As a teenager living in the village of Oaxaca, Mexico, Federico Jimenez first felt the excitement of a “treasure hunt” in his own backyard. He and his father were repairing the foundation of their ancestral home when they uncovered a big pot. Inside they found a pre-Columbian Mixtec Indian pectoral ornament with strands of gold, turquoise and shell that had been secretly buried by his family. Federico learned that his village had been the capitol city of the kingdom of the Mixtecs and that his great-grandfather had probably been their chief. With the sudden ownership of the ancient pectoral, his appetite for antiquities grew and it sent him scurrying from village to village in search of more.
Today, Federico is a world-renowned authority on Mexican silver as well as a private collector of Indian costume and silver jewelry and objets d’art from the contemporary, colonial and pre-Columbian periods. He began designing his unique jewelry line in 1972, using turquoise from New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. His wide-ranging jewelry designs appeal to a variety of tastes: his beautiful floral settings are soft and colorful; his large free-form stone settings are bold and dramatic. These days, Federico organizes exhibitions and acquires items for such institutions as UCLA’s Museum of Cultural History, the Southwest Museum and the National Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe. The Anthropological Museum in Mexico City displays many of his pieces, as well. He’s an easy man to spot. Diminutive in size, with jet black hair and distinctly Indian features, he’ll no doubt be wearing a colorfully embroidered shirt, flashy bolo tie and a lot of silver.