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A beautiful Modernist-Style, Revival-Period

Navajo silver cuff bracelet, c. 1940’s-50’s

CHIC, MODERN, CUTTING-EDGE, GLAMOROUS AND FASHIONABLE are not words customarily used to describe traditionally made historic Navajo silver jewelry which traditionally and historically was made by silversmiths sitting on the dirt floors of dusty hogans or out in the open air in the far reaches of the sprawling remote, windswept vastness of the Navajo reservation by people who had never been to Paris, London or New York, but they certainly are most appropriate terms to describe this interesting and unique bracelet.

Every once in a blue moon the wildly divergent worlds of International high-fashion and traditional Native American arts and crafts converge together and when they do the results can be spectacular. The Navajo silver “Revival-period” of the late 1930’s and 1940’s spearheaded by the clean elegant designs of Ambrose Roanhorse and his Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild was the first of these convergent instances as were the 1950’s-70’s period at Scottsdale, Arizona’s White Hogan Shop under the leadership of Roanhorse protege Kenneth Begay and still later in Arizona in the 1970‘s-80’s led by the ground-breaking Hopi jewelry artist, Charles Loloma and his Hopi apprentice Verma Nequatewa and his French-Moroccan apprentice Eveli Sabatie.

A traditional Navajo silversmith at work on the floor of his hogan, c. 1910

In recognition of his creative efforts as an artist and educator in spearheading the Navajo silver revival Ambrose Roanhorse was awarded the prestigious Palmes D’Academique medal in 1954 alongside other distinguished Native American artists at the Gallup New Mexico Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial by Paul Coze, Consul of the French Government.  Roanhorse is standing second at right from the speaker, trader M.L. Woodard.

Photo source and © M. L. Woodard/Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial

This bracelet belongs to the first period, that of the so-called “Navajo Revival” in which classic, traditional Navajo methods of silversmithing were merged with a distinctly Modernist design sensibility emphasizing clean elegant streamlined silver designs, a minimal use of set stones and an extremely spare and restrained employment of stamp, chisel and file work decoration. Expanses of gleaming silver metal, subtly formed and shaped, defined by their contours and profiles and very effectively and finely decorated are the hallmarks of this movement and this bracelet is a perfect example. The shank of the bracelet is slightly domed or convex in shape giving it an elegant and somewhat imposing high-profile contour on the wrist. The large expanse of the silver shank is superbly and creatively accentuated with chiseled borders and an undulating somewhat freeform center panel of asymmetrically-shaped stamped work designs which have a wonderful degree of offhandedness and whimsy yet are perfectly and precisely done in an intentional display of artistic asymmetry.

The bracelet measures just slightly less than 1 3/4” in width all the way around. The inner circumference

end-to-end is 5 3/8” and the gap between the terminals is 1 1/8” for a total interior circumference of 6 1/2”.

The bracelet weighs a very satisfying 94 grams or 3 3/8 ounces and is in particularly excellent original condition with a few age-appropriate slight abrasions and scuffs from wear.

This bracelet is an extremely elegant and dynamic piece which could be worn casually every day or dressed up for virtually any occasion. On its own with a little black dress or accompanying a well-cut black suit it would be an absolute knockout. Bellisimo! Bravo! Formidable!

Price $1,575

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