Thursday, July 14, 2011

And we have a Winner!

One of the first techniques used by Native Americans in jewelry making was the use of Tufa Casting, or as it's more commonly referred to, Sandcast. Very early on, from the mid 1800s, wet, stiff sand was artfully shaped and molten metal, usually sterling silver, was poured into the mold. This renders a unique look and the result is often pretty weighty. The cast sterling, once removed from the mold, had to be filed smooth and delicately shaped by the artisan. The molds deteriorated after each use and the castings change slightly each time. If the artisan needed several cast elements for something like this Concho Belt, a mold would often have to be re-created thus rendering slightly different characteristics as each new mold was made. There were no precision measurement tools available and casting work was all done by “eyeballing” the shape of the mold.

This 1880 to 1900 Concho Belt pre-dates what Native American jewelry aficionados refer to as “Phase One”; a specified time period when the art form first came to fruition. The craftsmanship is outstanding—the unknown artisan took this belt very seriously and it shows. That the leather belt is original is a miracle in itself. The belt was used for a period and acquired by a serious collector who stored it for close to a century and it's condition is beyond reproach.

I've seen thousands of Concho Belts and owned several, but this is by far the best representation of Navajo casting work I've had the pleasure to even see much less be able to acquire.

No comments:

Post a Comment