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A wonderful, early Navajo copper

cuff bracelet, c.1890-1910

Right from the start we suggest you keep in mind that this wonderful Navajo copper bracelet is roughly a hundred times rarer than an equivalent Navajo silver bracelet would be. In the early decades of the 20th Century, literally thousands of Navajo silver bracelets were made, but only a relatively handful of copper ones, especially ones of this remarkable beauty and quality.

Copper is generally considered to be a common metal and as such somehow less desirable for making jewelry than a precious metal such as silver or gold, that is not the case here because this beautifully-crafted historic Navajo copper cuff bracelet is a very rare and very precious piece indeed. Historic Navajo copper jewelry has a relatively short, but highly distinguished history. Copper jewelry pieces were in fact, along with brass pieces, the earliest forms of all metal jewelry made by Navajo metalsmiths. In the far-flung reaches of the vast and mostly remote Navajoland, copper and brass were far easier to obtain in the 1870‘s, 1880’s and 1890’s than the infinitely more expensive and scarcely available precious metal silver so early forms of Navajo jewelry; bangle-style bracelets, rings and earrings were made with copper scavenged from telegraph wire, old tea kettles and pots and pans and occasionally, from raw nuggets of natural Native copper of which there are several large deposits in Arizona.

By the 1920’s silver in the form of American and Mexican coins and commercial cast ingots sold by traders had become much more widely available in Navajoland and thus had almost completely taken over the Navajo jewelry world and very little Navajo copper and brass jewelry was still being made except in especially remote areas such as the Oljato/Navajo Mountain/Monument Valley region near the Arizona-Utah border. The upshot here is that early historic Navajo copper bracelets such as this one are infinitely rarer today than are silver ones and especially so when they are ones made with this obvious level of quality and beauty. This bracelet is an exceptional piece in every way, made by a talented Navajo silversmith for an extremely important almost certainly Navajo customer, family member, friend or very special occasion. The impressive and imposing design, outstanding craftsmanship and level of detailing are simply stunning, meant to be an awesome display of artistry, skill and virtuoso craftsmanship. The shape  of this bracelet is another indicator of its intended indigenous use, older historic Navajo bracelets

are often shaped in this manner for a flatter profiled and larger wrist which the Navajo people often have.

The bracelet is made in the ridged cuff style with a series of seven raised ridges completely encircling the shank

end-to-end. Four of the alternating ridges are decorated with literally hundreds of beautiful and meticulously-applied stamp work designs. The amount of concentration, ability and strength required to do this at this level of quality and precision is difficult to imagine and speaks importantly to the significance of this piece.

The bracelet measures 1 1/16” in width all the way around and the hand-hammered copper shank is a full 1/8” thick. The inner circumference end-to-end is 5 3/8” and the gap between the terminals is 1 1/4” for a total interior circumference of 6 5/8”. The bracelet weighs a satisfying 77 grams or 2 3/4 ounces. The bracelet is in remarkably excellent original condition with only a couple minor scratchers and nicks, and a very slight amount of greensih-copper tarnish or verdigris which could be easily removed if desired. There is a slight amount of what appears to be old nail polish residue on the interior of the bracelet. This is commonly applied to the inside of copper bracelets to help keep one’s wrist from turning green while wearing it and is very easily removed with a cotton swab dipped in acetone. The bracelet is in particularly good shape for its advanced century-or-so of age. Likely, it was worn primarily on special occasions only and kept tucked away most of the time or alternatively it was collected in the early years of the 20th Century soon after it was made by a non-Navajo trader or a visitor or traveler to the region such as an archaeologist, museum curator, painter, soldier or simply an intrepid tourist. Whatever the case, the bracelet was clearly a prized possession and well cared for over the years.

This bracelet is a uniquely historic piece possessed of a distinctly traditional old-style sensibility steeped in the early, classic days, methods and materials of Navajo silversmithing. A rare and splendid prize indeed!

Price $1,575

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