Authentic Native American Indian Fetish Necklaces

To begin talking about Native American fetish necklaces, first a little bit about fetishes.

A Native American fetish is a stone or shell carving and sometimes antler or wood, usually in the image of an animal.

Zuni Horse Fetish made of Acoma Jet

Indian fetishes can be carried or displayed. Those that are carried are often called pocket fetishes.

Lakota Pipestone Buffalo Fetish – makes a great pocket fetish because of its smooth surface and sturdy construction.

Those that are displayed are called table fetishes.

Zuni Deer Fetish carved from Antler

Zuni artists are the traditional fetish carvers but there are many talented Navajo carvers as well.

Pig by Stanton Hannaweeke – Zuni

Bobcat by Navajo Herbert Davis

To read more about fetishes, see my other blog posts:

Native American Fetish Carvings – What are they used for?

Animal Fetish Powers

Types of Native American Fetishes

Serpentine used in Native American Fetish Carvings

Native American Terms – Fetish, Totem, Amulet, Talisman

How Do I Display Zuni Native American Fetish Carvings?

Native American Fetishes – Zuni Carving Families

The Power of Native American Fetish Carvings – Story of the Midnight Bear

Native American Stone Fetish Carvings – Six Directions

How Zuni Navajo Native American Fetishes Are Made

 

FETISH NECKLACES

Vintage Fetish Necklace – origin unknown

Native American fetish necklaces are made with small fetishes that are drilled and strung like beads with fine shell, turquoise or jet heishi in between. Just like with pocket and table fetishes, fetish necklaces are made by both Navajo and Zuni artists.

AND BEWARE !! There are many NON- Native American fetish necklaces. They are usually made overseas and sold as Native American. BAD !!! Below is a slide show of 3 common imported, faux Native American necklaces. When we get items like this in an estate lot, we sell them in our Bargain Barn.

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Like any Native American item, buy directly from the maker or from a trusted seller.

Navajo horse fetish necklace

 

The animals can vary but often include birds, bears, horses, mountain lions, turtles, foxes, wolves and many others.

Zuni fetish necklace with many animals

The stones and shells usually used include turquoise, mother of pearl, pink shell, acoma jet, serpentine, pipestone and many others.

Navajo Fetish Necklace

Here are some more of my blog posts that relate to fetish necklaces:

What is a stacked necklace? More on Navajo and Zuni Fetish Necklaces

Are these Bird Fetish Necklaces Authentic Native American made?

44 Bird Fetish Necklace – is it Native American made?

Stacked Fetish Necklace – is it authentic Native American made?

Wanted – A Six Directions Fetish Necklace Set

Native American Fetish Necklace – Signed by Artist?

Native American Wearable Art – Stacked Fetish Necklace

Hector Goodluck Monument Valley Fetish Necklace

Native American Fetish Necklace – Mother or Grandmother Necklace

Bird Fetish Necklace from Goodwill

Paula

The Three Stone Navajo Bracelet

One very traditional Navajo bracelet layout is the three stone bracelet.

#8 Turquoise 3 Stone Shadowbox bracelet by Navajo Wilbur Muskett

This layout is usually used when there are wonderful stones to showcase.

Vintage 3 Stone Bracelet with chisel mark E

The Three Stone layout works best if the stones match.

Vintage unsigned Royston Turquoise 3 Stone bracelet

Often the central stone is larger and the two sides stones are smaller.

Vintage unsigned 3 Stone bracelet

Sometimes the central stone is smaller and the two side stones are larger.

Vintage unsigned 3 stone bracelet

 

It is equally suitable to use the layout on a wire bracelet or a cuff.

Read about wire bracelets here – Wire Bracelets

Vintage unsigned 3 stone Bisbee turquoise bracelet on heavy 3 wire frame

 

Three stone White Buffalo Stone cuff bracelet by Joe Piaso

Read about White Buffalo Stone.

 

Vintage 3 stone bracelet with partial hallmark of P. This is a cross between a wire and a cuff bracelet. There is a heavy 4 wire framework and a solid sterling faceplate under the stones.Paula

Sacred Red Pipestone from Minnesota

Lakota horse pipe carved by 4th generation Lakota pipemaker Alan Monroe from pipestone he quarried from Pipestone National Monument

 

From the website of Pipestone National Monument 

“When you pray with this pipe, you pray for and with everything.”  -Black Elk

 

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For countless generations, American Indians have quarried the red pipestone found at this site.

Red Pipestone is also referred to as Catlinite. Read more about Catlinite by clicking here.

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 These grounds are sacred to many people because the pipestone quarried here is carved into pipes used for prayer. Many believe that the pipe’s smoke carries one’s prayer to the Great Spirit. The traditions of quarrying and pipemaking continue here today.

More information from the Pipestone National Monument website

Located in rural southwestern Minnesota, the pipestone quarries are considered a sacred site by many American Indians. For the last 5,000 years or more, tribes across the central region of North America have traveled to this site to quarry. Today, they still travel long distances to this site to continue the tradition of pipestone quarrying and pipe making. Since 1946, the 56 active pipestone quarry pits have been managed by issuance of a quarry permit.

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Pipestone quarrying is often an underappreciated part of the tradition surrounding pipe making. The task of extracting pipestone from the earth is slow and laborious using hand tools not much more advanced than the tools and methods used in past millennia. The process can require many days of physical labor with only sledgehammers, pry bars, chisels, wedges, and steel bars allowed. Good physical condition is a prerequisite.

 

A cross-section view of a quarry showing the layers of earth and quartzite that needs to be removed before reaching the layer of pipestone. Note that the pipestone seam is angled downward. Over time, the quarriers must remove more and more quartzite, one of the hardest rocks in the world, to continue extracting the pipestone.

Depending upon the specific quarry and amount of material extracted, experience has shown that quarrying time can be estimated at two to six weeks to reach the subsurface layer of pipestone. This pipestone lens is sandwiched between layers of very hard Sioux Quartzite formation rock. Depending upon a quarry’s location along the quarry line, the upper levels of quartzite can be four to ten feet thick above the pipestone layer. Prairie plants and soil varying in depth from one to six feet cover the upper layer of quartzite.

Quarriers use shovels and wheelbarrows to dig up surface soils and glacial till. Then they dump it in rubble piles at the rear of the quarries. Subsequently, broken pieces of quartzite rock are also discarded.

The upper layer of quartzite is composed of multiple quartzite strata, with vertical fractures and cracks in the rock. Wedges or chisels are placed into these cracks can be driven down with sledge hammers to break apart loose individual quartzite blocks. Upon loosening a piece, it is worked free with a steel pry bar and allowed to drop to the floor of the quarry. Heavy sledge hammers are then used to break the bigger chunks of quartzite into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be lifted and thrown out of the back of the quarry. The process of breaking out the quartzite is repeated many times until the pipestone layer is exposed.

See the slide show below which shows the blessing and quarrying of the pipestone that is used to make the items in our store

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The smaller pieces are also used in building a rock retaining wall along the front of the rubble pile. The rock wall serves as a barrier so that as additional quartzite and soil are thrown or stacked at the rear of the quarry, the rubble pile is prevented from collapsing back into the quarry. Building a sturdy retaining wall to keep rock and fill out of the pit is an essential part of managing a quarry and a very important protective safeguard for quarriers.

Sacred Catlinite Ceremonial Necklace

Once the pipestone is exposed, care must be taken in removing the stone as it is very fragile and when handling large slabs it can break. The pipestone layer may vary from 10 to 18 inches thick and it too is composed of multiple layers from 1 ½ to 3 inches thick. Individual layers are carefully removed one slab at a time by driving wedges into the natural horizontal seams. The natural vertical cracks in the quartzite carry down through the pipestone, which allows the quarrier to remove the pipestone layers in irregularly-shaped slabs or tabular blocks.

Raven Effigy Pipe

The quarry pits are located in the bottom of a bowl-shaped drainage. In the spring and early summer months groundwater from rain and snow melt collects in this low lying area, filling the quarries with water. Most quarriers prefer to work during the summer to late fall months to avoid the groundwater problems. Monument staff will assist quarriers by pumping water out of the quarries, but only two days ahead of when quarrying is planned. Often, when it is high, groundwater will flow back into the quarries as fast as it is pumped out. Since continued pumping will not reduce the water level, it will not be attempted during these periods when groundwater is high.

Buffalo Effigy Pipe

Paula

What is a sweater bracelet?

Early on in my collecting of Native American bracelets, I was handed a contemporary Zuni needlepoint bracelet by the maker and was told “this is a sweater bracelet”.

Zuni needlepoint sweater bracelet by Jenny Eustace

I had never heard that term before and am a firm believer in “if you don’t know, ask”, so I asked and was told it is a style of bracelet where a design element has a “drop” – that is, it drops down so it lays on the back of the wearer’s hand and can peek out of the lower edge of a long-sleeved sweater cuff. Well that made perfect sense so I have used the term ever since.

A more subtle sweater bracelet by Jenny Eustace

Here is another example of a sweater bracelet by a Navajo artist.

Petit Point sweater bracelet by Navajo Betty Etisitty

Some sweater bracelets can be quite dramatic in how much silver and stone is “dropped” onto the back of the hand.

Unmarked NOS (New Old Stock) sweater bracelet

Unmarked vintage sterling silver and turquoise sweater bracelet

Here is a versatile sweater bracelet – you can decide which color you want to peek out.

Unmarked vintage petit point sweater bracelet in turquoise and coral

Some bracelets made a gentle downward sweep at the cuff.

Tommy Jackson, Navajo

Silver sweater bracelets often come to a point as they drop.

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Paula

Devil Dancer Set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

This rare, museum quality 3 dimensional inlay set was part of a private collection. It was made by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley.

The 7 piece set includes:

a concho belt comprised of a buckle and 8 conchos

a man’s bracelet

a man’s ring

a woman’s bracelet

a woman’s pendant

2 women’s rings

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Excerpt from page 252 in American Indian Jewelry III M-Z by Gregory Schaaf.

Sterling Silver – Rare, One of a Kind
Museum Quality Apache Devil Dancer Set
by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley 

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Rare, One of a Kind, Museum Quality Apache Devil Dancer Set
by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

This 7-piece three dimensional figural overlay/inlay set includes:
– 
one concho belt
– 2-piece man’s set: bracelet and ring
– 
4-piece woman’s set: bracelet, pendant, and two rings
– certificates of authenticity
– materials include Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, mother of pearl, jet, coral, and sterling silver

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Post card titled
“Devil Dance of the Apache Indians from the 1930’s”

Concho Belt

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Conchos are currently on a double leather belt that is 1 5/8″ wide and 38″ long from buckle to end of leather. Holes are punched at 34″ to 36″.   526 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Buckle is 3″ x 2 5/8″.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Notice the 3-dimensional quality of the stone inlay and overlay on all pieces.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Each concho has a copper belt loop.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Holes are punched at 34″ to 36′

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Certificate of Authenticity for concho belt.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Eight conchos are 2″ x 2 1/4″.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

4-Piece Woman’s Set
b
racelet, pendant, and two rings

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet, pendant and two rings.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet is 6 1/4″ total inside circumference, this includes the 1″ gap.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet 3 1/8″ tall at front, 11/16″ at ends.
105 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

This four-wire bracelet design is traditional Navajo and Zuni bracelet form that is open and airy allowing for ventilation and making the bracelet more comfortable to wear in hot and humid weather. Read more . . .

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Certificates for woman’s bracelet, pendant and two rings.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Pendant 2 3/4″ x 2″, 32 grams.
Fixed stamped bail with 1/8″ opening,

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Ring size 9.  2 1/2″ tall x 2″ wide.  36 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Ring size 6,  2 1/8″ tall x 1 3/4″ wide.
25 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

2-Piece Man’s Set
b
racelet, pendant, and two rings

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Man’s bracelet and ring.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet size 8 1/4″.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet is 3″ tall at the front to 11/16″ at ends.
117 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

 

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Heavy man’s ring size 12 1/4 .

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Ring is 1 3/8″ tall x 1″ wide.  47 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

This four-wire bracelet design is traditional Navajo and Zuni bracelet form that is open and airy allowing for ventilation and making the bracelet more comfortable to wear in hot and humid weather. Read more . . .

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise comes from one of the largest turquoise mines in North America located in Gila County, Arizona near the town of Globe. This turquoise is prized for its uniform blue color with little or no matrix that allows the stones to be easily matched and cut. It is the favorite stone of Zuni Pueblo silversmiths for use in petit point, needlepoint and inlay jewelry. Only 4% of the turquoise taken from the mine is left natural. Most is is enhanced or stabilized and sold to large distributors in the USA and Europe. 

If you want to see more information, view the webpage devoted to this set.

Paula

 

The Art and Science of Wearing a Concho Belt

In Part One, All About Native American Concho Belts AKA Concha Belts, I covered a little bit about the history and makeup of a Native American concho belt.

Here I am going to talk about how to go about using that great belt you have hanging in the closet.

Men’s or Ladies?

Concho belts are unisex and can be worn with jeans as well as over shirts, blouses and with skirts and dresses.

First I’ll talk about link belts as they are quite simple.

Boulder Turquoise link belt by Platero

Link Concho Belts

Link belts are usually quite adjustable. You would purchase one approximately your waist size plus a few inches. Depending on the style of the belt, you usually can fasten the buckle’s hook on any of the rings between the conchos to get a custom fit. This is especially good if you are going to wear the belt in a variety of ways – over a blouse or shirt or through the belt loop of jeans because you will be able to fit a link belt to its intended use very quickly. Most link belts are narrow enough to fit through the loops of standard jeans. Generally 1 3/4″ wide and less will slide through belt loops.


Sterling Silver link concho belt

Depending on your waist size and the length of the link belt, you will have more or less excess belt hanging down in the front. This can be left hanging straight down or looped. 

Leather Concho Belts

Leather concho belts are traditional and popular. You need to choose a leather belt that is the correct size for the concho’s loops. If the leather strap is too narrow, the conchos will wiggle out of position. If the strap is too wide or thick, it will make it difficult to slide the conchos.

Belt is too narrow

Belt is correct width

Leather Concho belts fasten in one of three ways.

Sterling Silver link concho beltSome leather Concho Belts have a normal buckle with a tongue. With this style buckle, once you find the ideal place to punch the holes for your waist, you can cut off the end of the leather just so it tucks under the first concho as shown in the slide show below.

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Sterling Silver link concho beltOthers leather belt style Concho Belts have a large oval or rectangular “western style belt buckle” with a prong on the back that fits into a hole in the belt. 

For both of these types of belts, using a leather punch, you will need to punch a hole or two in the leather portion of the belt to custom fit the belt to your size waist. If you have a small waist, you might want to cut some of the leather off the end of the belt and slide the conchos closer together. If you have a large waist, you might want to slide the conchos farther apart from each other.

Some leather mounted concho belts have a hook and loop on the end panels such as this one by Dan Jackson.

P1170619 use

Dan Jackson leather concho belt with hook and loop fastener

With a belt like this, you would need to slide the panels closer together or farther apart on the leather belt until the hook and loop connect perfectly for your waist size.

P1170621 use

 The leather belt portion of a leather concho belt is usually extra long and blank (not punched) so that you can custom fit the belt to your size. The conchos can be slid along the leather as desired to position them perfectly for your waist size. You can also remove the conchos and buckle from the leather strip provided and place the conchos on a favorite belt that you already own.

If you are going to wear a concho belt over an untucked shirt or blouse, you would punch a hole to fit your waist and then arrange the conchos evenly spaced around the belt.  To do this, you need two simple tools. A screwdriver and a pair of pliers.

Using the screwdriver, carefully loosen the belt loops on the back, just enough so you can slide the concho into the desired position.

Then to seat it, place a cloth around the concho to protect it and gently squeeze the belt loop with the pliers to a snug fit.

You don’t have to scrunch down real hard because the loops are usually made of copper or silver, both soft metals that bend easily. You are padding the concho so the pliers don’t make any marks on the front side of the concho – or damage any stone or inlay. Be careful when squeezing with the pliers – only enough to get the job done.  Once you have the conchos set, you are ready to wear your belt.

The situation with a belt that will be worn with jeans is a little more complicated because first you want to be sure the conchos will slip through the belt loops.

Generally 1 3/4″ wide and less will slide through belt loops.

 

P1170615 use

A few brands of jeans have larger belt loops, I have found that Seven7 Skinny Jeans accept concho belts up to 2 1/4″ wide !

 

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Also, you will want to space the conchos so that they work in harmony with the belt loops. Here for example is one arrangement for a belt that has a buckle plus 11 conchos.

Front view

 

Back view

If you have to put your conchos and buckle on a new leather strap, simply loosen the loops and slip off the conchos. Most buckles are attached using  a 3 hole tie with lace as shown in the slide show below. It is the same tie you use to fasten a latigo to a western saddle.

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I love to wear concho belts and hope these two articles get you motivated to use yours !

Paula

 

Native American Concho Belts

Before buying a concho belt, it is a good idea to know a little bit about them. I hope this helps you with your purchasing decision and will add to your wearing enjoyment. This is Part One of a two part series. Part Two will cover The Art and Science of Wearing a Concho Belt.

History

The word concho comes from the Spanish “concha” which actually means “conch” or “seashell” but has come to mean round or oval disks (occasionally rectangles) of silver used to decorate saddles, bridles, clothing, used as jewelry such as for pendants and bolo ties and for adorning or making belts.

Concho belts are a long-time Navajo tradition yet it is generally accepted that the Navajo learned about the concept of concho belts from the Plains tribes. They then obtained the skills and designs to make silver conchos from Mexican silversmiths (plateros) that used conchos on horse tack. 

The earliest conchos were silver dollars that were hammered, stamped and edged, then slotted and strung together on a piece of leather.

A slotted concho

Later in the evolution of concho belts, the slots were no longer used. Instead, copper loops were added to the back of the conchos so they could be slipped onto a leather belt.

Copper belt loops

When the slots disappeared, they were replaced by a central design element which continues to be used today.

The slot has been replaced by a central stamped design

 Silver concho belts evolved to include overlay, storyteller, sandcast and more.

Delgarito storyteller

Overlay

Vintage Sandcast

Stones were added later as a central stone, a cluster, with other design elements or as inlay. Some conchos are made entirely of a single turquoise stone. 

Vintage unmarked concho belt with central stone in a shadowbox

Vintage unmarked concho with central stone – classic

Cluster belt by Navajo Irene Chiquito

Concho with other design elements including leaves, raindrops, turquoise nuggets, coral and a bear claw. By Elaine Sam, Navajo

Inlay concho belt by Navajo Benjamin Becenti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Chip Inlay

Large Turquoise Stones made up to be the conchos on this belt

Concho Belt Features

Concho belts can be a continuous row of conchos or could have spacers in between the conchos.

Vintage Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild belt with continuous row of sandcast conchos

Margartet Platero Boulder Turquoise link belt with a continuous row of conchos

Sterling Silver link concho belt

Leather concho belt with butterfly spacers

Link concho belt with butterfly spacers

The spacers can of various shapes but traditionally are butterflies and it is easy to see why they are called that when you look at the shape of them.

The conchos and the butterflies are sometimes backed by leather which highlights the silver work and also protects the edges of the silver from bumping, wear or bending.

Leather backed, slotted conchos

How Many Conchos?

The number of conchos on a belt will depend on the length (size) of the belt, the dimensions of the conchos, whether butterfly spacers are used and so on. But some common configurations might be:

  • 6 conchos + 7 butterflies + a buckle
  • 10 to 14 conchos + a buckle
  • Link concho belts might have from 12 to 18 conchos connected by rings.

See Part Two of this series to see how the number of conchos plays out when you want to wear your belt with jeans.

Link or Leather

Generally there are two types of concho belts: link and leather. 

Link concho belts are conchos that are connected by rings with a hook fastener at one end. Link belts are used primarily over a blouse but many can also fit through the belt loops of jeans. Link belts generally cost less than leather belts.

Link belt used over a blouse

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Leather concho belts are basically a leather belt with conchos slipped onto the belt and a buckle attached to the end

Leather concho belt

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Today there are many types of Concho Belts sold, some are authentic Native American Made, but many are not. Here is how they stack up.

Museum Quality
The fine, highly worked museum-quality Navajo or Zuni Hand Made Sterling Silver Concho Belts are truly works of art and are highly collectible, seldom sold, and worn for ceremonial purposes only. They are made by very talented, traditional Native American artists out of the finest stones and Sterling Silver. Sometimes a dozen artists will get together and each will make one concho for a special belt. Some artists might make only one or two concho belts in a year….or a lifetime. Prices are commonly $20,000 and more.

Museum quality belt by Dan Jackson

Traditional Leather “Using” Belts
Traditional Sterling Silver Leather Concho Belts made by Native American silversmiths and marketed for “using” can be somewhat less complex and less expensive that the museum pieces but they are wonderful pieces of wearable art ! They are equally suitable to wear over a blouse or shirt or with jeans. These are for sale in the $1000-$9000 range.

A “using” concho belt by Calvin Martinez

Not Native American

There are all kinds of non-Native American made concho belts for sale. They are often made in a southwestern style from machined steel conchos that are chrome plated. These might sell for as low as $10.

A link concho belt that is machine made, not Native American, not sterling silver.

METALS AND MATERIALS

Sterling Silver 

Conchos can be of shiny or matte sterling silver, antiqued or highly polished. 

Coin Silver – Some older concho belts are made from coin silver. You can read more about coin silver in my previous post on the subject.

Nickel
“Nickel Silver” or “German Silver” Concho Belts have no silver in them at all. They do have a silver color to them but they do not contain any silver. They are made of an alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel. This is very confusing for customers because they are often fooled into thinking they have purchased a silver item because they are called Nickel Silver or German Silver. When comparing Sterling Silver (which contains 92.5% of the precious metal Silver) with Nickel Silver, you are comparing apples to oranges – that’s why the prices will vary so much. Nickel silver is hard and brittle, so is usually machined rather than hand worked. Nickel Silver concha belts are generally not hand made. They are commonly machine struck or stamped so although the design might be based on a Native American design, they are seldom Native American hand made. Nickel silver does not tarnish. It is more durable and of a much lower cost and value than Sterling Silver. Know what you are buying. Read Not All Silver is Created Equal
Plated
Plated Concho Belts might consist of a layer of silver or chrome over steel. “Pot metal” (inexpensive cast metal mixtures) and other metal alloys can also be plated. These kinds of belts are the tourist grade or costume jewelry style belts, a totally different item than Native American Made Concho Belts.

To get some ideas on how to get your concho belt ready to wear, read Part Two of this Series – The Art and Science of Wearing a Concho Belt.

Paula