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Native American Jewelry and Artifact Information
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Sand and Tufa Cast Jewelry

tufa cast sterling silver squash blossom style sterling silver necklace 23 1/2 inchNative American cast items are handmade items using one of several processes and materials.

Sand casting was developed by the Egyptians and introduced to the Dine’ (Navajo) in the 1880s. This method uses sand with a high clay content to form a mold from a template, an existing piece of jewelry or sculpture. Two halves of a box are filled with sand and the original piece is placed between them so the sand packs around the template to form an impression of the original piece.The boxes are carefully separated and the original piece is removed leaving behind an impression of the piece. A sprue (hole into which the molten metal is poured) and air vents are formed from the impression cavity to the edges of the mold and the two boxes are then bound together. Molten metal is poured into the sprue to fill the mold and allowed to cool. The box is separated and the newly cast piece is removed and finished by grindng, filing and polishing.

Tufa casting is used by many Navajo casters today to make an original piece of jewelry or sculpture. Using Tuff Stone, a porous rock from volcanic ash, Tufa Stone, a porous limestone that forms near hot springs, or Sandstone, a harder stone, the artist carves out an original design of an item to be cast, taking care to make the edges angle outward so the metal doesn’t stick into corners when the halves are later separated. A sprue is carved from one edge of the cavity to the edge of the form. Another flat stone is placed against the carved half of the mold. The halves are fastened together and molten metal is poured into the mold through the sprue. Once the metal cools, the form is separated and the casting is taken out and finished.

Sandcast sterling silver Hand made Native American Indian Jewelry; Navajo Sterling Silver Navajo braceletbracelets, like the one by Francis Begay shown here, are poured flat and then shaped.

Due to the porous nature of the stones, cast items will have character marks and imperfections such as small pits. That is the nature of tufa casting and Indian Hand Made.

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