also worth the trip.
Cinco Soles doesn’t make custom jewelry in-house, unlike Deja Vú and Sergio’s. But they DO carry lovely lines from various Mexican artisans, so you’ll perhaps find a bit more of artistic variety to help suit your personal style.
The airport stores have slightly different inventories than this flagship location, so if you really fall in love with something, don’t assume you can get it on your way home.
That said, do make a pit-stop when you’re waiting for your departing flight – you might just need one more bottle of that delicious Mexican vanilla. I know I always do!
Los Cinco Soles (Five Suns), Flagship store location
Ave. Melgar at 8th Street North, Cozumel, MX