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An exquisite large pair of contemporary Navajo cast-ingot “coin-silver” Concho-style earrings by Perry Shorty
Navajo silversmith Perry Shorty (b.1964) is proof positive that 19th century quality and hand craftsmanship are still alive and well in the 21st century. Perry is a craftsman of the old and completely traditional school, hand-making absolutely everything without the use of modern high-tech tools and methods. Everything he does could have been done and looks like it was done in the late 19th Century as opposed to a century later.
And while all of Perry’s silverwork is beautifully and meticulously crafted, he saves his very best and most interesting efforts for his old-style, “Revival” type “Coin-Silver” pieces, such as this absolutely gorgeous pair of earrings. The process of making these earrings was long and laborious; it began by finding old turn-of-the-last-century American silver coins such as “Barber”-style half dollars and quarters then melting them down and casting them into an ingot-silver “slug” which was then patiently hand hammered out into the desired shape and size of the earring after which it was painstakingly decorated with precise, perfectly-executed and detailed chisel, chisel stamp and file work, then the earring was carefully domed and contoured, and, finally, everything beautifully buffed and polished. The amount of concentrated effort and complete attention to detail this process takes is nearly impossible to imagine.
These earrings are, quite simply, not for the faint of heart. They are large and in charge, so to speak, and they have some serious substance to them and wow do they have a powerful and impressive presence. They are most beautifully and profusely decorated with meticulously executed stamp and chisel work in a radiating starburst-like design reminiscent of the designs on old silver Navajo Concho belts. But, interestingly here, Perry has put his own modern individual twist on to this traditional Navajo design by taking the oval shaped Concho medallion which is normally oriented horizontally and turning it on its head to stand upright. It’s a fascinating and completely effective idea. The central panel of the Concho earring with its radiating outwards chiseled lines is surrounded by a finely scalloped outer edge or border which is itself decorated all the way around with beautiful crescent-shaped stamp worked motifs.
The earrings measure an imposing 1 3/4” in height and they are 1 5/8” in width and just shy of 1/8” in thickness.
They weigh 28.5 grams or 1 ounce each. Because of their larger size and weight Perry mounted them on silver posts with “Omega” clip safety closures for additional security and comfort. The earrings are in excellent original condition and they are properly signed “P. Shorty” in Perry Shorty’s customary cursive signature and are also marked “Coin-silver” on the back of each earring.
Exalted craftsmanship and exquisite beauty such as this is why Perry Shorty’s jewelry is prized all over the world and why for years many Japanese and other overseas collectors have made regular pilgrimages to America to have an opportunity to buy from him directly at the annual Santa Fe Indian Market and The Heard Museum Fair in Phoenix.
“I try to keep things simple. The old smiths didn’t have a lot of
tools and materials to work with, and I like doing it their way.”
We have been fortunate to have bought and sold quite a few pieces of Perry Shorty’s wonderful jewelry over the years and we can confidently say that in our estimation these earrings are among the most distinctive and impressive pieces of his which we have ever seen. That is saying quite a lot indeed.
Perry Shorty demonstrating Navajo silversmithing at the Hopi Cultural Center, c. 1999.