Carve Tufa Stone by Ric Charlie

Tufa Casting

Native tribes in the Southwest have been creating ornamental jewelry for many hundreds of years. Before the Spanish ever arrived, these tribal artists had mastered the art of heishi bead rolling and lapidary. However, it was not until the 1800s that they learned to work metal from Mexican smiths. The Navajos were the first tribe to cast silver jewelry in the late 1870s and the technique spread to the Zuni and Hopi tribes by 1890.


Mokume-gane is a metalworking process where multiple metals are combined under high temperatures to create beautiful patterns in the metal. Mokume-gane, a Japanese word, roughly translates to "wood grain metal" which is a good description for the patterns this process can create.


One of Navajo silversmiths’ greatest innovations was their use of stamp work to decorate silver. Navajo silversmiths have mastered the stamping technique to a point of almost mathematical perfection, creating beautifully intricate designs in silver. Stamps were historically handmade from iron or steel and often passed down from generation to generation. Even modern artists may still inherit stamps for silverwork....


Overlay describes a piece of silver with a design cut out of it – a negative design – laid over a second piece of silver or gold and soldered together. First, the artist carefully cuts a design out of silver, and keeps the part that is leftover. The designs must be carefully sawed out, making this the most painstaking and intricate step in the whole process. This piece of silver is then soldered onto a sheet of plain silver and the inside of the design (the cutout area) is oxidized to show up black beneath the polished silver layer.
Heishi Bead Necklaces

Heishi Bead Necklaces

Heishi (from the Santo Domingo word meaning “shell”) traditionally referred to necklace shell beads. Today, however, it describes tiny, handmade beads of any material.