Tuesday, January 24, 2017

An Important Piece Everyone Should See

Once in a while, a piece comes our way that is so informative that we want everyone to see it, for what it can teach us. Here is one of those pieces, a truly great all-silver Navajo bracelet with a stunning twist.

The decoration on this bracelet is done with a combination of stampwork, filework and repousse, which is typical of high-quality early bracelets. It is fashioned from an annealed band of ingot silver, and then decorated before being rounded into bracelet shape.

This view of the inside shows the three long repousses, as well as some of the delaminations that developed in the silver during the annealing process. You can also see the sall bosse on the terminals, which were done by repousseing and filing the fluting onto the front side, a very difficult and time-consuming process. But what is truly stunning about this bracelet can be seen in the next photo:

In addition to the initials RNB, undoubtedly the original owner, there is a professionally engraved date on the back, the year 1905. Clearly, the original owner (or even a very early owner) took the bracelet to a professional jeweler and had initials and a date engraved on the back, where it can still be clearly seen. It is incredibly rare to find a great early piece with an associated date, and it shows what fine work the early Navajo silversmiths could accomplish. We and other scholars of old Navajo silver have always associated repousse and filework with pieces from this era, and this bracelet proves without a doubt how skilled the great artists of the 1900-1905 era really were at stampwork as well.