Spanish Colonial Silver

Spanish Colonial Silver
Browse the Spanish Colonial Silver Catalogue

Following the re-discovery of the new world by Christopher Columbus in 1492, Spain began to establish her overseas colonies in the Americas. In Mexico and Peru great silver mines were discovered and worked for centuries. Silver was so plentiful that massive ecclesiastical items were made by trained natives who became silversmiths for churches, cathedrals and monasteries. Candlesticks, trays, chandeliers and other domestic silver were also made for the new nobility of Spanish colonial America.

The Spanish Real minted in Mexico City was the highest purity of the period at .9305 silver. This was higher than the English sterling (.925) standard. The Spanish real was so widely sought after and respected that Virginia made it the standard currency in 1645. The first silver dollar used in the United States was also the Spanish real.

Spanish Colonial silver was at times very rustic and crude as its Indian silversmiths didn’t have European style guild training. Native styles and decoration dominated the Provincial areas, while fine works of art were being created in the major cities. The early Colonial silver was not refined as well as its European counterpart, and may have a 1 -2% gold content.