Why Silver?

Why Silver?

Waystone currently is offering sterling silver for the metal elements of the jewelry.  Why silver rather than base metal or gold?

My family has lived in the Southwest US going on the fourth generation.  I have always loved the jewelry of the Southwest, characterized by silver and stone.  The stone typically is turquoise.  The Southwestern  jewelry has an interesting history.  The people of the Southwest have been making jewelry since antiquity but only incorporated silver into the jewelry starting in 1870.  That’s not very long ago for an ancient civilization.  While the Native Americans of Central and South America were crafting items out of gold, silver, and copper for millennia, the Native Americans of what would become the U.S. didn’t include metal smithing in their craft skill set.  

A Navajo known as Atsidi Sani learned iron smithing from a Mexican man in about 1850.  He hand-made horse bridles for sale for many years.  In 1866 silver was discovered in aptly named Silver City, New Mexico.  Then in 1877 another lode of silver was discovered in New Mexico.  Atsidi Sani had the right skills at the time silver became readily available in the region. Little is known about him but he must have had a creative streak as he started making and selling jewelry.  He taught the skill to other Navajo.  The Zunis learned the skill from them.  Then the Hopis learned.  Then many other pueblos learned the skill.  The Native craftspeople applied both traditional designs and wonderfully creative new designs to the jewelry.  The jewelry trend could have flowered and passed, but in 1876 the Atcheson, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad reached New Mexico.  The railroad opened the market reach of the jewelry makers and brought travelers to the region that collected and spread the love of the jewelry. 

A confluence of skill, materials, artistry, transportation, and timing created Southwestern Jewelry’s enduring success.  

In addition to be a tradition for this part of the country, is there any other reason why silver?  While attractive, silver is a pleasant material to work.  It’s not too hard and not too soft.  It hardens with working to make durable jewelry while not being difficult to anneal while making the jewelry.  

One characteristic of silver is that it tarnishes.  You can love that characteristic or leave it.  I love silver when it is just slightly tarnished.  To me, tarnish evokes the look of antiquity and of being of the earth.  Along with being a precious metal, the sense of being of the earth makes silver a nice complementary material for Waystone.  And if you don’t like the look of tarnish, fortunately it cleans off easily.

The stone, your stone, however is the star of the jewelry.  While I like silver, I’m not saying that Waystone will never offer jewelry in other metals.  Send us an email if you have an idea or suggestion to share.


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