Navajo Turquoise Bracelets
Because turquoise is found throughout the Southwest, a wealth of Native American jewelry incorporates it. This includes Navajo turquoise bracelets, earrings, pendants, and other jewelry. In fact, the Navajo have a long history with turquoise. More than a good luck charm, turquoise has been part of their most sacred traditions. However, silverwork is more recent, dating to the mid-19th century. When looking for Navajo-made turquoise jewelry, keep in mind that the stone is very porous and can change colors, depending on the chemicals it is exposed to.
How Can I Tell a Piece Is a Navajo Design?
US federal law requires the label Indian or Native American to only be used by a member of an officially recognized nation.
- Signed pieces: Native American made jewelry is generally signed, or hallmarked, by the artist. For instance, a cuff bracelet may have an artist's stamp on the underside indicating it was handmade. Keep in mind that older vintage bracelets may have a worn hallmark.
- Quality Bracelet Materials: Sterling silver is often used in Navajo jewelry. When looking for turquoise bracelets, it's likely that the metal is incorporated. It could be a hammered and formed or sandcast sterling silver cuff. Turquoise stones come in many different shades of blue-green and often features brown or black veining.
- Sandcast Pieces: A sandcast turquoise and sterling silver bracelet will look very different from one formed from a single piece of silver, but it is also a specialty of Navajo artists. First, sandstone or other material is carved to create a mold. Molten silver is then poured into the mold to create a cuff or bracelet made from one piece. Sandcasted jewelry is one-of-a-kind due to the nature of the creation process.
What Are Some Navajo Design Elements?
- Heishi Beads: Many of the most traditional southwest Native American jewelry styles include heishi beads, which are small, thin beads of turquoise or other stone typically used in necklaces.
- Leaves and Flowers: Often, flowers or leaves are found in Navajo bracelets and other jewelry. These are usually crafted from silver and incorporated with the turquoise stones in the design.
- Stamped Designs: Turquoise and sterling silver cuff bracelets often have designs stamped into the metal. Different to artist hallmarks, Navajo jewelers have used various materials to stamp silver since the early days of their work. Often, a cuff bracelet will have a few turquoise stones with patterns stamped in the metal.
Well-Known Navajo Artisans
Navajo artisans often specialize in a style and have passed down their learning through several generations of their families.
- Atsidi Sani: Considered by many to be the first Navajo silversmith, Atsidi Sani learned to work with silver in the later part of the 19th century. As such, he also is recognized as the first Navajo silversmithing teacher.
- Tahe Family: Several generations of the Tahe family work in silver. As a family, they have a specific style that is known among connoisseurs of Navajo jewelry.
- Guy Hoskie: Having learned from his family how to work in sterling silver, Guy Hoskie is known for his work that incorporates natural turquoise.
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