Navajo Sterling Silver Medicine Bear Belt Buckle
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What is Overlay?
Overlay pieces are made of two layers. The bottom layer is a solid sterling silver piece. The top layer has a cutout design. The cutout is placed over the bottom layer and the two pieces are "sweated" together, that is heated so that they become one.
The bottom layer (background to the cutout) is usually accented. The Navajo silversmiths oxidize the bottom layer which darkens it. Hopi silversmiths oxidize and etch the background (texturize it) with hashmarks.