© 2010-2021 by Fine Arts of the Southwest, Inc. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or use is strictly prohibited by law.
A large historic Navajo silver cuff bracelet
by the Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild, c.1940’s
Ex: Lynn D. Trusdell Collection, New Hope, PA
THIS SPLENDID AND UNIQUE silver bracelet is the product of the distinguished silversmiths of the famed Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild (NACG). The Navajo Guild was created in 1941 by the Navajo tribal authority in association with the U.S. Government’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB). The Co-Founders of the Navajo Guild were the renowned Navajo silversmith and jewelry instructor, Ambrose Roanhorse (1904-1981) and his former student, the talented Navajo silversmith, Chester Yellowhair.
In addition to an already distinguished career as a silversmith and jewelry instructor at various New Mexico Indian Schools in Santa Fe and Fort Wingate, Roanhorse had most recently served as Co-Director and Administrator of the IACB’s “U.S. Navajo” and “U.S. Zuni” jewelry inspection and quality-control program and was thus extremely well-qualified to administer a new enterprise dedicated to preserving and maintaining the quality and traditional integrity of Navajo silversmithing and jewelry-making. In his capacity as the Guild’s initial director, Roanhorse recruited, inspired and trained a veritable all-star team of the finest Navajo silversmiths of the time. To read more about the Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild,
Some of the greats who passed through the Navajo Guild’s doors were Kenneth Begay, Allan, George and Ivan Kee, and Hopi silversmith, Lewis Lomay. Others who quite possibly were involved anonymously were Austin and Kathy Wilson, Billy Goodluck, Jack Adakai and Harry Morgan. The Guild’s quality standards were extremely high and centered around the use of traditional Navajo silversmithing methods with emphasis on classic techniques, with a primary emphasis on working the silver itself with a minimum use of set stones and an elegant, streamlined, modernist design aesthetic based on purity of form and restraint in applied decoration.
This bracelet is perfectly aligned with those principles; its design is classic and clean with a finely-done, wide chisel-worked channel down the center which has been most beautifully accentuated with a continuous panel of curved parallel stamp work designs. Both the top and bottom edges of the shank have been decorated with a continuous row of beautifully connected semi-circular stamps. The overall effect here is of a streamlined and sophisticated elegance.
Like all Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild jewelry of this time period, this bracelet is marked only with the Guild’s famous “Horned Moon” hallmark and not the signature of the individual maker in accordance with
the Guild’s regulations. The bracelet measures 1” in width along its entire length and is on the larger size with an inner circumference end-to-end of 5 15/16”, a touch less than 6”, and a 11/2” gap between the terminals for a total interior circumference of 7 7/16”, just a bit shy of 7 1/2”. It measures 2 1/2” across
on the inside at the widest point. It weighs a comfortable and easy to wear 56 grams or 2 ounces.
The bracelet is properly hallmarked on the interior with the Navajo Guild’s famous “Horned Moon” insignia. There is also a very nicely engraved old-fashioned looking inscription which reads “To Mother with love” on the interior of the bracelet, a dedication to an unknown previous owner. The bracelet’s last previous owner who we knew well and worked with regularly was the renowned Native American Jewelry collector, Lynn D. Trusdell (1938-2008) of New Hope, PA from whom we purchased the bracelet in around 2000. Lynn was one of a generation of remarkably knowledgeable and enthusiastic dealers and collectors along with Teal McKibben and Marti Struever of Santa Fe and Lauris Phillips of Los Angeles.
The bracelet is in excellent original condition with an age-appropriate amount of minor scratches and nicks. For its 70-80 years of age it looks stunning with a wonderful, fine patina. We should all look so good at this age. This bracelet is a remarkably beautiful, skillfully-crafted, distinctive piece of historic Navajo jewelry with a distinguished, proud legacy and fine provenance.
“It sure feel good when you wear hand-made jewelry. If they use machine jewelry, by golly,
one these days 20 years from now goin’ to have big sandstorms-10 years, 8 years, maybe 5 years.
That’s the way I feel. I learned to make silver from my Grandfather.”
-Ambrose Roanhorse, 1936
Quotation from Billie Hougart, “The Little Book of Marks
on Southwestern Silver”, TBR International, 2011
The Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild is still in operation today.
Here is its outlet in Cameron, Arizona.
Ambrose Roanhorse, c. 1940’s