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.
The Navajo (Dine’) learned how to work silver in the mid-nineteenth century. They had long appreciated silver jewelry that they acquired from Southwestern Hispanics and Plains tribes, but it is generally believed that they did not learn how to make metal jewelry until circa 1850 when Atsidi Sani became friends with a Mexican smith named Nakai Tsosi. Tsosi taught him how to work iron so that he could make bridles that he could sell to other Navajo. After the end of the Navajos’ internment at Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner in 1868, Nakai Tsosi taught Atsidi Sani how to smith silver for jewelry. He, in turn, taught his sons and other Navajos.
The earliest concho belts were made out of hammered coin silver. Their designs progress through stages, beginning with an oval shape that was scalloped on the edges, elementary stamping and chiseling. The center of the First Phase concho was an open diamond or oval and the back had a copper loop through which a leather belt could pass.
In the second phase of concho belt development, the silversmith had began to solder. He now soldered a silver, or later a copper, strap or bar across the back of a concho to run the leather belt through (more often silver in those early years). This allowed for the entire face of the concho to be decorated and kept the leather belt on the backside of the concho. The second phase is generally thought of as being durning the years of the 1890s through early 1900s.
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.
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