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Two beautiful Navajo silver bangle-style

bracelets by Jack Adakai, c.1950’s-60’s

JACK ADAKAI (Active 1950’s-1980) was a brilliant Navajo silversmith who lived the quiet, rural life of

a traditional Navajo way out on the Navajo reservation at the far edge of western New Mexico in the era before the worldwide web, before smartphones and texting, before Facebook, Google, Instagram and Twitter, before the rise of “superstar” Native American artists becoming social media and cultural sensations. Were Jack Adakai alive and working today, he might well be one of these himself based on his exceptional artistic abilities and the beauty of his pieces. 

Adakai worked at various times for most of the various prominent trading companies in western New Mexico; C.G. Wallace, Tobe Turpen, M.L. Woodard and he also worked with the Foutz trading family of Farmington

and Shiprock, New Mexico. Adakai’s work is characterized by its generally larger and heavier scale and its excellent mastery of all traditional Navajo silversmithing techniques, such as tufa-casting, fabrication, stamp, chisel, repoussee and file work. In addition to his own formidable silversmithing abilities, Adakai was also an outstanding teacher and mentor in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s to his young clan nephew, the now world-renowned Navajo silversmith, McKee Platero (b.1957), who is himself today an international internet sensation and social media superstar made so by his legions of adoring fans.

One can certainly see the very strong influence that Master silversmith Jack Adakai had on his brilliant young student in the design and execution of these outstanding bracelets and the “family” resemblance both stylistically and technically in both men’s work is quite remarkable, in our view. The bold heavy silver shanks, the beautifully controlled and deeply-applied sophisticated and complex stamp work and chiseled designs all work together marvelously and harmoniously in these bracelets to great overall and distinctive effect.

Because of McKee Platero’s present-day widespread fame and the voracious increasing demand for his pieces, especially internationally, an opportunity Jack Adakai never had in his career, Platero’s prices have skyrocketed to considerable heights while Jack Adakai’s work offers much of the unique visual distinctiveness and technical virtuosity Platero originally learned from Adakai and later built on himself at a mere fraction of the prices one would have to pay for comparable Platero pieces today.

Bracelet Number one 

This bracelet is a triumph of incredible creative chisel work. Adakai beautifully chiseled a series of

39 perfectly parallel diagonally oriented deep channels or grooves all the way around the entire bracelet shank to form the design which he then accented with carefully places stamp work designs. The visual contrast and dynamic tensions between the raised polished areas between the darker deeper chiseled in lines is simultaneously simple and complex and strikingly beautiful.

The bracelet measures 7/16” in continuous width almost all the way around tapering in just slightly to 3/8” in width at the terminal ends. The inner circumference end-to-end is 5½” and the gap between the terminals is 1” for a total interior circumference of 6 1/2”. It is in excellent original condition with some age-appropriate wear. The bracelet weighs 36 grams or 1 1/4 ounces and it is properly signed on the interior with Jack Adakai’s customary capital initials “J.A.” signature.


Bracelet Number two

This bracelet is essentially an encyclopedia of fine stampwork designs. The silver shank is carinated meaning that it is triangularly shaped with a high central ridge running all the way down the middle. Running along the length of the shank are four matched oval-shaped horizontal panels of finely-executed highly-detailed stampwork designs interspersed with equally well-executed diamond shaped vertically oriented motifs.

The bracelet measures 3/8” in continuous width all the way around. The inner circumference end-to-end is

5 1/4” and the gap between the terminals is 7/8 for a total interior circumference of 6 1/8”. The bracelet weighs 47 grams or 1 5/8 ounces and is in excellent original condition with some age-appropriate wear.

It is properly signed on the interior with Jack Adakai’s customary capital initials “J A” signature.

Both of these bracelets are wonderfully distinctive and powerfully artistic pieces by one of the most talented Navajo silversmiths ever. They feel great on the wrist and they can be worn singly or together by anyone, Man or Woman alike and they are certain to give whoever is fortunate enough to be their next owner many years of enjoyment at a price that won’t leave you gasping for breath.