Southwest Indian Jewelry: Belts and Buckles

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The Navajo (Diné) are a people who have added much beauty to their world and ours. Beauty is a quality they particularly appreciate; it is a repeated theme in their songs, ceremonies and in their rugs and jewelry. The Diné lifestyle and arts are those of a nomadic. They depend heavily on the horse and lavish their creative talents in weavings and silverwork on them. Perhaps there is some correlation in living with nature that sparks their creativity.

The concho or concha belt is an example of a foreign item adopted and adapted by the Navajo. It may have originated with the Mexican silver concha bridle or, more likely, from the German silver hair drops worn by Plains Indians. In either event, the Navajo made it an item of beauty for their own use and an item by which they could fashion their wealth in silver and wear it for protection since there were no safe deposit boxes for storage.

The Navajo (Diné) were the first Native Americans in the Southwest to master the techniques of silversmithing. It was learned from Mexican silversmiths and quickly became an art form of beauty by the Navajo.

The Navajo are best known for production of concha belts, but pueblo silversmiths also made them. Joe Quintana and Silviano Quintana are known to have made them-some signed and others not.