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It almost looks good enough to eat, doesn’t it? This scrumptious bracelet is a real serious stunner; a gorgeous old ingot-silver bracelet set with a precious piece of top-quality Burnham-Godber turquoise, one of Nevada’s and the world’s very finest varieties of turquoise. Let’s start with the silver bracelet and then we’ll talk some more about this exceptional turquoise stone.
The silver shank of the bracelet was formed in the traditional classic Navajo manner by hammering out and shaping
a cast-ingot silver “slug” made from a quantity of melted-down American and/or Mexican silver coins. When the silversmith had formed the bracelet’s shank to the desired size and shape he decorated it with absolutely superb stamp work and phenomenal chisel work shaping. The stamp work designs are done in elaborately detailed lozenge-like shapes. The chisel work and burnishing all along the sides of the silver shank is so beautifully done as to give the entire bracelet a completely unique, almost hand-carved aspect. Then, if all that wasn’t enough, here comes the crowning touch—the absolutely outstanding large Burnham-Godber turquoise stone.
Burnham-Godber has long been considered one of the world’s finest turquoises and was at one time even sold at Tiffanys. Originally discovered in 1932, the mine was first called the “Last Chance” before being sold to Frank Burnham and later to Walter Godber. Burnham is known for its exceptionally vivid blue color and for its very dark grey or black mottling or blotching with various dark veins running through the stone which creates an impressive spiderwebbing effect and appearance. Burnham turquoise also possesses a notable hardness. We would guesstimate this superb stone to be in the 12-15 carat range making it about a $600-$800 stone today if one was fortunate enough to be able to find it. The oval-shaped cabochon stone measures 1” in length and 5/8” in width and is beautifully set in a very finely-serrated silver bezel in the center of the bracelet with the applied stamp and chisel work designs beautifully flanking it on both sides.
The bracelet measures 11 1/16" in width at its widest center point tapering to just under 1/2" in width at the terminal ends. The inner cisumference end-to-end is 5 3/4” with a 15/16” gap between the terminals for an overall interior circumference of 6 11/16". The bracelet weighs a very comfortable 36 grams or 1 1/4 ounces. It is in excellent original condition overall with a lovely soft glowing patina from age and use. There is what appears to be a slight old crack on the interior surface of the bracelet to one side of the stone, but there is no evidence of a crack or separation on the outside of the bracelet.
It appears to us that when originaly making the bracelet, the smith might have cracked it when doing some final chisel or shaping work and simply repaired it at that time. A small amount of the applied stamp work has been slightly obscured by this original silver repair. Rather than detract from the piece or pose any sort of structural or aesthetic problem, this very small original Native repair attests to how highly valued this piece was by its proud maker. There is also what appears to be a very slight dark-colored crack in the turquoise stone. On very close examination under a magnifying glass, this does not actually look (or feel) like a crack as the stone’s surface is completely undisturbed. Rather, this appears to be a very thin vein of the stone’s natural dark-colored matrix running through the stone.
This bracelet is probaby not a piece for those who like everything perfectly even and perfectly symmetrical as if made by a modern-day machine. It has some distinctly handmade slight irregularities and unevenesses and some dedicated wear, which to us only adds to its considerable charm and beauty. This is what old hand-crafted Navajo jewelry at its best looks like in our veiw.
To us, this is a superb artistic and technical presentation in every conceivable way; a remarkably beautiful
and beautifully-crafted precious and historic piece.
A very beautiful vintage Navajo silver bracelet set with a large Burnham-Godber Nevada turquoise stone, c. 1930’s