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Casa Prieto

Casa Prieto (Est. c.1935 – ????) Casa Prieto was a well-known and respected mid-20th Century silver shop that created and sold silver jewelry, tableware, and other pieces at 40 Avenida Juarez Mexico City just across the border from Laredo, Texas. While many of the pieces they sold are marked with variations of “Casa Prieto, Sterling, Mexico, O.F., Juarez 40, Mexico, 950,” “Prieto Mexico D.F. AVE Juarez 40,” and/or “Prieto Mexico D.F. AVE Juarez 40,” most were designed by artisans from nearby Taxco (noted for its silversmithing expertise) and who remain anonymous.

Casa Prieto López in Mexico City was a family home built in 1950 for the businessman Eduardo Prieto López by the Mexican architect Luis Barragán. The edifice was in keeping with Barragán’s attempts to control the look and use of the buildings he designed. When the Prieto López family first occupied the newly built house, the uncompromising architect did not allow them to incorporate their traditional, highly decorated English family silver and insisted that they rework the silver into new forms more in keeping with the understated aesthetic of the house.

This imposition of design control led to a collaboration between Barragán and Alfredo Ortega, one of the most prominent Mexican silversmiths of the early twentieth century. Together they designed and manufactured new silverware using the family’s English silverware as the raw material.

This aesthetic control led to a further collaboration with the Berlin-based silversmith Michael Steger, who carefully and painstakingly re- shaped three pre-existing pieces of variously decorated antique silverware into the exact form of a surviving bowl from the Prieto López house. While the shape of the resulting hybrid bowls perfectly match that of the Barragán/Ortega original, their newly decorated surfaces betray their origins.

Other noteworthy Casa Prieto masterpieces include a 130 gram bracelet whose width is 1.5 in. and length is 7 5/8in with barrels and hinges. The balls are repousse and there are bars to the right and left of the link segments that are solid ornamentation. In its execution, the striking design is timeless.

Another bracelet, circa 1930s to 1940, is a heavy, solid piece with a huge presence. It’s hand-wrought, with a chunky dimensional design and unique clasp that is completely seamless when closed. It measures an extra-long length of 8″ fully closed with a width of 1 1/8″ and a depth of 5/8″. It was signed and hallmarked. “Casa Prieto Mexico 925”.

Additional bracelets of interest include one with well-cast panels and crisp details that are probably derived from Pre-Columbian motifs even though the bracelet has an Egyptian Revival Deco feel. The face panels with small headdresses are separated by decorative beaded panels connected by silver rings.

There is also an 8” long, silver link bracelet stamped ‘Casa Prieto’, ‘925’, and ‘Mexico’ on its simple tongue clasp. This bracelet is composed of five 1¼” by 1 3/16” double concave rectangles between each of which are three 7/16” hollow balls in which the hinges are ingeniously hidden. The inside circumference of the bracelet, when closed, is about 6 ½” around.

Among the various sterling silver pins manufactured and sold by Casa Prieto are those that depict birds. One example is very long with an extended tail and outspread, 3 dimensional, dramatic wings, that sits on a branch decorated with little silver berries. It is heavy and displays very detailed silver work that reveal grooves in the bird’s feet, wings, tail feathers, pointy beak, and cone. It has a secure safety clasp.

Another avian-inspired creation is a big, bold sterling silver eagle with an eye-catching look.

Tableware of note includes a seven-piece, silver tea and coffee service from around 1950. The pitcher is 11-5/8 inches high and weighs 221.12 troy ounces. The gadrooned, baluster-form service is comprised of a pitcher, coffee pot, teapot, creamer, sugar, covered sugar bowl and tray with floriform finials on the teapot, coffee pot and covered sugar bowl. Pieces have S-scroll handles with acanthus thumb rests. The tray has a hand hammered surface.

Casa Prieto’s works and jewelry have become collectible because of the craftsmanship, proportions, and style they incorporate.

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