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An outstanding Modernist-style Navajo

silver cuff bracelet by Austin (Ike) Wilson

for C.G. Wallace, c.1930-1950

One of the titans of 20th Century Navajo silversmithing was the great Austin Wilson (Active 1930’s-1950’s) who was

an extraordinarily accomplished and influential artist. Like his talented contemporaries and colleagues, Ambrose Roanhorse (1900-1986) and Kenneth Begay (1913-1977), Wilson also had a distinctly Modernist design sensibility and he used his formidable mastery of traditional Navajo silversmithing techniques to create pieces, like this lovely bracelet, with a startlingly spare and highly-refined design sensibility.

The bracelet is defined by six beautifully-applied, parallel and continuous bands of deep chisel-work and the shank is thus “divided” into four wide and three narrow parallel encircling bands. The contrast created by the subtle beveling

of these bands gives the bracelet an elegant, streamlined appearance and a certain feeling of lightness. To achieve this feeling in thick, unyielding hard metal is quite something. It may look simple, but it is truly anything but.

At left, this bracelet, c. 1940. At right, a much later Navajo silver cuff bracelet, c. 1990, by Austin Wilson’s nephew and former apprentice, McKee Platero. Note the striking similarities in overall design, shape and zoning.

At left, Charles Garrett (C.G.) Wallace, c. 1960. At right, C.G. Wallace pictured at his trading post at Zuni Pueblo with his Navajo and Pueblo silversmiths, c. 1930’s. Austin Wilson is likely somewhere in this photo.

Left and right photo source © Gene Cain. Center photo source and © Wikipedia.

Austin Wilson made this bracelet under the auspices of renowned Indian Trader Charles Garrett (C.G.) Wallace for whom he worked most of his career making high end jewelry for Wallace’s exclusive clientele. He was part of an all-star team of Navajo and Pueblo silversmiths working at Wallace’s trading post including Roger Skeet Sr., John Gordon Leak, Leekya Deyuse and Della Casa Appa.

You can argue about who in your life gets to wear this supremely beautiful and elegant bracelet and when with your husband or your wife, your boyfriend or girlfriend or your significant other, as the case may be, but in the end everyone will certainly win—there is more than enough enjoyment to go around here for both the wearer and admirer

of this unique and wonderful historic piece alike!


The bracelet measures 1 3/8” in continuous width along its entire length. The bracelet’s inner circumference end-to-end is 5 3/4” and the gap between the terminals is 7/8” for a total interior circumference of 6 5/8”. It weighs a substantial yet quite comfortable 63 grams or 2 1/4 ounces. The bracelet is in excellent original condition with a fine soft patina from its considerable age and use. There are various age appropriate nicks and scratches on the bracelet all of which lends to its historic character. The bright whitish “color” of the silver on this piece is particularly beautiful.

The bracelet is properly signed with Austin Wilson’s characteristic “Bow-and-Arrow” hallmark. And very interestingly, Austin Wilson left his mark on Navajo silverwork in other significant ways too. He was, along with his colleague, Jack Adakai (active 1950’s-1981) one of the two uncles and former teachers of the great contemporary Navajo silversmith McKee Platero (b.1957) who learned his lessons very well and went on to become perhaps the most renowned Navajo silversmith in the world today.