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A rare pair of historic Navajo tufa-cast

silver cuff bracelets, circa 1940’s-50’s

IT DOESN’T HAPPEN very often, but occasionally, you will find more than one piece of Navajo jewelry which was cast from the very same tufa-stone mold. The reasons for this are several; tufa molds are extremely difficult to carve properly and silversmiths want to get as many casts as possible from them until the mold breaks down. Because the process of tufa-casting is so tricky, even in the hands of a master, some casts may simply be completely unusable from the start, others may be unstable and break in the process of finishing. If a silversmith is very fortunate he might get two or three usable casts from the same tufa mold, but this possibility gets more unlikely the larger and more complex the piece of jewelry is, such as these bracelets. It’s something of a minor miracle to see a successfully completed pair of such sizable and complicated pieces as these. The unknown silversmith who made these bracelets was clearly a virtuoso of his craft.

A selection of historic tools and materials used by Navajo silversmiths for making tufa-cast silver jewelry

We have had only two other such pairs of tufa-cast silver pieces previously over the past thirty years. One of these was a pair of small, crescent-shaped silver pins by the renowned contemporary Navajo silversmith, McKee Platero, which we acquired several years apart. The second pair were two Cochiti Pueblo silver bangle bracelets which we purchased in the late 1980’s.

Interestingly, we recently acquired these two beautiful cuff bracelets almost simultaneously from places that are literally thousands of miles apart. It is a most interesting speculation to imagine how they might have gotten to where we found them from their place of origin, most likely somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico.

As you can see through a careful examination, the silversmith slightly varied the  stamp work decorations on each of the bracelets. The stamped motifs on the bracelet fronts are extremely similar while those on the terminals differ a bit more. It makes for a wonderful and fascinating artistic comparison.

The bracelets are almost exactly the same size and weight with some very minor variations. The bracelet at left was shaped to have a slightly larger (5/16”) gap between the terminals. Both bracelets measure 2 1/2” in width at their widest center point. The inner circumference end-to-end of the bracelet at left is 5 1/2” and the gap between the terminals is 11/4” for a total interior circumference of 6 3/4". This bracelet weighs 86 grams or 3 ounces.

The inner circumference end-to-end of the bracelet at right is also 5 1/2” and the gap between its terminals is

a sightly smaller 15/16” for a total interior circumference of 6 7/16”. This bracelet weighs 88 grams or 3 1/8 ounces. Both of the bracelets are in excellent original condition with a nice patina from age and use.

This is an unusual opportunity to acquire something most distinctive and unique, a very rare pair indeed. Perfect for his and hers, hers and hers, his and his, or yours and yours, whatever your particular preference happens to be.

Price $3,200 for the pair,

available as a pair only.

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