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

New Life for a Cracked Turquoise Stone Bracelet

The estate lots we purchase commonly contain at least a couple of damaged vintage pieces. We have the choice of selling them AS-IS, with extensive tarnish or soil, silver damage, a missing stone, a loose stone, a cracked stone……OR we can have the item repaired so the piece can be used again ! When I see a beautifully crafted necklace, ring or bracelet that would otherwise be tossed in a box to be forgotten, I do whatever I can to help revive the piece.

This beautiful bracelet hallmarked LESTER ORTIZ  and STERLING

weighs 89 grams and is 2 3/8″ tall at the front.

The gorgeous green turquoise stone (I’ll let you ponder the mine – please put your guesses in the comments below) was too good to toss.

I sent this bracelet to Diane at Old Town (see contact information below) who coordinates the work for the Navajo silversmiths there. Henry waved his magic wand over this one and turned it from trash to treasure !  Thank you Henry !!!!












The repair service we use:

Diane Radeke
P. O. Box 55935
Phoenix, AZ  85078


Split Shank, Pretty Girl and Wire Bracelets

All three of these types of bracelets – split shank, Pretty Girl, and wire bracelets, are traditional Navajo and Zuni bracelet forms and all are open and airy making for comfortable summer wearing. The open spaces allow for ventilation, thus making the bracelets more comfortable to wear in hot and humid weather. Anyone who has worn a wide solid cuff in hot weather knows that it can make your wrist perspire. Perspiration can cause the copper in the sterling silver to tarnish more quickly.

A split shank bracelet is made by splitting the center portion of a solid metal strip (shank) with a saw, chisel or other tool to open it and make it wider. This makes a larger base to attach decorative elements.

Split Shank bracelet

Split Shank bracelet

The center is split into two, three, four, or five branches, most commonly three. Part of the sides and the terminal ends of the bracelet are left solid like the original metal plate – the sides can be stamped or adorned all the way to the ends.
The splits were originally made by hand with a saw or a cold chisel and a hammer. They are still done that way today but in some cases the splits are made using a hydraulic drop cutter.

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A Pretty Girl bracelet is a lightweight split shank Native American souvenir bracelet from the Fred Harvey era.  The decorations added to a Pretty Girl bracelet were set on a platform and usually were a combination of hand made and cast elements such as medallions, buttons, braids, wire and raindrops.

Pre-cut turquoise gemstones set into preformed bezel cups were the most common adornments – set onto a platform.  There were a variety of handmade and preformed platforms used  – from simple to ornate.

See examples of Pretty Girl bracelets below. To see many more visit our Vintage Bracelet Shop.

The edges of the bracelets were often scalloped. The side panels were often stamped with geometric designs, whirling logs, dogs, thunderbirds, arrows and more.

Five Wire bracelet, sometimes called spreadwire, made in copper by Bell Trading

The split shank bracelet, sometimes called spreadwire, made in copper by Bell Trading


Decorative stamping on the side pieces

border 2Whereas a split plate bracelet is is made from one piece of flat stock, a similar style bracelet, the “wire” bracelet is made from 2-10 or more separate bands of flat stock or round or triangular wire that are joined together at the ends.

Three “wire” bracelet made from three separate metal strips joined together at the terminal ends.

Three Wire bracelet made with round wire.

Three wire bracelet made with triangular wire.


What does “Vintage” mean in relation to Native American Jewelry?

Hi Paula,

I’m a regular shopper in your Pawn Shop and wonder what vintage means?


Hi Sue,

Webster defines the word vintage as a general term that is associated with a particular year such as a wine being of vintage 2009, for example. So in reality, it does not, in a global sense, designate any particular age, just “of an age”.

Here at Horsekeeping LLC, we have developed our own definition of vintage to describe items in our pawn shop. Here is that definition along with some other terms related to age.

Vintage – 30 years old or older, so something made in the 1980s or earlier. (However, with clothing, vintage means items made 20 years before the present day.)

NOS – New Old Stock. Made at least 20 years ago but never used.

Pre-Owned – An item of any age but that has been used.

First Phase – From 1860-1900. Read more about First Phase and Transition Period in  First Phase in Native American Jewelry

Patina – A dark or colored film of oxidation that forms naturally on metal by exposure to air and other elements. It is often valued for its aesthetically pleasing appearance. All items in our Pawn Shop, even NOS, have some patina. We leave it that way as some people like the natural patina. Otherwise sterling silver can be buffed back to a brilliant shine.

Here is another related article on the subject

Is this a rare style of Squash Blossom Necklace? Is it vintage?

Visit our pawn shop to learn more.  Paula

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To view our full list of article or to ask a jewelry question, follow the instructions here

If you are selling your jewelry, read this



Old Pawn…the real, real Indian jewelry

Excerpted from an article in Arizona Highways Magazine, March 1975

Vintage Native American Pawn Shop

On the Navajo Indian reservation anything 100 years old is very old, ancient, or antique. People and property of 50 years are old. Off the Navajo Indian reservation old pawn represents the real Indian jewelry.

Contrary to opinions of pseudo-experts, old pawn was not jewelry made only for pawn. Old pawn is not merely a piece of jewelry that an Indian has pawned because he has needed money. The search for old pawn is motivated by more than a romantic urge.

For us, the value and emotional attraction for old pawn Indian jewelry is that it has been owned, appreciated, worn, and used by real living Indians. We see old pawn jewelry as an intimate relic of a people and a culture which is slowly and inevitably disappearing into history. The more we learn of Indian silversmiths and old pawn jewelry the more we are convinced that the old silversmiths produced a higher standard of their art for Indians than they did for traders and non-Indians.

When a Navajo man or woman wanted a piece of jewelry he went to a silversmith, usually a relative. The piece was made to order and scaled to the wearer’s size and build. In most cases the buyer furnished the makings – silver, turquoise, old jewelry or whatever was needed.

Indian jewelry served as decoration, a display of wealth, and as collateral against loans at the trading post. The pawn rack was an important and respectable part of the economic and social life of the Navajo. Jewelry moved in and out of pawn at regular seasonal intervals synchronized to the spring and fall lamb, wool, and harvest activities. Much of the jewelry was withdrawn from pawn during the summer dances and ceremonials, and returned to the vaults again during the winter months.

The discerning Navajo knew beauty and excellence in craftsmanship and would not wear sloppily made, poorly constructed silver. The quality and color of turquoise may not have been the best, but the silversmithing was something else. The Navajos kept their silver bright, shining, and untarnished by brushing it in yucca suds and water.

The amount of cash or credit advanced depended on the amounts of silver and turquoise, and the owner’s credit rating with the post. It was seldom that a Navajo pawned all his silver with one trader. Old established traders set their own time limits with the individual regardless of the general law which only required traders to hold pawn for thirty days.

One licensed pawn rack at Gallup, New Mexico holds jewelry in the vault for 90 days. If the loan contract is not satisfied or renewed, it goes on display in a warning case for 30 days before it is classified as dead pawn.

In summary the old pawn racks were rich and splendid sources of the jewelry created by the finest Navajo silversmiths of their day, for their own people, and uncontaminated by taste and influence of alien people and cultures. If a piece of old Navajo pawn could talk, what a story it would tell of dances, ceremonials, and happy times along the beautiful way of Indian life.