Volume I

Oscar X Branson

Oscar X Branson

introduction

Southwestern Indian jewelry has probably become the foremost American craft. It has not only become a monetary investment for millions of Americans but an investment in beauty they can enjoy every minute of the day. We think of it as truly American, and it really is. The squash blossom necklace is composed of three main components all of foreign origins. They are put together in a very unique and original manner. Possibly nowhere else in the world has such a beautiful piece of jewelry been evolved which uniquely belongs to a single people, the Navajo Indians.

The concha belt is another example of the foreign elements of design which the Navajo adopted, changed and developed into a very unique piece of jewelry and a symbol of the Navajo nation. True, there are silver belts made and worn by tribes and people around (he world but none so unique or individual and even wearable by almost anyone as is the Navajo concha belt. The bracelets that have been designed and made by the Indians, especially the Navajo but also all the Indians of the Southwest, are again unique creations, indigenous to the Southwest even if some of the original ideas are borrowed. They combine the elements of beautiful white silver and lovely blue turquoise, which to them symbolizes the beautiful Western skies. Nowhere in the world is the sky more deep turquoise blue and the clouds more pure silver white than over the Southwest Indian country. It is no wonder living among this natural beauty that such uniquely beautiful jewelry be developed, made and worn by every Indian man, woman, and child and usually in great profusion. Traditional styles and designs were mostly used in Ihe illustrations of this book. There has been no drastic change in Indian jewelry design during the last fifty years although styles are constantly changing under social and economic pressures. There has been a trend by some silversmiths to add numerous elements such as leaves, feathers, flowers, but this has not really altered the design: only a cluttering has happened of what could have been good design. At the present time there are many young and brilliant Indian jewelers. Their creations foretell great and surprising changes in the future design of Indian jewelry, But even with the prospect of great change in the future, the traditional designs and ideas will always be the foundation to the inspiration and will increasingly be used and collected. This book is intended as a step-by-step how-to-do-it method of making jewlery. Not only Indian jewelry but any kind of jewelry. Where only one method or technique has been illustrated, there could be several different ways to do the same thing. The most important thing this book is intended to provide is the basic knowledge of how jewelry Is made so one can judge If It is well made and of basically good design.

The rings pictured around the border are an attempt to illustrate the chronology of ring making by the Navajo Indians of the Southwest. The dates are at best only approximate as the styles and history of development varied greatly during the same period in time according to the areas across the vast Navajo reservation.

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