Navajo Silversmiths 1880s

This is a fascinating read from a Smithsonian writer about very early Navajo Silversmiths.

Navajo Silversmiths 1880-1881

Native American Jewelry Shopping Advice Please

Dear Paula,

I just read your article on Navajo Pearls while viewing your website.  I would like to have some guidance in purchasing a pair from you. I know that I would like the seed beads by Lily Yazzie after viewing the web site, but as to length I’m not sure.  I already own a plain pair of 15 1/4 inch that I wear with a beautiful 2 inch x 1 1/4 in turq. pendant.  I also recently purchased a 17 inch sleeping beauty chunky nugget necklace (pendant won’t fit on this 😦 ).  I would like the pearls to be a little longer so that I can wear all 3 necklaces together and have the option of wearing the pendant on the “new” ones as well.  The pendant opening allows for my 15 inch 8mm pearls to slide through easily.  Soooo I’m thinking maybe an 8 or 9mm (I think the 9mm will be ok with pendant opening) set of pearls in the stamped seed beads.  My question for you is what length so that I can wear them and mix and match them with what I already own? I am 5’2” and petite.  Choker length has always been a good length for me. But I am open to any suggestions from you. Please advise.  Many thanks!  Mary Ann

PS I have a small wrist.  What size is the sandcast bracelet in the photo featuring new items.  I love the bracelet and am looking for one preferably in silver only.  More thanks!

Note from Paula: Reference Photos below of items mentioned in above email question.

Lily Yazzie Sterling Silver Stamped Seed Beads

Sandcast Turquoise Bracelet by Harrison Bitsui

Hi MaryAnn,

Thanks for the visit !

That sounds like a lovely plan, the layering.
If you want this new set to hang just below the turquoise, then it looks
like it should be an 18″ long set and if you want seed bead style in stamped
beads, the ones that are most like seed beads are the ones I showed in the photo above.

The ones in that length that are a little rounder, more like “pearls” are these:

Rounder Stamped Sterling Silver Navajo Pearls

So either one would hang just below your turquoise necklace.

As far as a small sand-cast bracelet, plain sterling silver, no stone, you could
consider these

Once you’ve had a chance to take a peek at these items, please let me know

if I can answer any questions.

Until then, happy holiday shopping !

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Horace Iule and his Zuni Cross Legacy

Horace Iule (1901-1978) was a Zuni artist who made a wide variety of sterling silver and stone pieces, most notably traditional Zuni crosses.

Horace worked with his wife Lupe Iule, who was from San Felipe Pueblo. They were married in 1933, and had six children: Ruby, Lupe, Cecilia, Robert, Barney, and Phillip. Cecilia continues in her fathers tradition with the crosses.

Cecilia creates her crosses from tiny to huge and uses coral, turquoise, and other gem stones.

Vintage Malachite and Opal Cross by Cecilia Iule, Zuni

Horace Iule was taught silversmithing by his father. He made sand-cast items and then embellished them with hammering and die stamping. His children use some of his original casting equipment to continue the Iule cross legacy.


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Navajo Sandcast Squash Blossom Necklace

Hi Paula,

This is one piece of Native American jewelry my parents purchased from a dealer friend in Tampa back in the early 70s. I’ve been searching for days online and can’t find one just like this. I did find out that the marking on the back N.TSO indicates it was made by Nellie Tso, but can’t find out anything about her.

I think it was made for a woman, but could be unisex. It’s 25″ in length (including the traditional clasp). The naja is 2-1/2″ wide and 2-10/16″ long. The blossoms, which I think may be sunflowers and are the unusual part of the necklace, are 1-1/2″ long and are attached to double bead strands. The weight is about 320g.

If you have seen one like this or know anything about the artist. Thanks for any help. Marta C.

Vintage Sandcast Squash Blossom Necklace

Hi Marta,

That is a unique and heavy sandcast……… squash blossom necklace ! I like it – it has a very pretty and unique design. It is hard for me to tell definitely from the photo but it seems to me that those are meant to be squash blossom flowers – if you have ever had a garden, you know what I mean – they are round and look like that.

Here is an example from our pawn shop of that type of squash blossom flower. But note, the example I am providing below is not sandcast like your necklace is – but the flowers are very similar, aren’t they?

Vintage Navajo Squash Blossom Flower on Necklace

Again, a guess from the photo – perhaps the pieces that project from the flowers are intended to be corn plants with corn leaves on each side. It looks like there is some texturing like kernels of corn. Is that so?

Corn, squash and beans are the traditional mainstays of the southwestern diet, culture and symbolism are are used in many ways in art and ceremony.

Corn, Beans and Squash : Pueblo Diet

Nellie Tso, a Navajo, was a silversmith for the Atkinson Trading Company around 1980. She specialized in sand cast watchbands. The hallmark you describe is one of four ways she has used to sign her work.

I hope this has been helpful. Enjoy your beautiful necklace !

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Native American Sterling Silver Sand Cast Jewelry

Sterling Silver Sand Cast Jewelry

Hand made Native American Indian Jewelry; Navajo Sterling Silver  naja pendant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sand cast items are Indian Hand Made items using a procedure developed by the Navajo silversmiths in the mid 1800s. It is a labor-intensive process that involves many steps.

The sterling silver naja pendant shown above, by Navajo artists Albert and Mary Bitsui, is an example of sandcast jewelry.

Using 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. Another flat stone is placed against the carved half of the mold. The halves are fastened together and a sprue hole is carved into one end. Molten silver is poured into the mold using the sprue hole. Once the silver cools, the item is taken out and finished.

Hand made Native American Indian Jewelry; Navajo Sterling Silver  Navajo bracelet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandcast sterling silver bracelets, like the above by Francis Begay, are poured flat and then shaped.

Due to the porous nature of Tuff or Sand Stone, sandcast items will have character marks and imperfections such as small pits. That is the nature of Sand Casting and Indian Hand Made items.

Once the casting stones have been used for several batches, they will be destroyed and a new set made.


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