Why is copper used for belt loops, pin backs and more in Native American jewelry?

Copper was the first metal discovered by man and has been used for thousands of years by craftsmen around the world for tools, artifacts and jewelry.

Copper was considered sacred by some Native American cultures and it continued to be used extensively even after the introduction of silver, steel, and metal alloys.

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Vintage copper bracelet with Native American symbols

Copper was abundant in the Southwest, with Arizona having one of the largest copper deposits in the world. In some areas native copper could be found just laying on the ground without the need to smelt it from ore.

Raw Copper

Raw Copper

Copper’s was and is much less expensive than silver.  Unlike steel and most other metals, copper can be easily shaped without heating.

Soldering or “sweating” is joining two pieces of metal together, using a medium called solder (pronounced “sodder”).  The metals that are being joined might be the same such as copper to copper or sterling silver to sterling silver. That type of soldering is relatively simple for an experienced metal smith.

It is when soldering two different metals together that things can get tricky in terms of the amount of heat necessary and the type of solder required.

Examples of dissimilar metal-to-metal soldering common in Native American jewelry is copper to sterling silver and steel to sterling silver.

Copper Soldered to Sterling Silver

Copper Soldered to Sterling Silver

Copper requires much less heat to solder to sterling silver than it would take to solder steel to sterling silver. Also with copper, there isn’t a specialized solder needed.

That’s why copper is the metal of choice for belt loops on concho belts and is also seen as pin backs, for example, on vintage Native American pins and pin pendants. 

Copper pin soldered to vintage sterling silver pin

Copper pin soldered to vintage sterling silver pin

Sterling silver concho belt with copper belt loops.

Sterling silver concho belt with copper belt loops.

Paula

What Bell markings are on this copper bracelet?

Hi Paula

I have a question about this bracelet:
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The description says that it is made by Bell, and I was wondering if there are any of the Bell markings on the bracelet since I can’t see the completely backside of it.
Thanks
Amy
Hi Amy,
It has the Zia sun symbol with a bell
which is one of Bell’s hallmarks after 1972.
You can see that hallmark on this post Bell Trading Company History and Hallmarks.
Paula

Silver tone symbol bracelet – could it be a Bell Trading bracelet?

Hi Paula, I am the person who is anxiously awaiting the copper stamped Bell Trading bracelet CSB32.

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I have a question about a piece I have.  It looks exactly like the piece I have purchased except it is nickel silver looking.  It does not have a Bell hallmark, but at one end in the border depression there appear to be 2 “C’s” facing each other like a figure 8.  There also appears to be a copper or brass metal under the silver tone metal finish.  At one tiny place a different color metal can be seen and there is a greenish-blue hue along one edge.  The fact that this piece is the exact replica, except for stamping, of the piece I’ve purchased is intriguing.  Do you have any ideas where I could get more information about it.  Thank you very much.  Dorothy

bracelet 003 bracelet 012Hi Dorothy,

There have been a lot of nickel plated Indian symbol bracelets made since the 1930s.

Yes it is identical to the copper one you purchased from our store which had the Bell trademark stamp on it. And it seems like it could very well be nickel over copper although it is hard to tell from a photo.

As to the hallmark, I am not familiar with it.

Perhaps someone else knows about the CC Figure 8 type stamp and can help.

Paula

Paula, Can you help identify this brass bracelet?

Hello Paula,
We have recently come across a Native American cuff bracelet that we
would like to see if you or any of your blog followers could help with
identifying it.It is brass inlayed with turquoise and red coral. The
inside is marked with HB and with the second leg of the H and the
upright of the B being shared. Also above the HB are two symbols that
look very much like a pair of human eyelashes. 🙂 The design of the
inlay looks like water or waves. We do have pics available if you
would like to see them. Thanks so much.
Kim and Joe

BrassCuffBraceletFrontRC BrassCuffBraceletMark lightenedHi Kim and Joe,

This copper cuff bracelet is decorated with chip inlay.

Copper is a pure elemental metal that has been and is being used by Native American artists. Read all about copper here. 

Brass is an alloy made of copper and zinc. I have never seen Native American Jewelry made from Brass.

What is Chip Inlay?

Chip inlay is a method where cavities in jewelry are filled with a mixture of crushed stone, typically turquoise and coral, and epoxy resin. The piece is then polished smooth after the resin has hardened.

The cojoined initials HB have been used by several artists, Hispanic and Navajo. One celebrated (deceased) Navajo artist used a cojoined HB but verified versions of his hallmark look different than the hallmark on your bracelet so I hesitate to suggest his name lest it be associated wrongly. I do see many items on eBay with all variations of HB and other hallmarks being attributed to this noted artists yet none of the hallmarks are the same !

As far as the eyelashes – they are made with a common stamping tool that is used to decorate metal pieces, perhaps to represent rays of the sun (or possibly rain) such as is on the front of your bracelet and on this barrette.

BAR807-ABC--silver-C crop

The rays could be a shop mark in addition to the artist’s mark.

Or they could be an intentional part of the artist’s personal hallmark. One artist put fringe-like-rays around his initials, but usually it was an entire box, not just a topper.

However, I don’t recognize these particular lashes/rays nor do they appear in any of my hallmark references.

Therefore at this point, all I can say is probably Navajo copper bracelet with chip inlay.

Paula

A New Twist on the Horse Whisperer Bracelet !

The Sterling Silver Classic Twist “Horse Whisperer” bracelet is like the one Robert Redford wore in the movie. It is one of the most sought after bracelets in our store so we carry it in many thicknesses and sizes for men and women.  We are often sold out and unable to get more in sterling silver. And with the rise in silver prices, the larger sizes can get quite pricey as they are based on weight of sterling silver used.

five sixteenths classic twist bracelet

So we were thrilled when Benny Tahe made us identical twins in copper !! Ever since they have come into the store, I have been wearing one and just can take my eyes off it. What a gorgeous glow !

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And at 1/8 the price of the sterling version, what’s not to love?? So I’m thinking copper for the barn and sterling silver for town.