Jewels of the Southwest: a new exhibition highlights the work of Navajo silversmiths

Silver bracelet with stamping and oval turquoise setting; Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, courtesy of John and Linda Comstock and the Abigail Van Vleck Charitable Trust

On a trip that was funded primarily by business magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller in the fall of 1932, Harry P. Mera (1875-1951), curator of archaeology at the Laboratory of Anthropology on Museum Hill, scoured the trading posts on the Navajo Reservation to gather a collection of unique jewelry items. In Collecting Jewelry: Curator H.P. Mera’s Trip to Navajo Country in 1932, on exhibit at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (710 Camino Lejo, 505-476-1269, indianartsandculture.org), you can see the fruit of his work: an outstanding collection of Navajo jewelry made before mechanical tools became widely available. Handmade from silver coins and silver ingots, the pieces reflect the craftsmanship and artistry of artisans from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who established traditions in jewelry-making that continue in the present. The exhibition highlights the significance of Navajo silversmith’s materials and the beneficial (and sometimes detrimental) relationship between the makers and the trading posts. The exhibition opens at 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 1, and is on view by admission through Dec. 1. 

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