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An exquisitely-crafted Navajo “coin-silver”
bangle bracelet by Perry Shorty, 2018
PERRY SHORTY IS A TRUE GIANT among Navajo silversmiths today, making remarkable, masterfully-crafted
and traditionally-styled pieces such as this splendid coin-silver bangle bracelet.
Perry Shorty (B.1964) is proof positive that 19th century quality and hand craftsmanship are still alive and well in
the 21st century. All of Perry’s silverwork is beautifully and meticulously crafted, but he saves his very best and
most interesting efforts for his old-style, “Coin-Silver” pieces, such as this gorgeous bangle. The process of making such a piece is long and laborious; it begins by finding old turn-of-the-last-century American silver coins such as the “Barber”-style half dollars and quarters as shown below and then melting them down and casting them into small ingot-silver “slugs” which are then patiently hand hammered out into the desired shape and size of the bracelet after which they are painstakingly decorated with precise, perfectly-executed and detailed chisel, stamp and file work.
Then the bracelet is carefully shaped and contoured, and, finally, everything is buffed and polished. The amount
of concentrated effort and careful attention to detail this work requires is nearly impossible to imagine.
“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.”
The bracelet features an all the way around the shank end-to-end design field composed of two opposing bands of perfectly-applied stamped crescent-shaped designs in the bracelet’s center which are beautifully bordered on the top and bottom by finely chiseled lines and serrated stamped diagonal designs. The top and bottom of the bracelet’s shank are also decorated all the way around with slightly differently styled crescent stamped designs. Amazingly, Perry achieved this remarkably complex design which contains an almost unbelievable 240 or so separate stamped elements using only three different stamps and a chisel. Simple tools wielded perfectly making incredibly complex compositions,
a complete triumph of incredibly well-done stampwork.
Perry Shorty demonstrating silversmithing, c. 1999.
The designs on the bracelet perfectly accentuate the bright “white” color of the ingot coin-silver which even though
the piece is only a few years old, it is already beginning to develop the classic, beautiful patination that Perry Shorty’s “Coin-Silver” pieces always acquire in time, like the traditional turn-of-the-century pieces that originally inspired them. The bracelet measures 3/8" in width all the way around tapering just very slightly at the terminal ends. The inner circumference end-to-end is 5 5/8" and the gap between the terminals is 1 1/16" for a total interior circumference of
6 11/16". The bracelet weighs 39 grams or 1 3/8 ounces, good weight for its slim size. The bracelet is in excellent original condition and it is properly signed “P. Shorty” and also marked “Coin-Silver” on the interior in Perry Shorty’s distinctive cursive hand.
All in all, it’s a remarkable synthesis of the old ways with a modern viewpoint. Narrow silver bangles such as these were made by Navajo silversmiths without stones beginning around the 1870’s. These were generally decorated only with simple filework and basic stamped designs and it is here that Shorty has brought his more Modern viewpoint to bear, putting his own stylized “spin” or interpretation so to speak on his presentation of a traditional, older style piece.
This extraordinary synthesis of the classic old and the modern new is why Perry Shorty sells out his work almost immediately wherever and whenever he exhibits, such as at Santa Fe Indian Market or The Heard Museum fair. It’s extremely difficult for something to become an instant classic, but Shorty achieves this with amazing consistency.
This bracelet may have been made in 2018, but in terms of its appearance, craftsmanship, methods and materials it could just as easily have been made in 1918. Perry truly channeled and improved upon his Navajo ancestor’s work with this extraordinary piece; it is a complete triumph of old-fashioned artistry and craftsmanship in a modern era.
Some of the types of historic American coins Perry Shorty uses to make his "coin-silver" jewelry pieces.