Thursday, December 8, 2016

Silversmithing terms every collector should know, part 3

And one last time, with the help of the glossary found in SOUTHWEST INDIAN SILVER FROM THE DONEGHY COLLECTION, here is a guide to some of the important terms found in silverwork in general, and Southwest Indian silverwork in particular.(Illustrating photos are shown above the corresponding term.)

SHEET SILVER--silver formed into a flat sheet of uniform thickness, normally by mechanical means. Commercially produced sheet silver has been available in the Southwest since 1929.

SILVER--well, duh. Seriously, early silverwork (pre-1910, generally) was made from melted coins, which were normally around 90% silver and 10% copper. When laws were enacted making it illegal to destroy American currency, traders substituted silver ingots or slugs, which were a higher purity of silver. (Still looking to see when those laws were passed.)

SPINY OYSTER--a bivalve from the Gulf of California with a mottled red and white shell that was traded both prehistorically and historically to the tribes of the Southwest. Often set in silver jewelry or cut into beads. Not to be confused with red abalone, which has a similar look.

SPLIT BAND OR SPLIT SHANK--a basic form of bracelets (band) and rings (shank). A flat silver band is split in the middle, with the ends being left alone, and the splits are then spread out to widen the piece.

SQUASH BLOSSOM--a bead consisting of a conical blossom attached to a round bead, frequently used in combination with other types of beads in a type of necklace that has also taken the name of Squash Blossom. The form is likely derived from Spanish trouser buttons, which were in the form of pomegranates.

STAMPWORK--decoration of a silver surface by striking it with a metal stamp with a raised design. By repeating simple elements, elaborate designs can be formed with simple tools.

TURQUOISE--the generally blue or blue-green mineral that is the most commonly used stone in Southwest Indian jewelry and silverwork.

WIRE--silver wire was a commonly used decorative element, and the earliest bracelets were simple silver wire bangles. Early wire was hand-drawn through a draw plate, while later in the early 20th Century commercial square and round wire became available.