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A historic Navajo silver “row” style cuff
bracelet with nine beautifully-matched Blue Gem, Nevada turquoise stones, c. 1930’s
ex: Laura Anderson Collection, MA
There’s a good reason they call it “Blue Gem”. First, because it’s absolutely gorgeously precious-looking and second, because it’s extremely hard and durable. Blue Gem is the bomb and this wonderful row bracelet has no less than nine of these beautiful blue-green babies, all perfectly matched, perfectly cut and perfectly set into a perfectly graduated row in the center of this perfectly crafted piece.
The unknown Navajo silversmith who made this baby not only knew his stones, he knew his silver. The bracelet’s silver shank is beautifully and elaborately constructed of two wide parallel silver panels, carinated or triangular in profile. Running down the center between the two panels along the entire length of the bracelet is a double row of very finely hand-twisted silver wire.
The nine beautifully-faceted hand-cut matched turquoise stones are separately mounted on individual silver bezel platforms down the center of the bracelet’s shank. In a subtle and lovely touch each of the bezel platforms is surrounded by very finely-twisted silver wire. The nine silver bezels themselves are the old style “Foldover” type. The carinated outside sections of the shank are beautifully decorated all the way around with fine repeating stampwork designs and the central panel of the nine set turquoise stones is perfectly and delicately accented with eight pairs of expertly applied silver “raindrops” plus an additional one at each end of the panel.
The silverwork, particularly the upturned treatment of the end terminals and the overall outstanding level
of craftsmanship on display here reminds us of the work of the great Navajo silversmith, Ambrose Roanhorse (1904-1981) artist, educator and co-founder of the Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild, but alas we will never know this for certain, as the bracelet is too early to bear a signature. At the end of the day no matter who made it, the undeniably obvious fact here is that the overall concept and construction is a masterful and elegant display of artistic imagination and technical virtuosity. Bravo!
The bracelet measures 1” in continuous width all the way around. The inner circumference end-to-end is 5 7/8” and the gap between the terminals is 1 3/16” for a total interior circumference of 7 1/16”. The bracelet weighs a substantial yet completely comfortable 83 grams or 2 7/8 ounces and it is in excellent original vintage condition. Two of the nine turquoise stones have slight cracks but this is of no consequence.
A few words about the provenance; the late Laura Anderson (1944-2017) of Mattapoissett, Massachussetts was a longtime colleague and friend. Her specialty as a collector and dealer in Native Arts was vintage Navajo silver and she was an accomplished, knowledgable and enthusiastic expert in the field. Laura sold this piece to a private collector a number of years ago and we were subsequently able to acquire it.
Now’s your chance to do the same; historic pieces this remarkably beautiful, this beautifully made and in such
beautiful condition come along not very often, and when they do come they usually go in fairly short order.
Blue Gem Turquoise
This mine, which is no longer active was located about six miles south of Battle Mountain, within a large copper-mining operation. Of the several Nevada mines that are named Blue Gem, this is the largest and most famous. It produced a great variety of turquoise from intense blue to deep green combinations with a hard, irregularly distributed matrix. Blue Gem’s hardness and fine colors makes this turquoise much sought after by both jewelers and collectors.
- Blue Gem turquoise photo and text source and © Waddell Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ