All About Link Bracelets – Native American and Otherwise

A variety of link bracelets

A variety of link bracelets, most Native American made with a few vintage costume jewelry and a few Mexican bracelets.

The traditional southwestern Native American bracelet is a cuff bracelet.

BP202-OS-634-turq-CTE-1

Vintage 9 Stone Kingman Turquoise and Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet – C.T.E. Sterling. Raymond Etsitty, Navajo

BP202-OS-634-turq-CTE-5

 

 

But a cuff is not for everyone and especially some women, so in response to market demand, along the way, Navajo, Hopi and Zuni artists began making link bracelets.

Link bracelets are a great alternative to cuff bracelet – they are light, loose, airy and have a nice movement and feel to them. They are great for summer.

And if you are like me and want to wear more than one bracelet at a time, link bracelets make a nice addition on the same wrist as a watch, cuff bracelet or bangle bracelet.

Ken and Mary Bill - Navajo

12 K G.F. and Sterling Silver by Ken and Mary Bill – Navajo

Shirley Tso - Navajo

Rhodochrosite, Mother of Pearl and Opal Inlay by Shirley Tso – Navajo

Southwest Native Americans learned the art of silversmithing from plateros, Mexican silversmiths. Therefore I am including some Mexican link bracelets in this group to show various features.

Two Mexican-made bracelets stamped MEXICO 925

Two Mexican-made bracelets stamped MEXICO 925

The first Native American link bracelets started appearing in the Fred Harvey era and were made of copper.

Copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet - Fred Harvey Era but no markings

Copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet – Fred Harvey Era but no markings

Not all link bracelets are created equal. They take a lot of work to put together. Because they are somewhat “mechanical”, i.e. they have moving parts, either they work well or they don’t. That aim of this article is to point out some of the variables so you can choose the perfect link bracelet.

First of all, these are the main styles with materials most commonly used in Native American Link bracelets.

Sterling Silver Stamped Bead Link Bracelet by Navajo Marie Yazzie.

SILVER – Sterling Silver Stamped Bead Link Bracelet by Navajo Marie Yazzie.

 

Larry Lincoln Navajo Sterling Silver and Gold Storyteller Link Bracelet

STORYTELLER – Larry Lincoln, Navajo Sterling Silver and Gold Storyteller Link Bracelet

12 K G.F. and STERLING link bracelet with decorative box latch.

SILVER AND GOLD – 12 K G.F. and STERLING link bracelet with decorative box latch.

Lambert Perry, Navajo sterling silver concha style link bracelet

CONCHA STYLE – Lambert Perry, Navajo sterling silver concha style link bracelet

Rhodochrosite Inlay by Navajo Shirley Tso

INLAY – Rhodochrosite Inlay by Navajo Shirley Tso

Turquoise and Sterling Silver Cluster

STONE – Turquoise and Sterling Silver Cluster

LEATHER – Concha Belt Style by Navajo Danny Martinez

Next, how are the various panels attached to each other?

HINGES

HINGES

RINGS

RINGS

How do the ends fasten?

ADJUSTABLE WITH TOGGLE AND RINGS

ADJUSTABLE WITH TOGGLE AND RINGS – Lambert Perry, Navajo

BOX CLASP WITH TAB INSERT

BOX CLASP WITH TAB INSERT – Alonzo Mariano, Navajo

LOBSTER CLAW CLASP THAT ATTACHES TO RINGS - Navajo Scott Skeets

LOBSTER CLAW CLASP THAT ATTACHES TO RINGS – Navajo Scott Skeets

SPRING RING CLASP - Marie Yazzie, Navajo

SPRING RING CLASP – Marie Yazzie, Navajo

Sister (Scissor) Clasp on vintage copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet

SISTER CLASP – Sister (Scissor) Clasp on vintage copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet

BUCKLE - Concha belt style - Danny Martinez, Navajo

BUCKLE – Concha belt style – Danny Martinez, Navajo

Fold Over Clasp

FOLD OVER CLASP – OPEN on Sterling Silver Marcasite Bracelet stamped 925

Fold Over Clasp closed on Sterling Silver Marcasite Bracelet stamped 925

FOLD OVER CLASP – CLOSED on Sterling Silver Marcasite Bracelet stamped 925

Peg With Keeper

PEG WITH LATCH (KEEPER)

Vintage Topaz link bracelet with hidden latch

HIDDEN – Vintage Topaz link bracelet (from my mother’s jeweler box) with hidden latch

What are some  other features?

Tillie Jon, Navajo Storyteller Overlay Link Bracelet with Safety Chain, Spring Ring Clasp

SAFETY CHAIN WITH SPRING RING CLASP – Tillie Jon, Navajo Storyteller Overlay Link Bracelet with Box Latch and Safety Chain

Stephen Haloo, Zuni Snake Eye Link Bracelet with safety chain and lobster claw clasp

SAFETY CHAIN WITH LOBSTER CLAW CLASP – Stephen Haloo, Zuni Snake Eye Link Bracelet with box latch and safety chain

Lapis Link Bracelet stamped 950 (greater silver content than Sterling) with box latch and safety clasp.

SAFETY LATCH (KEEPER) – Lapis Link Bracelet stamped 950 (greater silver content than Sterling) with box latch and safety clasp (keeper).

Box Latch with Keeper on top edge

SAFETY LATCH – Box Latch with Keeper on top edge

HERE ARE TWO UNIQUE HINGED CUFFS

Yazzie Navajo Link Cuff Bracelet with Amber

HINGED CUFF – Yazzie Navajo Link Cuff Bracelet with Amber

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

HINGED LINK CUFF – Jay Boyd Inlay Bracelet

Jay Boyd Hinged Link Cuff Bracelet

HINGED LINK CUFF – Jay Boyd Inlay Bracelet

Remember, you will be putting a link bracelet on with one hand, so choose one that has a fastener you can easily operate.

Although many link bracelets are adjustable, be sure to choose a length that will allow the bracelet to fit like you want – snug in place, loose, or actively moving.

I hope that this article has helped you find the missing link in your jewelry collection !

Paula

 

 

What can you tell me about this Lloyd Bicenti Storyteller Belt?

Hi Paula,
I recently purchased a storyteller belt by Lloyd Bicenti.  It has 8 rectangular sections plus the buckle. I would like to know what the story is for this specific belt, but would also like to know if there is a source that one could go to about different story belts and bracelets.
Thank you,
Arthur
story belt001 story belt002 story belt003Hello Arthur,

Your beautiful belt depicts Kachinas, the eagle kachina and the antelope kachina to name just a few that are masterfully represented on the belt.

Kachinas represent the forces of nature, human, animal, plant, and act as intermediaries between the world of humans and the gods. Kachinas play an important part in the seasonal ceremonies of the Hopi, which encompass generations of passed-on knowledge and tradition, and has become the subject of a number of books. The simplified description here is meant only as an introduction.

A kachina has three aspects. The supernatural being as it exists in the minds of the Hopis; the masked impersonator of the supernatural spirit; and the dolls that are made in the likeness of the masked impersonator of the supernatural spirit.

Traditionally, kachina dolls are created by Hopi or Zuni artists. Your belt is made by a Navajo silversmith.

There are many good books written about kachinas – one of the books I show below talks about 266 different kachinas, often with subtle differences between them.  To find out which kachinas are represented on your belt, I’d suggest some online or library research.

We have a very few kachinas on our website (click on the last photo) but there are websites that devote many pages to describing them.

scan0007 scan0009Best of luck with your research and enjoy that gorgeous work of art !

Paula

To view our full list of article or to ask a jewelry question, follow the instructions here
http://www.horsekeeping.com/native-american-jewelry-artifacts.htm

If you are selling your jewelry, read this
http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn-buying.htm

Visit our pawn shop for your research and shopping
http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn/pawnshop-vin.htm

KD40-1-600w

Navajo Artists Tom and Sue Kee – Storyteller Specialists

Hi Paula,

Can you tell me the approximate age of Tom and Sue Kee’s silver jewelry.  I’m looking at a bracelet on eBay but cant find information about the age.

thank you,  Mike

Hi Mike,

Navajo artists Tom and Sue Kee specialize in storyteller pieces. How old? It depends on the piece as they have been making it for over 30 years and are still making it – they are currently practicing their craft.


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Native American Hallmarks – Navajo KK back to back

Paula,

I have a storyteller ring that has the mark: KK    The K’s are actually back to back. Any idea whose mark this is? Here is the same mark on a bracelet I  have.

Thanks so much, Sandy

Hi Sandy,

We have baby rattles that are sometimes marked KK but the initials are not back to back, they are side by side like normal. That hallmark as well as KS and VS are associated with Navajo artists Kathleen and Veronica Scott.

Sterling Silver Navajo Baby Twist Rattle with hallmarks KS, KV, or KK by Kathleen and Veronica Scott

However, I did see another seller have an item with the hallmark like yours. I’ll send you her contact info. Let me know what you find out OK?

Hello Paula,

Here is what the other seller wrote.:

I’m sorry but I have been unable to trace this mark to an actual name–I’ve located the artisan’s work in several trading posts and s/he is always listed only as “Navajo KK”. Native Americans have traditionally be reluctant to sign pieces because of traditional values and religious beliefs. They only do so now because they must in order to get top dollar for their work under Federal law. Even today, with common initials or one initial marks, it is impossible to be completely certain who made the piece unless you receive it directly from the maker.

Well Sandy,

I think she’s right in most regards. I thought I’d post this in case another reader might know. If so, please add a comment to this post. I’m sure Sandy would appreciate it and I’d like to know too !

Thanks to Diane for reminding me that that hallmark belongs to Navajo artist Kee Brown who specializes in storyteller items – in fact we’ve sold several of his pieces in our store including this bracelet.

Horse Storyteller Bracelet by Navajo artist Kee Brown click on photo to see more information

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Hector Goodluck Monument Valley Fetish Necklace

Hi Paula,

I absolutely have fallen in love with your Monument Valley fetish necklace
($180.) I have never seen anything like it, and I traveled everywhere
throughout those areas 3 times and I loved the red rocks in Arches National
Park, Bryce,and Zion. Your beads are very spiritual to me and they tell me
many stories from my past experiences. My question is, would it be possible for me to buy just the beads of the necklace so I can string it myself? Thank you so much, Jan

Monument Valley Necklace by Hector Goodluck, Navajo

Hi Jan,

I know what you mean about those necklaces – they are unique and engaging. I believe Hector Goodluck is the only one who carves those images and makes a
Monument Valley necklace. I knew he made them but it took us about a year to be able to get them from him ! I just feel like I am “wearing the area” when I have mine on.
We only sell the artist’s work as is, but it would be easy to restring them to your liking. They come with earrings for $180, so there you have some additional beads for your custom project.


Paula

Fetishes & carvings include features of Navajo life in Monument Valley such as:
  • hogan
  • corn
  • mustang horse
  • mountain sheep
  • burro
  • jackrabbit
  • prairie dog,
  • sheep
  • horse
  • lizard
  • Window Rock
  • Mitten Butte
  • Camel Butte
  • Rain God Mesa.


Hi Paula,

Thanks for getting back to me. I will put the necklace at the top of my wish
list for Christmas presents. It has such depth and each fetish has its own
story to tell. So amazing! Jan


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The Origin of Storyteller Scenes on Native American Jewelry

Storytelling is an important part of many cultures. Traditions, rituals, and historic events are passed on orally.

Navajo Sterling Silver Storyteller Link Bracelet by Tillie Jon

In the first half of the 1900’s Helen Cordero of the Cochiti Pueblo used a storyteller motif in her ceramic pieces. Usually her storytellers would be a Pueblo woman telling stories to a group of children who were gathered around.

In this way the language and culture are kept alive.

Since the 1960’s a new type of storyteller art emerged, partly in response to the desire of non-Native Americans to have some sort of Indian folk art to display or wear. Storyteller jewelry pieces are generally overlay (see explanation of overlay at the end of this article). Each figure is cut out then placed onto a contrasting background and finished in place. A very painstaking and delicate process.

Navajo Storyteller Bracelet by Francis Tabaha

The idea was embraced by Navajo silversmiths and made popular by such artists as (click on the artist to see a sample of his or her work).

Clarence Lee

Tommy Singer

Tillie Jon

Lloyd and Floyd Bicenti

Francis Tabaha

Richard Singer

Tom and Sue Kee

Marie Bahe, and others.

Here are some examples of a few of those artists’ works.

Tommy Singer

Tom and Sue Kee

Marie Bahe

Richard Singer

Tommy Singer

Richard SInger

Traditional scenes include

The Hogan

Home Life

Weaving

Drumming

Traveling by wagon

The Horse

Sheep

Cooking

The Campfire

Southwest Scenery

A Day in the Life of a Man, Woman, Horse, Bear and so on……..

What is Overlay?

Overlay pieces are made of two layers. The bottom layer is a solid sterling silver piece. The top layer has a cutout design. The cutout is placed over the bottom layer and the two pieces are “sweated” together, that is heated so that they become one.

The bottom layer (background to the cutout) is usually accented. The Navajo silversmiths oxidize the bottom layer which darkens it. Hopi silversmiths oxidize and etch the background (texturize it) with hashmarks.

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