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An outstanding pair of very rare Classic-Period Navajo

ingot coin-silver “Hoop and Ball” style earrings, c.1890’s

THESE EARRINGS ARE one of the very earliest types of Navajo silver earrings, made in the last decades of the 19th Century soon after Navajo silversmiths had learned to solder silver to make beads. Prior to this, Navajo earrings had always been simple pump-drilled nuggets or tabs of hand-carved turquoise or shell hung on cords or string from large holes in the earlobes or simple hammered flat silver hoops so now being able to wear such stylish and fancy eye-catching two-piece earrings as these was a great and dramatic development and if you were a Navajo woman or a Navajo man this was the height of contemporary fashion all across Navajoland from Tuba City to Gallup to Chinle in the last decade of the 19th Century and into the 20th. These earrings were highly-prized and coveted and were frequently traded between the Navajo, Hopi and other various Pueblo people in the Southwest region.

Navajo (center) and Hopi (left and right) men wearing “Hoop and Ball” style Navajo silver earrings, c. 1900-1901

-Left and right photo source and © “Photographer of the Southwest, A.C. Vroman 1856-1916”

Ward Ritchie Press, 1961. Center photo source and © California Historical Society Collection

The earrings were made to fit directly through fairly large holes in the earlobes. The silver coins from which

these earrings were made, likely quarters or half-dollars, were a precious commodity in the far-flung reaches of Navajoland since silver coins constituted “Hard Money” as opposed to trade goods, such as hides or sheep, and could be more readily used to purchase needed necessities. To reserve such precious coins for use in earrings meant that these earrings were special pieces indeed. The coins were first melted down into a rough ingot-silver “slug” from which the various components of the earrings were formed, the two two-piece beads and the hand-drawn pulled silver wire. After the earring hoops were formed, they were very carefully and beautifully decorated with simple but very elegant filed notched designs on their outside edges. These earrings were rare and difficult to come by back then and they are likewise even more scarce today. In the past 35 years, this is only the third pair of these type of earrings we have ever had and these are the largest in size and the finest in quality.

The earrings measure a very impressively-sized 2” in height from the top of the silver “hoop” to the bottom of the silver “ball” and they are 1 7/8” in width at their widest point. The silver hanging hooks add an additional 5/8” or so in height. The silver hoops are roughly 1/8” in diameter. The earrings weigh a very comfortable 10 grams or 3/8 ounce each. They are in excellent original condition with their wonderful soft original patina from decades of wear and use. They could be very easily polished up brightly if desired, but we will leave that decision to their next lucky owner, Clearly, some technical accommodation had to be made for bringing these 19th century fashion items into use for wearability in the modern world where pierced ear holes are decidedly smaller than they were back in 1890.

We asked our professional fine jeweler to carefully cold-solder the open ends of the earring’s hoops together and attach a tiny silver loop from which to suspend curved silver wire hanging hooks to the historic earrings to preserve all their historic integrity while allowing them to be worn comfortably and regularly today.

These earrings are a classic and deeply historic Southwestern Native American jewelry form which are every bit

as fashionable, relevant and attractive today in the Modern wilds of New York City, London or Tokyo as they were over a century ago in the vast Southwestern desert and mountain landscape of 19th and 20th Century Navajoland.

Price $3,150

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