Jewelry Collector’s Guide – Sand & Tufa Casting
The Southwest is known for the beauty and drama of its landscapes, from red rock canyons and rolling deserts to expansive blue skies and shimmering sunsets. The Native Americans who have lived here for thousands of years have a deep connection to, and respect for, this natural world, and their reverence for nature deeply influences their art.
The value of Native American jewelry doesn’t just lie in the cost of materials, like silver and stones. When you purchase a piece of authentic Native jewelry, you’re also receiving the artistic tradition and wisdom that inspired the piece, and the knowledge and expertise that brought it to life.
Native American jewelry created by the sandcasting or tufa casting process is often more valuable than other pieces because of the special talent needed to carve a design out of sand or stone, then pour molten metal into the mold, often creating a one-of-a-kind piece of wearable art that often has luxurious turns and curves, and a soft metallic patina.
Sandcasting is one of the most challenging techniques to master, but when done correctly, the pieces are as unique as the person who carved the design into a sand mold, which usually only lasts long enough to create one or two pieces.
Sandcasting is a generations-old method of jewelry used by Navajo and Native American silversmiths. In the casting process, a design is hand-carved into sandstone, creating a negative space where molten silver or gold can be poured. After casting, the piece is refined and decorated by hand. A single sand cast can take 3 or 4 days to carve and usually lasts for only a handful of castings, making this a fragile process that is practiced by only the most skilled artists. Jewelry created through sandcasting is often bold in design and substantial in silver weight and is favored by Navajo silversmiths to create both traditional and contemporary work.
Beauty From Carved Stone
Tufa casting is a generations-old method of jewelry making developed by Navajo silversmiths. Tufa is a porous volcanic stone found in New Mexico and Arizona that is easy to cut and carve. In the casting process, a design is hand-carved into tufa stone, creating a negative space where molten metal, such as silver or gold, can be poured. After casting, the piece is refined and embellished by hand.
Like sandcasting, tufa molds last for only one or two castings, making this a fragile process that is practiced by only the most skilled artists. Jewelry created through this process can be identified easily by the distinctive, pebbled texture left on the metal by the tufa stone during casting.
Here to Help You Pick the Perfect Piece
At Indian Pueblo Store, we select the finest pieces of jewelry that will be treasured for years to come, whether it’s for you or a special gift for others. We invite you to explore our collection of sand-casted and tufa-casted pieces. And remember, our expert team is here any time to answer questions or to help you find your next piece of wearable art.
Shane Thomas (Diné) & Andrew Thomas (Diné)