Posted on Apr 29 2015
Native American Sandcast sterling silver jewelry is a unique and recognizable style of jewelry. The surface has a patina with a soft sheen and a brushed look. The jewelry often has shapes and swirls that have an “Old Spain” appearance. The sandcast pieces are made with a generous amount of sterling silver and have a high quality feel and weight. Silversmithing techniques were brought to the New World by the Spanish and taught to the people of Mexico. By the 1850s, Navajo people in the Four Corners area had acquired some silver work from Mexican craftsmen through trading. The Navajo people wanted to learn to work with silver so they traded livestock for silversmithing lessons and learned the technique from the Mexicans.
It is a difficult labor-intensive process that involves many steps. Using Tufa Stone, a porous limestone, or Sandstone, the artist carves the shape and design of the item being cast. A great deal of skill is required to control the depth of the carving and the overall shape of the piece. Another flat stone is placed against the carved half of the mold. The halves are fastened together and a sprue hole is carved into one end. Molten silver is poured into the mold using the sprue hole. Once the silver cools, the item is taken out and the flat piece is shaped into a bracelet, ring or other item. The piece is hand finished, design elements may be added and finally it is lightly oxidized. This type of jewelry has an antique, Old World look with a slightly sandy texture on the inside of the piece. The mold is destroyed in the process of pouring the molten silver making each piece a one-of-a-kind original. Sandcasting is, perhaps, one of the most difficult silversmithing techniques to master.