Hand-Forged Silversmithing: Coin Silver and Ingot

Silver has been a cornerstone to Southwestern Native American jewelry since the Spanish first introduced the metal to the region in the mid-1800s. Since then, silversmithing has diversified into various techniques, but the original method of hand-forged silver is still highly regarded as a time-honored practice, requiring an exceptional level of craftsmanship. Today, artists use antique coins or ingot bars to hand-forge silver jewelry.

History of Hand-Forged Silversmithing in the Southwest:

The origins of Navajo silversmithing can be traced back to the mid-19th century, a time of profound change and upheaval for the Navajo people. With the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in the Southwest came the introduction of metalworking techniques, including the art of silversmithing. The Navajo, known for their adaptability and resourcefulness, quickly recognized the potential of this new craft and began incorporating it into their traditional jewelry making practices.

In the early days of Navajo silversmithing, artisans primarily worked with simple hand tools. They melted down silver coins, often acquired through trade or commerce, and forged them into intricate pieces of jewelry such as bracelets, necklaces, and concho belts using anvils, hammers, and files.

As Navajo silversmithing continued to evolve, artisans began experimenting with new techniques and materials, pushing the boundaries of traditional craftsmanship. Innovations such as stamping, repoussé, and filigree work emerged, adding intricate textures and designs to jewelry pieces.

Hand-Forged Silversmithing Today:

While uncommon, there are still artists today who partake in the traditional silversmithing ways of hand-forging silver out of antique coins or ingot bars. The antique coins used today are generally 90% pure silver content, similar to sterling silver’s standard of 92.5% pure silver. Artists may also choose to begin with ingot bars made out of sterling silver. Like coin silver, the ingot bars are melted down into rough shapes for jewelry components, then once the silver is cooled and solidified, the jewelry is carefully hammered and detailed into its final form. This time-intensive process creates gorgeous jewelry that is truly handmade from start to finish. Some of our favorite artists who create forged coin and ingot silver work are Cippy Crazyhorse, Jock Favour, and Perry Shorty.


Shop Coin Silver Jewelry

Shop Ingot Jewelry


Related Articles: Tufa Casting, Overlay, Stamping, History of Navajo Concho Belts

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.