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

 

 

Native American Jewelry – Putting on a Cuff Bracelet

Hi Paula,
I have a question about the bracelets…
When putting a cuff bracelet on and off it has to be big enough to fit over your hand or the gap wide enough to fit on the narrowest/smallest part of your wrist.   That being said, how could a person wear a cuff bracelet above the wrist bone when it will naturally fall towards the hand when your arm is down and flop around when you move …  unless, you squeeze it tight (bend it) once on, and bend it open again to take it off.. ?  Is a cuff bracelet suppose to fit like a bangle bracelet and be loose (fall to the hand) or is it suppose to stay still (fitted) when you wear it?
I have a couple bracelets (western style) that I received as gifts.  I’ve been bending them to get them on and off so they don’t flop around so much but never bend them to a point where the gap is closed and it is fitted (stays between my hand and wrist bone)….  My wrist is 6 1/4″, bracelets are 6 3/4″ including gap.
Appreciate your reply.
Kindest regards,
Carolyn
Good questions Carolyn,
I’ll answer your queries specifically, but in the meantime, please read these two articles……..
After you’ve read them, let me know if some of your questions have been answered and if not, what the new ones are !
Paula

Hi again Carolyn,
First of all, a cuff bracelet is never put over the hand. If it would fit over the hand, it would be too big. Cuff bracelets are put on by utilizing the gap as described in the above referenced article.

How one wears a bracelet is entirely a matter of personal preference and taste. When I wear a group of bangle bracelets, I want them to be very loose and move up and down my wrist and lower arm as I move my arm and hands. Bangles are for days when metal clinking is not only good, but desired !
 

Sterling Silver Navajo Silverdust Bangle Bracelets


I also like to wear my link bracelets and link watches loose, that is so that they slide up and down my wrist.
 

Sterling Silver and 12K Gold Navajo Link Bracelet by Alonzo Mariano


As far as cuff bracelets, if they are narrow bracelets, I prefer to wear them low on my wrist – below the prominent wrist bone. If they are wider, then I like them over the top of the prominent wrist bone.
 

Example of Narrow Cuff - Sterling Silver and 14K Gold Continuous Water Bracelet by Bruce Morgan

Example of a Wide Cuff - Sterling Silver Sandcast and Kingman Turquoise Bracelet by Harrison Bitsui


There is a “sweet spot” in terms of bracelet size, gap and the person’s wrist size as to where a bracelet will “work”. If a bracelet is the right size, you can wear a cuff above your wrist and it will stay there. If it is too big, then, as you say, it will slip down.

From the dimensions you mention in your e-mail, it would seem almost impossible to keep that bracelet up above your wrist UNLESS you open it up to put it on, then squeeze the gap closed (eek!) once you get it on your wrist. Squeezing not only makes the bracelet misshapen but it can pop out inlay stones or loosen other stone settings. The bracelet below is made up of many small pieces of turquoise with sterling silver channel in between. If the bracelet below was spread open, then squeezed shut, the stone at the point of the bend would be lifted right out of their settings and popped out.

Zuni Turquoise Inlay Bracelet by Sheldon Lalio

So 6 3/4″ is too big for a 6 1/4″ wrist. You should be looking for a bracelet that is about 6 1/4″ total inside circumference which would be about 5 1/4″ from end to end inside and with a 1″ gap. That way you can put the bracelet on and off easily without opening and closing the gap.
Let me know if I can help further.

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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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