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A superb and very striking large-scale Navajo ingot

coin-silver and turquoise cuff bracelet, c. 1920’s-30’s

This bracelet is a real stunner, just dripping with that good old-style traditional Navajo character and feel.

To begin at the beginning; the large wide silver shank of the bracelet was hand-hammered out from a cast-silver ingot most likely made from melted-down American and/or Mexican silver coins or alternatively, it could have been hammered out directly from the silver coins themselves as the slight remnants of evidence of old coin edges visible on the shank’s edge might seem to indicate. As is characteristic of such hammered-out pieces, the silver shank varies just very slightly in thickness along its length, but generally it is just slightly less than 1/8” in thickness.

The bracelet’s overall finished design is most beautifully conceived and gracefully executed; it is very interestingly bold and subtle at the same time. The design features in its center a stunning large oval-shaped cabochon turquoise stone of a medium sky blue with veins of green and shot through with a swirling brownish matrix. There are a number of possibilities for the origin of this stone; it could be a very early example from the Bisbee Mine in Arizona or it could also possibly be Pilot Mountain, Fox or Easter Blue, Nevada. The swirling matrix also closely resembles that of the famous and exotic Blue Wind Mine in Nevada, but Blue Wind’s matrix is generally black. Whichever mine it came from, the stone is absolutely gorgeous and compelling.

The stone is set in an old-style “foldover” type plain silver bezel which is surrounded by an accent of finely hand-twisted drawn silver wire. The stone is “framed” on both sides by very striking large oval-shaped stamp work designs which are themselves accented on top and bottom by a graceful border composed of crescent shaped stamps and end-of-the file rounds stamps. This spare, open and elegant stamp work done with the use of only a very few stamps is a decidedly old-school earlier Navajo presentation, later more tourist-era oriented pieces will usually have more complex and dense stamp work until the years of the Navajo “Revival” in the 1940’s led by Ambrose Roanhorse and others which brought Navajo silverwork back to its earlier, more traditional, cleaner and less cluttered roots.

A Navajo silversmith at work in his hogan, circa 1920’s

Period coins and Navajo silversmith’s tools of the types used to make this bracelet

The bracelet is on the larger side. The shank is 1 3/4” in width almost the entire way around. The inner circumference end-to-end is 5 7/8” and the gap between the terminals is 1 3/8” for a total interior circumference of 7 1/4”. The widest measurement across the inside of the bracelet from side to side is 2 9/16”. The bracelet weighs a nicely satisfying 93 grams or 3.3 ounces and it is in completely excellent original condition with a small amount of minor age-appropriate wear; just a few scratches and dings. There are also a couple subtle but interesting idiosyncrasies in evidence on the piece, one intentional, the other perhaps not so much. If you look closely at the silver shank edge on top of and below the turquoise stone you will see the slightest indention or tapering in of the silver for about one-half inch which is a deliberate and highly effective additional way of emphasizing the impressiveness of the turquoise stone. Also, these small half-inch indented sections has no crescent-shaped stamp border.

The possibly unintentional touches on the bracelet are several stamps which look like slight mis-strikes where the smith just missed it slightly or didn’t strike hard enough. But the somewhat random distribution of the few of these around the bracelet’s surface might indicate another possibility which is that what appear to be slightly obscured or seemingly mis-hit stamps are remnants of an earlier stamp work design that the silversmith was displeased with so he just hammered them out and began again unintentionally leaving these small remnants in the silver surface.

These are not flaws in any way at all, just charming eccentricities which underscore even more closely the old-style traditional and completely un-selfconscious nature and individually handmade character and idiosyncrasy of such a piece. This bracelet was in all likelihood a piece made by a Navajo silversmith for himself, for a friend or for a family member not necessarily for sale to a tourist or for bartering to a trading post. This bracelet is a large-scale “trophy” type piece made to impress and it does its job to perfection delivering the goods in style and abundance. It’s a big chance to make a large statement about your understanding and appreciation of such unique beauty and quality.

Price $2,450

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