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“Kenneth Begay created clean, elegant designs based on streamlined shapes that were repeated to form balanced and harmonious patterns, a style that has been compared to Navajo weaving.”

-Quotation source and © “Totems to Turquoise”, Harry Abrams, Inc. New York, in association with the American Museum of Natural History

"I see the designs on potsherds and on Navajo rugs. I dream

about designs at night and then write them down and use them.”

-Kenneth Begay

An outstanding vintage Navajo Sterling silver

cuff bracelet by Kenneth Begay for the White Hogan Shop, Scottsdale, AZ, c.1950’s

This bracelet in a nutshell basically tells you all you ever need to know about Kenneth Begay’s (1913-1977) exceptional Navajo silverwork; it is at once classic, modern, elegant, graceful, perfectly conceived and just as perfectly crafted. Kenneth Begay’s work is revered everywhere fine Navajo silversmithing is understood and appreciated. Its formidable beauty and incomparable quality even provided the original inspiration for the now world-renowned Hopi jeweler, Charles Loloma (1921-1991), to begin making jewelry. This bracelet’s design is a masterpiece of inspired artistic conception and formidable technique. The design is a positive/negative continuous line of interlocking Navajo textile-like hooked designs all the way around.

These designs work together both horizontally and vertically. It is very much like the continuous interlocking borders around the outside edges of certain Navajo textiles as seen below and the texturing of the positive half of the designs beautifully recalls the texture of the wool in Navajo weavings and the contrast between the textured silver areas and the more polished areas provides a superb visual tension with the use of open space becoming a positive and powerful visual force. Too, the silver shank of the bracelet is beautifully domed or arched upwards along its entire length, giving it a distinctively wonderful raised profile. Overall, the bracelet has an extraordinarily precious, almost hand carved from a solid block of silver quality to it, a truly spectacular and incredibly skilled artistic presentation.The technical execution done in fine chisel, file and delicate, infinitely precise stampwork is superb as it always is with Kenneth Begay.

The historic continuity of 19th and 20th Century Navajo silversmithing was handed down from Slender, Maker of Silver (1831-1915)

at left to his son, Fred Peshlakai (1896-1974) at center and then in turn to Peshlakai’s student, Kenneth Begay (1913-1977) at right.

Left photo source and © Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, NM. Center photo source and © Chicago History Museum. Right photo source and © Arizona Republic.

As seen in the photos above, Kenneth Begay was the premier student of the great Navajo silversmith, Fred Peshlakai, who was himself the student and descendant of the greatest known Navajo silversmith is history, Slender, Maker-of-silver. This bracelet also has an interesting personal history. According to its longtime previous owner

from whom we recently acquired it, the bracelet was given to her as a special gift when she was a young lady from a well-known family friend whose husband had originally purchased it for her at The White Hogan Shop in Scottsdale, Arizona on a trip to the Southwest in the 1950’s. The White Hogan Shop where Kenneth Begay was partner and Manager set the standard for fine Modernist-style Navajo silverwork from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. She told us further that she has had the bracelet stored in a drawer for the past 30-plus years which accounts to some degree for its remarkably fine original condition. In this way, this piece is a time warp of sorts, decidedly of late middle-age, 70 or

so years old, but still just a youngster at the same time.

The bracelet measures 3/4" in continuous width all the way around. The inner circumference end-to-end is 5 1/2" and the gap between the terminals is 1 1/4" for a total interior circumference of 6 3/4". The bracelet weighs a very comfortable and easily wearable 40 grams or 1 3/8 ounces and it is in remarkably excellent original condition, and particularly so for its 70 or so years of age, There is a tiny nick or two or slight scratch here or there, but it is terrific overall. There is also what appears to be a very slight line crack slightly to the side of the KB stamp on the inside of the bracelet. This line is not really a crack as it does not go through the surface of the silver shank, it might possibly be an errant tooling mark or slight stress line. The bracelet is properly and beautifully signed on the back with Kenneth Begay’s customary capital letters “KB” initials inside a serrated square and is also marked with the White Hogan Shop’s famous domed Navajo Hogan insignia. The bracelet is also marked “Sterling” and “Handmade Original” in electric pen in Kenneth Begay’s customary cursive script.

This bracelet is a remarkably fine example of the very finest work of one of the most outstanding artists in Native American history. It would be a great credit to any collection, public or private. Pieces such as this are precisely why Kenneth Begay is universally considered to be one of the greatest Navajo silversmiths ever, the legendary, revered and most appropriately named “Father of Modern Navajo silver.”


Detail of border of historic Navajo Crystal Trading Post rug, c. 1910, showing interlocking hooked designs and positive/negative spaces.

Photo source and © "The Navajo Weaving Tradition", Koffmann and Selser, E.P. Dutton Ink, New York, 1985, pp. 85