What is a Slave Bracelet and is it Native American?

The term slave bracelet refers to a style of jewelry that has a chain or other attachment from the bracelet to one or more finger rings. Commonly there is a central piece (island or hand connector) between the ring and bracelet that rests on the back of the hand. 

 

This fashion originated in Africa and is associated with India – harems, belly dancers and the like. The design was likely adopted by Native Americans for tourists after the bracelets became popular in the 1920s American flapper culture.

In spite of the negative connotation of the word slave and its various meanings, the style continues to be popular and has no other name that I am aware of.

Paula

 

Old Bee Stamp on Vintage Navajo Jewelry

This bracelet, likely from 1920s- 1940s (per some learned colleagues) has a distinctive bee stamp on it.

This stamp has been linked to some very old jewelry but so far I have not been able to pin down who might have made this stamp or who used it.

If you have any information on the bee stamp, I’d love to know.

Thanks, Paula

Knifewing – Native American Diety

Who is Knifewing?

Knifewing, also Knife Wing, is a half man – half eagle Zuni spirit or god with razor sharp feathers made of flint. He is the ultimate warrior.

Unmarked vintage knifewing pin

Anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing, who lived with the Zunis from 1879-1884 described knifewing this way:

“This curious god is the hero of hundreds of folklore tales, the tutelary deity of several societies of Zuni. He is represented as possessing a human form, furnished with flint knife-feathered pinions, and tail. His dress consists of the conventional terraced cap (representative of his dwelling place among the clouds). His weapons are the Great Flint-Knife of War, the Bow of the Skies (the Rainbow), and the Arrow of Lightning. His guardians or warriors are the Great Mountain Lion of the North and that of the upper regions. He was doubtless the original War God of the Zunis.”

From the Encyclopedia of Native American Jewelry by Paula Baxter:

Baxter

Baxter

From North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment by Dubin

Dubin

Dubin

Horace Iule (also known for his crosses) is credited with creating the first knifewing design in the late 1920s, cut and filed out of hand-wrought silver.

Read more about Horace Iule in The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths by Adair

Adair

Adair

Adair

Afterwards, other Zuni, Navajo and Pueblo began producing knifewing designs.

The knifewing became one of the first designs that the Zuni inlaid with stones. An interesting excerpt from Zuni – a Village of Silversmiths

Zuni – a Village of Silversmiths

In this slide show, there are three vintage kinfewing inlay bracelet examples. To see more details on them, visit our Vintage Bracelet section. 

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Below is a slide show of a Sterling silver box with inlay knifewing by Suzie James Navajo

Paula

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Vintage Petrified Wood, Picture Jasper and Fossilized Agate Bracelets

Some vintage Native American jewelry features beautiful “stones” that almost seem to show a scene or tell a story. Such stones could be Petrified Wood, Picture Jasper, or Agate.

(In all these photos, please ignore the reflection from the lights – although these bracelets are over 50-60 years old, the stones are as bright and shiny as the day they were made and really reflect the light.)

Petrified wood is result of fossilization, the transformation of wood into agate through the process of absorption of the minerals into the cells of the wood. The resulting agate can be harder than steel.

Petrified wood can contain a wide variety of materials and minerals but most commonly agate, jasper and opalized wood.

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The colors that appear depend on what minerals are present. Iron oxides show reds and browns while manganese results in pink.

 

 

Copper, cobalt, and chromium will exhibit as greens and blues. Carbon is black and silica is white or gray.

 

Picture Jasper is similarly formed when quartz-rich mud is fossilized.
With all those colors from unique layers of various minerals, the specific chemical environment (pH, moisture, temperature etc.) surrounding the wood or mud along with the factor of time, some beautiful scenes and symbols can appear in petrified wood, picture jasper and agate.

 

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

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