Ya’at’eeh Copper

What comes to mind when you think “Navajo jewelry”? When someone thinks of Navajo jewelry, there is a safe assumption that it consists of either silver and/ or turquoise. I just returned from a show in Santa Fe (IFAM, to be exact) and I loved explaining the NB x JS Collab earrings to others. I spoke to the modern designs and affordability of the collab, but mostly, that it emphasizes our knowledge of how we  acknowledge what Native jewelry is today.

For this collaboration with Jeff Slim, the collab earrings were first made with brass but I quickly found myself attached to the rich, brown tones of copper. Aside from my aesthetic reasons, scholars have been noting Native use of copper for years. John Adair (1944) notes that most early Navajo jewelry was made of copper and brass prior to silver. Copper was also used by the Utes, Comanches, Kiowas, and other Southern Plains Natives when they wore copper concho belts (Taylor 2002). The early Natives would forge nuggets of copper to thin, workable pieces. Today, the same technique and skill continues. As seen in Kristen Dorsey’s blog post, copper pieces along the Mississippian regions continue to be used in present Southeastern adornments for daily use or ceremonies. (Fun side note: Kristen’s husband wrote his Master’s thesis on copper, so he can provide the perfect citations.)

Parting from the historical references, this particular collection was not forged from natural, local copper, but hand sawn from copper sheet metal with an already made design useful for multiple creations. I wanted the collab to be within the $100 range so that more people, namely a young generation of buyers, could have access to them.

The earrings create a good blend of Navajo design and metal skill. This set of macro photographs tries to highlight the slight curves and texture of each piece. The photos don’t capture the hooks, which have some texture and equal thought to form. See more of Jeff Slim’s work at his TUMBLR site.

Read more about the NB x JS Collab herehere, and here.


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