Indian Silversmithing

Today, Native American silversmiths are among the best in the world. But how did they learn this craft, from the Europeans? When the colonists arrived in America, they brought with them the art of silversmithing, especially the Spanish, who in general cherish beautiful things. So, it was after Mexico broke away from Spain that one day, a Navajo Chieftain walked into the shop of a Mexican silversmith and asked to be taught the beautiful craft.

The chief learned, and became quite good at it, so he then taught his four sons the art of silversmithing. All was going beautifully, the Navajo were making gorgeous jewelry, when in 1864 the American cavalry took them captive and the Navajo were kept in prison. Still in prison, the old chief kept making jewelry, and taught the other Navajos the art as well. Four years later, they were sent to live on a reservation. The Indians took their tools along and silversmithing spread further among the Navajo.

in 1872, one of the old Chief’s sons, Astidi Chom, showed his friend, Lanyade (from the Zuni tribe) how to silversmith. Lanyade then traveled around the country, selling the silver Jewelry he made, and one day traveled into the territory of the Hopi (which was within the Mexican border).

There, Lanyade taught the craft to the Hopi, who embraced the new form of Jewelry making.

As the Navajo were the first tribe to begin silversmithing, the Hopi and Zuni tribes made their jewelry in the same style as the Navajo, which was not many gems, but the silver was intricately cast into beautiful shapes and designs. After a while, however, the other tribes began making their own signature style: the Zuni made theirs with the stones in a regular, radiating pattern, and the Hopi use the silver merely to hold the mosaic of bright stones, which were very colorful and in spectacular patterns.

 

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