M U S E U M  O F  I N D I A N  A R T S  &  C U L T U R EM U S E U M  O F  N E W  M E X I C O
Keystone of the Arch: The Stewart Collection


The Stewarts donated fine examples of of silverwork, 232 pieces in all, including concha belts, bracelets, necklaces, horse bridles, buttons, buckles, earings, pins, rings, bowguards, and silver boxes. Many of those on disply in The Keystone of the Arch are Navajo (Diné) made.

The Diné fabricated silver ornaments for themselves and for their horses by the 1860s, originally learning the craft from Mexican smiths. Navajo jewelers began to manufacture silverwork similar to Mexican siver bracelets, Mexican tobacco canteens and Plains Indian concha belts, items traded to the Diné for blankets or other goods. American and later Mexican coins were the primary source of silver, and turquoise stones were added in the 1880s to adorn the white metal.

During the 1880s, the railroad reached the Southwest and the resulting tourist trade profoundly affected the production of jewelry. Commercial enterprises changed the materials and the manner in which Navajo silverwork was produced and distributed. Today some smiths continue to use traditional Navajo jewelry designs and materials. Others are innovators, experimenting with new components and unusual styles.