Saturday, March 26, 2011

Old Pawn Native American Handcrafted Jewelry

“Old Pawn” is a designation given to pieces that weren't necessarily left at a pawn shop and never claimed, although it's often the case. There are construction techniques and design styles that will often be labeled as Old Pawn, and these are, more often than not, pieces made before the 1950s.

WWII saw a lot of Native Americans in the armed forces, and when they returned home they brought a plethora of tools with them that changed how jewelry was made. Precision instruments that either took the place of doing things by hand or made it considerably easier to craft works in a more refined way as well as faster. Old techniques were abandoned by many of the Native silversmiths yet others stuck with their methods as tradition played a big role in creating their works of art.

Old Pawn is the most sought after genre of the art form and many artisans are returning to traditional techniques as it gives the jewelry a feel of authenticity that's hard to achieve without getting your hands dirty, so to speak. This Kirk Smith Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace was made sometime in the 1990s and is very traditional in it's design and construction. This set of Earrings by contemporary Navajo artisan Alex Sanchez also pays tribute to Old Pawn jewelry—this is something Sanchez kind of dabbles in--much of his work is quite contemporary, but he does fantastic work when adhering to tradition.

We've acquired some impressive Old Pawn works as of late, great examples of the art form from different southwestern tribes. This Navajo Beaded Necklace with it's amazing turquoise stone and sterling work is hand made right down to the clasp. This Navajo Choker is also handcrafted with each sterling bead being slightly different from the others. It's still on it's original hemp string and the clasp is hand made on this one as well. This set of Navajo Dangle earrings is pretty remarkable; handcrafted sterling beads, the wires connecting the elements are encased in sterling tubes and the ear wires are handcrafted.

Our Bolo Tie collection has grown considerably in the last month with some Old Pawn pieces being acquired. This Navajo Repousse and turquoise bolo is based on concho belt designs from the 1930s and 40s. The handcrafted nature of this piece is undeniable and it's bold design is well executed using primitive tools. Zuni stone to stone inlay relies heavily on the lapidary skills of the artisan and this Old Pawn Zuni bolo tie is a stellar example. Not only was the artisan skilled in the lapidary field but was obviously an accomplished silversmith as well—the sterling lanyard tips are handcrafted specially for this piece. Many Navajo artisans didn't adopt lapidary work right away and the rough turquoise stones on this Navajo shallow shadowbox bolo are held in place with specially hand cut sterling bezels—the look is unique and you just don't see it very often. The sterling lanyard tips are handcrafted on this bolo too, and incorporate a wave design—again, very unique.

Stellar older works are appearing on the website with regularity and I couldn't be more pleased. Having the capacity to represent the Native American art form in it's finest and most traditional genre is what I strive for. Were I to list all the Old Pawn works available on the website, this would turn into a novel. This video features several of our Old Pawn pieces.

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