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An exquisitely-crafted pair of Navajo “coin-silver”

bangle bracelets by Perry Shorty, 2018



PERRY SHORTY IS A TRUE GIANT among Navajo silversmiths today, making remarkable, masterfully-

crafted and traditionally-styled pieces such as these splendid coin-silver bangle bracelets.


Perry Shorty (B.1964) is proof positive that 19th century quality and hand craftsmanship are still alive and well in the 21st century. All of Perry’s silverwork is beautifully and meticulously crafted, but he saves his very best and most interesting efforts for his old-style, “Coin-Silver” pieces, such as these gorgeous bangles. The process of making such pieces is long and laborious; it begins by finding old turn-of-the-last-century American silver coins such as “Barber”-style half dollars and quarters then melting them down and casting them into small ingot-silver “slugs” which are then patiently hand hammered out into the desired shape and size of the bracelets after which they are painstakingly decorated with precise, perfectly-executed and detailed chisel, stamp and file work. Then the bracelets are carefully shaped and contoured, and, finally, everything is buffed and polished. The amount of concentrated effort and careful attention to detail this work requires is nearly impossible to imagine. These two bracelet’s designs are outstanding in their own right and quite different though fairly related in their overall effect.



“I try to keep things simple. The old smiths didn’t have a lot of tools

and materials to work with, and I like doing it their way.”


-Perry Shorty


The first piece, Bracelet #1, features an all the way around the shank end-to-end design field composed

of two opposing bands of perfectly-applied stamped crescent-shaped designs in the bracelet’s center which are beautifully bordered on the top and bottom by finely chiseled lines and serrated stamped diagonal designs. The top and bottom of the bracelet’s shank are also decorated all the way around with slightly differently styled crescent stamped designs. Amazingly, Perry achieved this remarkably complex design which  contains an almost unbelievable 240 or so separate stamped elements using only three different stamps and a chisel. Simple tools wielded perfectly making incredibly complex compositions.

Bracelet #2



SOLD

Bracelet #1


Price $2,400


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The designs on both bracelets perfectly accentuate the bright “white” color of the ingot coin-silver which even though the pieces are only mere months old, is already beginning to develop the classic, beautiful patination that Perry Shorty’s “Coin-Silver” pieces always acquire in time, like the traditional turn-of-the-century pieces that originally inspired them. Both bracelets measure 3/8” in width all the way around tapering just very slightly at the terminal ends. The inner circumferences end-to-end are 5 3/4” and the gap between the terminals is 1 1/16” for a total interior circumference of 6 13/16”. They weigh 39 grams or 1 3/8 ounces, good weight for their slim sizes. The bracelets are in excellent original condition and are properly signed “P.Shorty” and marked “Coin-Silver” on the interior in Perry Shorty’s distinctive cursive.


All in all, it’s a remarkable synthesis of the old ways with a modern viewpoint. Narrow silver bangles such as these were made by Navajo silversmiths without stones beginning around the 1870’s. These were generally decorated only with simple filework and basic stamped designs and it is here that Shorty has brought his more Modern viewpoint to bear, putting his own stylized “spin” or interpretation so to speak on his presentation of a traditional, older style piece. This extraordinary synthesis of the classic old and the modern new is why Perry Shorty sells out his work almost immediately wherever and whenever he exhibits, such as at Santa Fe Indian Market or The Heard Museum fair. It’s extremely difficult for something to become an instant classic, but Shorty achieves this with amazing consistency.


These bracelets may have been made in 2018, but in terms of their appearance, craftsmanship, methods and materials they could just as easily have been made in 1898. Perry truly channeled and improved upon his Navajo ancestor’s work with these extraordinary pieces; they are a complete triumph of old-fashioned artistry and craftsmanship in a modern era.

Bracelet #2’s designs are quite different. Where Bracelet #1 is a triumph of incredibly well-done stampwork, bracelet #2 is a triumph of the same incredible stampwork as well as chiselwork and features five large rectangularly-shaped and ridged in the center chiseled panels around the center of the bracelet’s shank which are bordered on the top and bottom by continuous bands of vertical parallel rows of stamped designs. In between and on either side of the five chiseled panels are six small vertically oriented bands of stamped serrate and star designs.


As on Bracelet #1, the top and bottom of Bracelet #2’s silver shank is also decorated all the way around with slightly different styled crescent stamped designs. In a very interesting and beautiful decorative accent, Shorty did not continue the decorated design panel all the way around the bracelet’s shank choosing instead to accent it with highly polished completely undecorated areas at both ends which are slightly separated from the design panel by beautifully chiseled small subtle notches.


The textural contrast between the densely stamped and chiseled main center area of the bracelet and the brightly polished plain silver areas on either side is extremely attractive and eye-catching. It is impossible to count with perfect accuracy, but we noted approximately 210 separate stamped deigns on this bracelet. The precision control and degree of concentration required to execute such a difficult and complex design so precisely is absolutely mind-boggling. And, again, as on Bracelet #1, all this complexity was accomplished using only four simple tools; three different stamps and a chisel.

Perry Shorty demonstrating silversmithing, circa 1999.

Bracelet #1

Bracelet #2