361-29a,b Pair of plain circular earrings; silver; d. 5 cm., w. 0.4 cm.; ca. 1880. Pieces of turquoise, strings of beads, and iron rings preceded the wearing of silver earrings. Babies of both...

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361-29a,b Pair of plain circular earrings; silver; d. 5 cm., w. 0.4 cm.; ca. 1880. Pieces of turquoise, strings of beads, and iron rings preceded the wearing of silver earrings. Babies of both sexes had their ears pierced soon after birth. The oldest silver earring, hammered to a flat hoop, was excavated on the rim of Canyon de Chelly and was dated as early 1860s. By the late 19th century women temporarily almost abandoned wearing earrings. This heavy type of silver earring collected by Ten Kate was worn by men, and was turned over the ear when riding a horse. Other earrings were elaborated with hinged pendants, a hollow silver ball, a squash-blossom bead or a cone-shaped pendant. In the late 19th century the popularity of such earrings declined and men preferred to wear traditional jaclas, strings of turquoise, in their ears instead (Woodward 1938:28-32; Adair 1944:48-49; Kluckhohn et.al. 1971:302-304; Bedinger 1973:56-58; Tisdale 2006:102-103; cf. Frank and Holbrook 1990:42-43,62; Bauver 2007:5,40,43). (Hovens 2009) 361-15, 26 through 31d, 62a,b Navajo jewelry Navajos wore jewelry long before the arrival of the Spanish. Necklaces, bracelets and earring were made from strings of turquoise, shell, and coral, valued raw materials that were obtained in intertribal trade. In earlier times bracelets were also made from deer horn. This material became pliable when boiled, and could be bent in the required shape. Turquoise was then applied with piñon gum. Well before 1800 Navajos wore items of iron, copper, brass, and silver jewelry obtained through exchanges with Plains and Mexican Indians, and through trade with Spanish-Americans and Mexicans. Informants stated that copper and brass jewelry had preceded silver jewelry. These materials were referred to in the Navajo language as red, yellow, and white metal respectively, the latter known as beshlah-k'ai. Although historical documentation is lacking, it is quite probably that some Navajo men were involved in smithing during this early time. The first reference to a Navajo silversmith dates from about 1850 and mentions Atsidi Sani (Old Smith) who learned the craft from a Mexican platero (silversmith). In 1853 a Mexican silversmith started working at the Navajo Agency at Washington Pass. Silver belts and horse bridles became cherished items of status among Navajo men, and women prided themselves with brass bracelets. As parts of annual issues, Navajos received copper and brass kettles, as well as copper and brass wire. In addition, they obtained silver coins, American and Mexican. All could be used as raw materials for making jewelry. During their captivity at Fort Sumner from 1864-1868 more Navajos probably learned to make copper, brass, and silver jewelry, and after the return of the people to their homeland the production by tribal craftsmen increased rapidly, with silver soon eclipsing the use of less precious metals. The use of turquoise in silverwork since approximately 1880 increased with the passage of time. Navajo artisans at first worked to satisfy tribal demand, and as Indians began to transform their growing wealth in silver items, jewelry became of major importance in interethnic trade as it could be pawned and redeemed. Gradually a trade in silver finery with neighbouring Native peoples developed. From the Navajos, the craft of silversmithing spread to the Zunis (see chapter X), Hopis, and Rio Grande Pueblos. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad through northern New Mexico and Arizona at the time Ten Kate was conducting his fieldwork in 1882-1883, a new market opened up. Travellers and the first tourists began to pick up items of Navajo silver jewelry as souvenirs and as wearable fashion accessories. Production soon increased, and was facilitated by using a variety of stamps to decorate silver items, and white traders such as the Fred Harvey Company who began to play an increasingly important part in supplying the tourist and eastern markets. Guided by their innate craftsmanship and tribal aesthetics, the Navajo incorporated new techniques, tools, shapes, forms, designs, and symbols, resulting in a extensive palette of silver and turquoise jewelry and exquisite utilitarian items that keeps captivating a contemporary audience (Matthews 1883; Franciscan Fathers 1910:271-285; Woodward 1938; Adair 1944:3-28,36,193-4; Mera 1960; Bedinger 1973:1-22,41-50,105-118; Neumann 1977; Jernigan 1981; Witherspoon 1981; Wheat 1982; Lincoln 1982; Roessel 1983:62-65; Frank and Holbrook 1990:3-24; Cirillo:1992:67-82; Kline 2001; Tisdale 2006). (Hovens 2009)


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