The Silver Festival
by Nancy Swickard
Nearly every February, the place to be for lovers of fine silver is Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Nestled in the Sierra Madre Mountains, this village sparkles with the gleam of fine silver and the warmth of the artists who pound and polish it into place. This dream comes to fruition by the steadfast efforts of Nancy Swickard, who has lived in Alamos for the past 24 years, and Nancy’s friends.For the past six years, Alamos has been an excellent place to buy hand-wrought sterling silver directly from the master silversmiths.
There is something so enduring about falling in love with a piece of silver, meeting the silversmith, and then becoming the caretaker of a true treasure. The purpose of the Silver Festival at Hacienda de los Santos Resort and Spa is two-fold. First, it is an opportunity for prospective buyers to peruse the fine works by many silversmiths at a single event. Second, it gives silversmiths an opportunity to help the village of Alamos by donating one special piece that will be raffled, or auctioned, to benefit the restoration of the Alamos Cathedral, La Purisima de Concepcion.
As the owners of Hacienda de los Santos Resort and Spa, we continually look for ways to help our village in various endeavors. Not too many years ago, the major dome of our cathedral was on the verge of collapse. Thanks to many benefactors in Mexico, as well as the U.S. and Canada, the building is now stabilized and restoration continues.
As great fans of vintage and contemporary Mexican silver, my husband and I approached one of the world’s finest silversmiths, Emilia Castillo, to see if she would be willing to participate in a silver festival in Alamos,Sonora. To our surprise, she readily accepted and not only exhibited, but also became a guest speaker and teacher. I then asked our close friend, Pam McNair- Wingate, to attend. Not only is Pam a silver enthusiast, but also has a home in Santa Fe. Both Pam and Emilia found
and invited numerous silversmiths from both sides of the border to the annual event, thus it became the “International Silver Festival of Hacienda de los Santos.” We have found that to keep it fun and interesting for all in attendance, we like to change the focus each year. For example, some years Margo Grant Walsh of New York has given lectures on fine silver collecting. I gave a program on my collection and the history of silver jewelry making in Mexico by such Masters as William
Spratling, Antonio Castillo (Emilia’s father), Fred Davis, and several others. This year Emilia offered a class where the participants, over a three-day period, each created a hand-wrought cuff.
Jim and I originally retired in what was a Spanish colonial mansion in the village. Later, with a small luxury hotel in mind, we purchased five adjacent properties. One of these former sites housed a portion of the only mint at that time in northwestern Mexico in the 1800s. Jim has a small collection of Mexican silver coins from 1772, and my collection of Spratling, of course, begins in the 1930’s.
Where Women Create would like to thank Nancy Swickardfor her involvement in our Summer Issue. To learn more about Nancy and The Silver Festival, visit XXX