Antique Indian Silver Jewelry A brief history of Indian silver work in the Southwest.
While the art of Indian-crafted silver has flourished in the 20th century, all Indian jewelers can trace their art to a Navajo named Atsidi Saani, who learned blacksmithing at Fort Defiance, Arizona, in the 1850s. (It is generally believed that the Spanish colonizers of the Southwest purposely kept the techniques of metal working from the region's native peoples.)
When Navajo people returned to their beloved mesas and canyons in 1868, following the four-year internment at Bosque Redondo, their new, more settled way of living led to many changes. Among other things, as they were no longer nomadic, they had greater opportunity to learn from each other. The People had long admired and used metal ornaments and horse equipment. They had used brass and copper wire to create bracelets and coins to fashion buttons. Atsidi Saani applied his metal working techniques, as appropriate, to silver, and he began to teach others.
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By Bruce Bernstein former Curator at the Laboratory of Anthropology and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe.
Originally appeared in The Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe, Taos, & Albuquerque – Volume 4