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#118: Second Phase

February 16, 2010

Oh hi, more chapter and verse on the concho belt…

I always make new friends on my trips out West. Last fall I met home boy Ed Samuels of Puma Trading Co., an ex-New Yorker, who has been keeping the family’s appetite whetted by sending us some very special pieces when he comes across them.  It’s good to have good friends with good eyes and good taste and good hearts.  Next time you’re in Santa Fe, please stop by Ed’s gallery on Paseo de Peralta by Canyon Road and tell him I sent you.

One of these pieces d’Ed is a Second Phase concho belt, c. 192o, approximately.

Second Phase Navajo concho belts are noted for repoussé, a technique used to give dimension to silver. Repoussé is achieved by raising the surface of the metal by hammering out from behind, and then refining the design on the front by further hammering and file work (decoration).

This Second Phase belt has large, heavy conchos with repoussé  and “butterfly” separators in between.  These butterflies are common on many Second and Third Phase belts.

Absolutely delicious patina on this beautiful buckle, also featuring repoussé, and stampwork and engraving.

Another easily identifiable feature that differs the Second Phase from the First Phase is the use of copper loops behind the conchos with which to wear on leather, rather than a more primitive center slot opening in the center of the concho to slide the leather through.

The Second Phase of Navajo concho belts also marked the graduation from completely hand-cut pieces to ones that were made using solder techniques, a long and difficult process for the early Navajo silversmith.  Although the process was considered “revolutionary”, these pieces were made during the same time as the First Phase, beginning in the 1880’s and for many decades afterwards by aging silversmiths.  The marked difference as seen in Third Phase concho belts is the use of turquoise stones worked into the designs, which became largely popular in the 1930’s and perhaps gives the concho belt its most memorable appearance.  I personally prefer the older, all silver pieces but to each their own as each eye is free to follow its intuition.

Atsidi Sani, which translates to "Old Smith", known by many to be the first Navajo silversmith.

But even better than wearing these pieces or hanging them on the wall is knowing that they passed through the hands of an old silversmith, and that perhaps a little bit if him has traveled with it over the course of its journey into your hands.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2010 12:07 am

    Very cool and insightful post. Thanks!

  2. February 17, 2010 7:42 am

    Great post & pics, especially of old SilverSmith, looks like a very hip Dude

  3. March 1, 2010 2:59 am

    Love to see the smiths at work…
    not much in the way of tools, but strong style
    Hearty inspiration
    thanks…

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