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A beautiful historic Navajo ingot
silver and turquoise carinated “bangle”
style bracelet, c. 1920
This one is a real old-style beauty, an early 20th century Navajo narrow “bangle” style bracelet made by an
anonymous, but obviously very highly-skilled Navajo silversmith. The bracelet was painstakingly made from a cast ingot-silver “slug” obtained by melting down a quantity of old American and/or Mexican silver coins. The silver “slug” would then have been hammered out and filed into shape. The bracelet’s carinated or triangularly-shaped silver shank has been flattened on top and chisel cut on either side of the central flat platform and continues outwards on both sides in a carinated form to the bracelet’s terminal ends which have been slightly rounded.
The bracelet features three very beautiful and nicely-matched oval-shaped clear blue with brown matrix turquoise stones which might possibly be from the famed Cerrillos turquoise mine in New Mexico near Santa Fe. Alternatively,
they could be from the highly-renowned Sleeping Beauty Mine in Southern Arizona. Both of these fine mines were active during the early part of the 20th Century when the bracelet was made. The stones are attractively arranged end-to-end in a row and set into old style “Foldover” type silver bezels. The stones are further and beautifully accentuated by four rows of two applied silver “Raindrops”, eight in all, interspersed between them. On either side of the panel of stones, the bracelet’s silver shank is beautifully decorated on both sides with restrained lovely stampwork designs.
The bracelet measures 3/8" in width at its widest center point and tapers very slightly along its length down to 1/4" in width at the end terminals. It is sized for a medium to smaller-size wrist. The inner circumference end-to-end is 5 5/16" and the gap between the terminals is 1" for a total interior circumference of 6 5/16". It weighs a very comfortable and easily wearable 31 grans or 11/4 ounces and is in excellent original condition overall particularly for its near century of age. One of the three turquoise stones is cracked, but is completely stable and solid in its setting.
The bracelet has a marvelous smooth soft patina from age and use and literally “glows” with that lovely look and lustre that old Navajo ingot-silver pieces can take on with age and use. There is also some tarnish in evidence which could be easily removed by polishing the bracelet with silver polish. We have left that decision to the bracelet's next forunate owner. These older pieces are rare and increasingly hard to come by in the marketplace today for the simple reason that many of those lucky enough to own one do not care to part with them so we were well pleased to be able
to acquire this piece recently from the personal collection of a member of a longtime New Mexico Indian trading family.
This one is a true old-style beauty as we previously mentioned, a subtle and very finely-crafted
historic piece for the knowledgable and discerning eye.
At left, an historic 1910 photograph entitled "The Silversmith's Daughter" by J.R. Willis of Gallup, NM. At right, a Navajo silversmith at work in his hogan, c. 1910. Perhaps ten years after these photos were taken, this silversmith made this bracelet for this young girl, now a young woman.
Left photo source and © J.R. Willis, Gallup, NM. Right photo sourceu and © Alamy