Navajo silversmiths began casting silver jewelry with tufa stone in the late 1870’s. Tufa casting is a traditional process using natural materials. Tufa is compressed volcanic ash which is porous, and leaves an identifiable texture on finished silver or gold. The tufa stone is found on the Navajo reservation. Once a right sized stone has been found, it is cut in half and smoothed to prepare a carving surface. A sprue hole is carved at the top where the molten metal will be poured in once the carving is compete. The artist carves the design onto the inside surfaces of the stone, then the stone is heated to carbonize it, and the two sides of the mold are bound together. Molten metal is them poured in thru the sprue and left to cool. Once the hardened metal is taken out of the mold, it is sanded and cleaned by hand, and shaped into it’s final form. Tufa stone is very fragile, and the molds often will only last for one casting, making tufa cast items unique creations.
This tufa cast cuff features Spiney Oyster Shell, which you will often see inlaid or used as cabochons and the color combination of Spiney Oyster and turquoise is as old as the human love for adornment. Coming all the way from the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, Spiney Oyster shell is most commonly seen in orange, red and purple. The more strident the color, the more expensive the shell is. Red and purple shells are found a much greater depth than the brilliant oranges, and are rare and more expensive. Spiney Oyster beads of good color are much coveted and can be worn with all of your turquoise and silver pieces.
Shop the Santa Fe Style Collection for striking contemporary jewelry, handcrafted by artisans who draw on the rich history of the Southwest.
This collection features trending artists popular in the Four Corners and loved by locals here in New Mexico. The jewelry featured here is a fusion of traditional techniques, passed hand-to-hand across generations, and modern artistry.