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 !


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 !


Native American Jewelry – Summer Bracelet Ideas

If you are a die hard cuff bracelet wearer like I am, there are several types of Native American sterling silver cuff bracelets that are cooler to wear in summer weather than the traditional solid cuffs.

One is called the spread wire bracelet. It is almost as if the artists has opened up the bracelet to let the wrist breathe !! I’ve seen those with 3 and 5 bands (and matching rings) but the sky is the limit.

Native American Spread Wire Bracelet

Native American Spread Wire Bracelet

Native American Sterling Silver Spread Wire Bracelet

Native American Sterling Silver Spread Wire Bracelet

Another type is what I call the mesh bracelet. Instead of a solid band, the bracelet is made of interwoven strands of sterling silver that results in an open weave, allowing air circulation. Many of these are made by the Tahe family, noted Navajo silversmiths.

Navajo Sterling Silver Mesh Bracelet

Navajo Sterling Silver Mesh Bracelet

And finally there are the sandcast bracelets with or without stones. The designs and widths vary but all allow a generous amount of breathing room !

Navajo Sandcast Bracelet

Navajo Sandcast Bracelet

Navajo Sterling Silver and Turquoise Sandcast Bracelet

Navajo Sterling Silver and Turquoise Sandcast Bracelet

Native American Sterling Silver Cast Jewelry

Native American Sterling Silver Cast Jewelry

Native American cast items are handmade items using one of several processes and materials. Sand cast items use a procedure developed by the Egyptians and introduced to the Dine’ (Navajo) in the 1880s,

To sand cast, you first must have one original pieces as the model or template. Using a special sand with a high clay content two halves of a box are filled with sand and packed. The template is pressed into the sand and the two halves are put together and pounded so that the sand takes on the impression of the original piece.

The boxes are carefully separated and the model piece is removed leaving behind the impression. Sprues and air vents are added from the piece impression to the edges and the two boxes are bound together. Molten metal is poured into the mold.

The box is separated, the newly cast piece is removed.

Tufa casting is used by many Navajo casters today.

Using a block of  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, taking care to make the edges angled in such a way that the metal doesn’t stick into corners.

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A sprue hole is carved into one end and another flat stone is placed against the carved half of the mold. The halves are fastened together.  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 one above by Francis Begay are poured flat and then shaped.

Due to the porous nature of the materials used, cast items often  will have character marks and imperfections such as small pits. That is the nature of Sand Casting and Indian Hand Made items.

Some artists destroy the casting stones after each piece, others use them for several castings.