NATIVE SOUTHWEST JEWELRY TERMS

Authentic Handmade Indian Jewelry

Authentic Handmade Indian Jewelry sterling silver sign

Applique is a decorative technique in which silver cutouts, such as feathers or leaves, are soldered to silver jewelry.

Backing is material cemented to the back of cut turquoise to provide support. Backing is considered ethical as long as only enough is used to do the job.

Baroque cabochon is a cabochon in a “free form” shape. It is often created to save some of the considerable material lost when making a traditional cabochon.

Cabochon is a gem or bead cut in convex form and polished.  The two styles of cabochons are geometric (cut to a specific shape like an oval or a square) and baroque (free form style having no defined geometric shape).  In the turquoise trade, “Cabochon” is shortened to the word “Cab”.

Cast is a technique of forming silver jewelry that uses molten silver and a mold of sandstone, concrete, tufa, or other material.

Chalk is soft or porous grades of turquoise that must be treated before they can be used as gemstones.

Channel Work is when a number of silver frames are constructed in an “egg carton” configuration.  An individual stone is cut to fit each frame, cemented into place, and all are mounted in the entire surface and ground and polished.

Cluster is a term used to describe Zuni style stone work.  A group of shaped stones are set together in individual bezels.

Coin Silver is when silver from old coins are used in jewelry. It usually has a content of about .900 purity.  Early Indian work used U.S. and later Mexican high-silver coins as primary sources of metal.

Concho is from the Spanish word for shell and is a large piece of silver in round or oval shape with scalloped edges.  Conchos are found on some belts, pins, bolo ties, and other articles of jewelry.

Fetish is any natural or man made object, usually in the shape of bird, animal, or other life form, in which a spirit is believed to exist.

Filework is a technique which uses a file for finishing or smoothing silver.  Files can be used to make decorative lines or designs on silver.

Fine silver has a metal content of .999 purity.

German silver or nickle silver is an alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc with NO precious metal content.  This alloy resembles sterling silver and is used in less expensive jewelry.

Hallmark is a maker’s mark.  Indian makers’ marks of the Southwest consist of cast, stamped, or engraved initials or symbols, usually located on the backside of a piece of jewelry.

Heishi is the Santo Domingo word for “shell”.  Heishi refers to fine, hand rolled beads of turquoise, shell, coral, or other materials generally made in the Rio Grande pueblos.

Inlay is a technique were a decorative stone or mosaic is set into silver or shell and is slush with the surface.

Jocla is the Navajo word for “earring” and usually refers to the double loop of rolled turquoise beads that hang like a pendant from turquoise and shell necklaces.

Ketoh is the Navajo word for “bow guard” and is a silver and leather wrist guard, often adorned with turquoise or other stones set in silver bezels. It is one of the earliest uses of silver by Southwestern Indians.

Matrix refers to veins or spots on a rock or piece of turquoise.

Mosaic is a decorative technique in which small pieces of turquoise, shell, coral, or other stone forms a design that is set into an article of silver or shell.

Naja is the large adornment at the base of a squash blossom.  This crescent moon-shaped silver pendant is frequently adorned with turquoise.  The Moors used this form as an amulet to ward off the evil eye.  Later, the Spanish brought it to the New World as an ornament on their bridles, where the Indians adopted it in their jewelry making.

Needlepoint are stones, usually small, that have been finished to fine points on both ends and set in individual bezels.  These stones are usually placed close together in geometric patterns.

Old Pawn or Dead Pawn is jewelry that Indians would pawn at the nearby trading post when they needed money or supplies.  The jewelry that was never claimed is called “dead “pawn”.

Oxidize is to blaken silver deliberately with a chemical in order to create greater contrast or to accent a silver work design.

Petitpoint is a type of stone cluster which uses stones that are oval, teardrop or round in shape.  Petitpoint with completely round stones is sometimes referred to as “snake eyes”.

Repousse is a decorative technique in shich hand wrought silver is hammered from the reverse side to create raised or embossed, dome like designs.

Sandcast is one of the most difficult of all silver working techniques.  Sand casting is done by pouring liquid metal into a carved tufa or pumice mold.  After cooling, the rough piece is removed, filed, and polished. Bracelets are normally cast flat and pounded into shape later.

Squash blossom is a silver bead, sometimes embellished with turquoise or other materials, that has petals attached that represent the pomegranate blossom.

Stabilize is to treat turquoise with a plastic, oil, resin, or other substance to give it greater hardness.  Dye may be added at the time of stabilization to darken color of a pale stone.

Stampwork is a decorative technique which uses small metal punches similar to leather punching tools to stamp designs into silver.

Sterling silver is a metal with silver content of .925 purity alloyed with a .075 copper to make it harder.

Turquoise is a semiprecious stone, hydrous aluminum phosphate, with a hardness of Moh 5-6.  Copper salts give the stone its distinctive blue-green color.

Tufa is the calcareous and siliceous rock deposits of springs, lakes, or ground water.

Wrought is a technique of forming handmade silver jewelry that involves the hand hammering of silver into a desired shape.

Spiderweb turquoise has a matrix pattern looking like the tiny web of a spider.  These thin lines may be any color but dark, especially black, are considered to be the most valuable.

Variscite is a hydrated aluminum phosphate mineral (AlPO4·2H2O). It is a relatively rare phosphate mineral. It is sometimes confused with turquoise; however, variscite is usually greener in color. Variscite is a secondary mineral formed by direct deposition from phosphate-bearing water that has reacted with aluminium-rich rocks in a near-surface environment. It occurs as fine-grained masses in nodules, cavity fillings, and crusts. Variscite often contains white veins of the calcium aluminium phosphate mineral crandallite. Variscite from Nevada typically contains black spiderwebbing in the matrix and is often confused with green turquoise. Most of the Nevada variscite recovered in recent decades has come from mines located in Lander County.

Tucson Turquoise 1990 – 2017 © Schannep Ventures L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

 

 

 

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