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Glossaries

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Native American Jewelry Glossary Index


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Bezel

is a ring of metal, soldered to a base, that surrounds a stone and holds it in place.



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Cabochon

stone with a convex surface and a flat base


Casting

is pouring molten metal into a mold and letting it harden.


Chasing

is a method of engraving silver or other metals with an awl or other pointed instrument applied to the surface by hand, as opposed to punched or struck with a hammer.


Coin Silver

is silver melted from hard currency -- 90% silver and 10% copper.


Concho belt

is named after the Spanish word meaning “shell” are round or oval silver disks, which may be stamped with decorative patterns or set with stones. Single conchos are often used for belt buckles or bolo ties. First Phase concho belts are characterized by a diamond slot cut out in the middle of each concho, through which a leather belt was threaded.


Coral

was introduced into the Southwest by the Spanish, but was not used until approximately 1938, when traders imported it to Zuni Pueblo. Most comes from the Mediterranean seas, varying in color from white to blood red. It is calcareous skeletons amassed in a wide variety of shapes often forming reefs.



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Fabricate

is constructing a unique object cutting, shaping, hammering, soldering, texturing and stamping.


Fetish

is an object, sometimes but not always of stone with zoomorphic properties believed to be the place where spirits dwell. The fetish can be natural or deliberately shaped or carved. Stone fetishes are used in the Kivas of various Pueblos of the Southwest, and replicas or adaptations of them are used in necklaces carved of turquoise or other materials and sold as jewwelry. The Zuni people are particularly well known for carved fetish jewelry.


Fossilized Ivory

is usually walrus task and may have a slightly golden tint.



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Handwrought Silver

is also called hand-hammered.


Heishi

are disk shapes of shell or stone, often strung to form necklaces.



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Ingot Silver

is cast into a bar to be worked.


Inlay

is setting a decorative pattern of stones into silver.


Ironwood

is a petrified wood from Mexico, deep mahogany in color.



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Jet

is a hard, black and shiny form of fossil lignite used for jewelry making, developed during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Jet was used for beads, fetishes and for inlay.



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Ketoh

is a leather strap worn at the wrist to protect the skin from the snap of a bowstring. One of the earliest utilitarian objects to be decorated with silver and then silver and turquoise, also referred to as a bow guard.



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Lapis Lazuli

is a deep blue semi-previous gemstone of lazurite.


Lost Wax

is a method of casting metal by making a wax model, coating it with clay to form a mold, and leaving small holes for the wax to escape when heated. Molten metal is poured into the mold, filling the space left by the "last wax" also called cire perdu.



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Malachite

is a variegated green mineral carbonate of copper.


Mother of Pearl

is the parly internal layer of certain mollusk shells.



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Naja

is the Navajo word for the crescent-shaped ornament suspended from squash blossom necklaces and horse bridles.


Natural turquoise

has not been added to or adjusted, apart from its shape. Stabilized turquoise has been chemically hardened with liquid resin or plastic.



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Overlay

involves soldering one piece of silver to another piece of silver.



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Petrified Wood

is wood from early geological ages which has been turned to stone (a form of agate) from the action of mineral-permeated waters.



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Repousse

is creating a design in relief by hammering or doming out, the shape from the reverse side.



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Serpentine

is a semi-precious stone, native to the Southwest. A streaked dark green with a somewhat oily luster.


Sheet Silver

comes in different thicknesses (gauges).


Spiney Oyster

is an orange-colored shell (Spondylus).


Squash blossom necklace

is a necklace of silver beads interspersed with pomegranate-shaped silver pendants; from the bottom hangs a naja, or crescent-shaped pendant. One of the earliest styles of necklaces made by the Navajo, it originated in the 1880’s and has sustained its popularity over the years. Many artists set the naja and other pendants with turquoise or other stones.


Squaw wrap

is a method of tightly wrapping cotton around the loose ends of a beaded necklace.


Stamp work

is a process of decorating silver with punches or stamps. These stamps impress their design into a piece of metal once a hammer is applied to the flat end of the stamp with some force.


Sterling Silver

consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.


Sugilite

is a purple stone from the Kalahari Desert of South Africa, ranging from pale lavender to deep purple.


Swaging

is to bend or shape by using a swage, which is a tool for shaping cold metal.



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Treated turquoise

has been altered to change the stone's color.


Tufa casting

is casting into a porous rock made of volcanic ash.


Turquoise

is a hydrous basic phosphate of copper and aluminum, ranging in color from sky blue to very pale green. Various mines yield characteristic colors and matrices.



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Variscite

is a soft green gemstone sometimes resembling turquoise.



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