The classic Navajo jewelry designs of Thomas (Tom) Curtis reflect his upbringing in a family of talented silversmiths. Both of his grandfathers were silversmiths, and with their encouragement, Thomas Curtis began crafting traditional Navajo jewelry at only 12 years old. Today, his heavy-gauge silver jewelry has become highly prized to collectors who value skillful silverwork with precise hand-tooled details.
His deep-rooted respect for his craft earned Thomas Curtis many awards for his Navajo jewelry and impeccable sterling silver boxes. Since his first year at Santa Fe Indian Market in 1984, he won countless ribbons including Best of Division, First, Second, and Third Place awards.
Thomas Curtis remembered his grandmother once telling him, “You can make it with your vision, your mind, and your 10 fingers. Everything is right here in your hands." Her inspiration was proven true, as he created all his own die sets (stamping tools) his entire life, which made the patterns on his jewelry uniquely his.
Despite his reputation as one of the industry’s premier silversmiths, Thomas Curtis lived a traditional life on the Navajo reservation, where he found inspiration for his jewelry by “looking at the ground, the sky, the plants, and the four seasons." He was proud of his days as a champion rodeo rider and felt blessed to have shared his craft with his children and grandchildren.
Today, the traditions he learned from his grandparents live strong in Thomas Curtis’ family. His daughter, Jennifer Curtis, has a following for her exquisite Navajo jewelry and boxes, with skillful silversmithing techniques that have been passed on through generations. He said, "When my kids picked up my work, that was real encouraging to me because it means the traditions are going to go on."
Thomas Curtis passed away on June 29, 2013, but his legacy lives on through his timeless handcrafted jewelry.