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A beautiful contemporary Navajo Style

Sterling silver and turquoise cuff bracelet

by Brett Bastien, Santa Fe

Do you actually have to be Native American to make great Native American style jewelry? In strictly technical by the book Santa Fe Indian Market terms the answer is yes, but in real-world artistic terms it is definitely not the case.

And numerous excellent examples abound. Take the brilliant French-Moroccan born master Southwestern jeweler Evelyn (Eveli) Sabatie whose chance meeting with renowned Hopi jewelry artist Charles Loloma at a Hopi laundromat in 1968 turned into a four-year apprenticeship and a subsequent thirty-years independent career as an outstanding Southwestern jeweler. Or Arizona Native American arts dealer, Jerrold Collings who through direct apprenticeship became one of the finest living Chemehuevi Indian basket weavers despite not being a Chemehuevi Indian.

Then there’s Illinois-born Santa Fe ceramic artist, Rick Dillingham, whose completely inventive style of Native American-inspired Southwestern pottery impressed even the greatest of our Native American Pueblo pottery makers, such as Maria Martinez, Margaret Tafoya, Dora Tse-Pe and Dextra Nampeyo.

All of which brings us to the contemporary Santa Fe jewelry artist, Brett W. Bastien, (b. approx.1960) who is one of the very few non-Native American graduates of the prestigious Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) here in Santa Fe. There he learned from two of the finest Native American artists of the Modern era, Hopi Modernist jeweler, Duane Maktima and Hopi ceramic artist and painter, Otellie Pasiyeva Loloma. Brett’s jewelry has a wide stylistic range, he works in classic Navajo styles of fabrication and tufa-casting and also works in Modernist Hopi stone inlay style, but whichever his pieces are always distinctly his own characterized by their exceptional craftsmanship and distinctive appearance and this dramatic cuff bracelet is no exception.

The first thing one notices here is that the silverwork on this bracelet is simply superbly done. The fabrication

of the silver shank and bezels is flawless and the silver is smooth and very finely polished and has a marvelous precious silky feel in the hand and on the wrist. The bracelet is prominently decorated with five nicely-polished turquoise stones, three of which are Kingman, Arizona and the other two of which are Chinese spiderweb. The stones are all richly-colored and beautifully matched in their varieties. The two different types of turquoise work very beautifully together. The five stones are all nicely set in old-style “foldover” type silver bezels and in an interesting and highly attractive arrangement there are three asymmetrically-shaped stones, one large Kingman

and two large Chinese spiderweb set in the bracelet’s center and one smaller oval-shaped Kingman stone set on each of the terminal ends.

The bracelet measures 3/4” in continuous width all the way around. The inner circumference end-to-end is 5 5/8”

and the gap between the terminals is 1 1/4” for a total interior circumference of 6 7/8”. The bracelet weighs an impressive yet very comfortable to wear 118 grams or 4 1/8 ounces and the silver shank is 1/8” in thickness. The bracelet is in excellent original condition and it is properly signed with Brett W. Bastien’s hallmark “BWB" and is also marked “.925” for Sterling silver.

All in all, this is a strikingly bold, very beautiful and very finely made Southwestern-style bracelet, whether

Native American or not. A lot of quality Southwestern jewelry for not a lot of money.