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NAVAJO CONCHO BELT BY ARTIST LEE CHARLEY
Is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, usually copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925.
SILVER, for example 99.9% pure silver, is relatively soft, so silver is usually alloyed with copper to increase its hardness and strength. Sterling silver is prone to tarnishing, and elements other than copper can be used in alloys to reduce tarnishing, as well as casting porosity and fire scale. Such elements include germanium, zinc, platinum, silicon, and boron. Recent examples of alloys using these metals include argentium, sterlium, sterilite and silvadium.
The Sleeping Beauty Mine, located in Globe, Arizona, is no longer an active mine. For many years it produced a wide range of turquoise that is now even more highly prized for it’s solid soft blue color, with little or no matrix. The color of the turquoise ranges from a deep royal blue to a light sky blue. The mine originally was worked for copper and gold but during the last five decades or so it has produced gemstone quality turquoise in quantities to satisfy the commercial market. In general, the miners lease portions of the “dumps” and sort turquoise from there.
There is a small town in south central Italy, near Naples, famous for its cameos. Their needs for huge quantities of this material over the years have always kept the supply down and demand high. The clear blue is reminiscent of old Persian turquoise, and is without doubt the most preferred and prized by Europeans, both for cameos as well as in bead or jewelry form.
There is a sister mine nearby, called the Bluebird, that produces some of the world’s most beautiful azurite. This material is a copper oxide and also contains malachite, crysacolla as well as a mineralized copper or cuprite. This is a rare and undervalued gem stone that has all but disappeared from the marketplace.
The word concho, sometimes spelled concha, comes from the Spanish word meaning shell. Some of the first “conchos” were made of melted silver dollars and resembled a shell—it is commonly thought this is how the name came about. In Spanish, the correct word is concha, with an a at the end and is pronounced like an ah sound. However, most people now-a-days refer to the Native American style belt as a concho belt, with an o.
Although it is commonly said the Navajo (Dine’) borrowed the idea from Spaniards, the concho belt has become a long-standing Native tradition. Concho Belts reportedly began appearing in Navajo country in the late 1860s or early 1870s. Other Native Americans including the Zuni and Hopi also made traditional Concho Belts before long.