Native American Sterling Silver Cast Jewelry
Native American cast items are handmade items using one of several processes and materials. Sand cast items use a procedure developed by the Egyptians and introduced to the Dine’ (Navajo) in the 1880s,
To sand cast, you first must have one original pieces as the model or template. Using a special sand with a high clay content two halves of a box are filled with sand and packed. The template is pressed into the sand and the two halves are put together and pounded so that the sand takes on the impression of the original piece.
The boxes are carefully separated and the model piece is removed leaving behind the impression. Sprues and air vents are added from the piece impression to the edges and the two boxes are bound together. Molten metal is poured into the mold.
The box is separated, the newly cast piece is removed.
Tufa casting is used by many Navajo casters today.
Using a block of Tuff Stone, a porous rock from volcanic ash, Tufa Stone, a porous limestone that forms near hot springs, or Sandstone, a harder stone, the artist carves the design of the item being cast, taking care to make the edges angled in such a way that the metal doesn’t stick into corners.
A sprue hole is carved into one end and another flat stone is placed against the carved half of the mold. The halves are fastened together. Molten silver is poured into the mold using the sprue hole. Once the silver cools, the item is taken out and finished.
Sandcast sterling silver bracelets, like the one above by Francis Begay are poured flat and then shaped.
Due to the porous nature of the materials used, cast items often will have character marks and imperfections such as small pits. That is the nature of Sand Casting and Indian Hand Made items.
Some artists destroy the casting stones after each piece, others use them for several castings.