Vintage Navajo Silver Bracelets (cuffs)
Vintage Navajo silver bracelets are a piece of history that can be worn and treasured.
The turquoise and silver in this type of jewelry are very tasteful and fashionable, suiting any shape or figure, style preference or personality.
Earlier Vintage Navajo silver bracelets are also valuable collectors’ items. These native American jewelry items are hand-made dating as far back as the 1880s.
Many of these pieces are contained in museums, and represent a unique and interesting part of history.
History of Navajo Jewelry
Prior to the 1920s, Navajo silver bracelets and other native American jewelry were often made from silver coins. This began when the native American Indians who were employed to build a rail road, were paid in silver coins, which they melted and then painstakingly hammered out to make their jewelry.
Eventually the US government made the practice of melting the coins illegal. Later the jewelry was crafted from Mexican silver coins. Sheet silver was not prevalent to the smith until after the Second World War when power tools made their way to the Pueblos. The native Indians did not mine silver – this was done by white Americans.
Vintage Navajo turquoise jewelry is considered to be an important part of American History. The native Indians believed turquoise to be a very positive stone energetically, which warded off bad and negative energy. They likened turquoise to be pieces of the sky. Turquoise was collected for adornment purposes. Worn for beauty and pride, what began with simple rawhide and pendants developed into stone, shell silver and other metal native American jewelry.
Renowned Native American Jewelry Artists
Atsidi Sani (“Old Smith”) was said to be the first Navajo silversmith. Originally training as a blacksmith, he is thought to have begun silversmithing in 1860.
Dan Simplicio was an innovative and wide-ranging Zuni artist who worked under the famous native American jewelry trader C. G Wallace. His jewelry comprises a unique deep red branch coral with a strikingly blue turquoise.
Fred Peshlakai was a master silversmith, and influential Navajo silver jewelry artist.
How to identify Authentic Navajo Jewelry
Navajo silver bracelets amongst other Navajo jewelry are increasingly rare. The following identify them from the mass-produced replicas of today.
- The traditional smiths liked heavy weight and used Repoussé metalworking techniques.
- The cuffs are often stamped with environmental imagery – for example, the water bug was often imaged by the native American Indians.
- Tri-sided cuffs / bracelets were heavily stamped.
- Bangles bracelets / cuffs were heavy and of a variety of widths – the Navajo loved weight
- Navajo silversmiths developed special sand casting techniques which left characteristic little pits in the metal from the stone used for the cast.
- Serrated edges of the silver coins can sometimes be seen in the hammered silver jewelry.
- Twist wire was an early technique – it is a common Navajo jewelry style.
- Pulled silver was hand worked in the vintage jewelry. Grooves and imperfections resulted from pulling the silver through a series of descending holes. These grooves and imperfections are distinctive characteristics of this early technique.
- Terminals were often inset with the finest turquoise stones.
- Bezels around the stone in the early works were high, heavy and part of the cuff with straight sides. In later years the smiths would solder the bezels to the shank.
Vintage Navajo Silver Bracelets
At Silver Plume Gallery we have a range of unique, exquisite vintage Navajo Silver bracelets and rare native American vintage jewelry.