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A vintage Navajo “Indian Hand Made Sterling” silver bracelet finely decorated with chisel and file work, c.1940

In the 1930’s and1940’s, several organizations were formed in the Southwest to protect, regulate and promote high-quality handmade Indian Arts and Crafts, primarily silver jewelry, in the face of increasing mechanization and mass-production. In 1931, a group of influential independent Indian Traders formed the United Indian Traders Association or U.I.T.A. The U.S. Government’s Indian Arts and Crafts board began their “U.S. Navajo” and “U.S. Zuni” quality-assurance and inspection program in 1937, and, in 1941, The Navajo Tribal Authority formed The Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild. Each of these organizations had a detailed list of quality-control standards which all Navajo and Pueblo indian jewelry produced under

their auspices and stamped with their marks had to meet.

In addition, during this time period other independent trading companies engaged in the production of Native arts and crafts also created and enforced their own quality standards and had their own various quality assurance hallmarks such as “INDIAN HAND MADE” and “INDIAN HANDMADE STERLING” which important traders such as The Fred Harvey Company, Maisel’s of Albuquerque, NM and The Garden of the Gods Trading Post in Colorado Springs, CO employed. Like the UITA, U.S. Navajo and Navajo Guild marks, this mark was also an indication and guarantee of hand made Native authenticity and superior quality and materials as can be clearly seen here in this fine Navajo Sterling silver cuff bracelet.

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Historic postcard of the Fred Harvey Company  Indian Building

at The Alvarado Hotel, Albuquerque, NM, circa 1930

Garden of the Gods Trading Post, Colorado Springs, CO, circa 1930

Copyright Garden of the Gods Trading Company

The bracelet was made in the painstaking, old-style, traditional manner of Navajo silversmithing techniques with the addition of some more modern quality improvements in the form of higher quality raw material; a quantity of higher-purity “Sterling” silver was provided to the Navajo silversmith by the trading company in the form of a cast-ingot “slug” which the silversmith then hand-hammered out and filed to form the body of the bracelet after which he carefully decorated it with elegant and very precisely-applied chisel and file work. A generation earlier, the source of the silver used to make a bracelet such as this one would have been old American and/or Mexican silver coins which vary in purity between 90% and 91%, the introduction and use of the higher, more consistent purity of “Sterling” silver (92.5% pure) was one of the higher-quality standards which the better trading companies sought to introduce into the process of traditional Navajo and Pueblo silversmithing.

The bracelet measures 1/2” in width all the way around, the interior circumference end-to-end is 5 3/8” and the gap between the terminals is 1 1/16” for a total interior circumference of 6 7/16”. The bracelet weighs a very comfortable 29 grams or 1 ounce. It is in excellent original condition. One of the deep chisel marks on the front of the bracelet can be seen and felt inside the bracelet, but this is in no way a flaw or a problem. The bracelet is clearly and nicely hallmarked “INDIAN HAND MADE STERLING” on the interior.

This bracelet is a beautiful and easily wearable piece of early 20th century Southwestern arts and crafts and trading post history; superior quality and handmade Native authenticity guaranteed.

Price $725

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Original Maisel’s Trading Post cardboard counter card, Albuquerque, NM, circa 1930’s