Jewelry Collectors Guide – Concho Jewelry
The concho (or “shell” in Spanish) is one of the most widely recognized shapes in Native American jewelry, often featuring a sterling silver oval or circle that is stamped with a central radiating design. The team at the Indian Pueblo Store hopes this concho jewelry guide is helpful to better understand the significance of American Indian art.
A Look Back
Conchos were developed from the designs of Plains Indians hair ornaments and Spanish bridle decorations, and became a distinctly Navajo form of jewelry. The first concho belts were made by Navajo silversmiths in the 1870s-1880s.
In these early pieces, artisans punched a diamond-shaped opening in each concho and passed a leather strap through this opening. When Navajo silversmiths learned soldering, they were able to attach a closed loop to the back of a concho and string a leather belt through these loops, forming the classic concho style that we are familiar with today. Artists like Roger Skeets, Jr. are creating belts today that celebrate traditional Navajo jewelry design. You’ll also find conchos linked with simple silver rings that convey an unpretentious feel.
Handcrafted by Navajo silversmith Roger Skeets, Jr. this beautiful concho belt celebrates traditional Navajo jewelry design featuring a traditional stamp design set in sixteen sterling silver pieces and accented with a large turquoise stone on the final piece for added beauty.
A Modern Touch
These days, you can find the concho design on everything from earrings to bolo ties to bracelets. Conchos themselves come in forms from unadorned silver disks to hand-hammered or stamped graphic designs. Many are encrusted with stones like turquoise or coral. Here’s some creative takes using conchos outside of a traditional belt.
This handcrafted sterling silver concho necklace and earring set created by Navajo silversmith Harold Joe features beautiful turquoise beads at the center of every concho. Use of traditional repoussé and hand-stamping techniques gives this piece a vintage look and feel, and will be an heirloom piece to elevate your jewelry collection.
Handcrafted by Navajo artist Ryan Begay, this bracelet is a contemporary take using traditional elements of leather, sterling silver, and optional turquoise. Featuring stamped sterling silver in the style of the iconic and classic concho belt, this bracelet is an easy way to add iconic Native American jewelry into your wardrobe.
How to Wear a Concho
The traditional style of wearing concho belts is over layered clothing, often gathering a long blouse or dress. The belt usually falls over the hips, though the wearer can determine exactly where the belt sits most comfortably. They are just as striking with a pair of jeans and a simple white shirt and boots, or with a custom-made suit or elegant gown.
This traditionally stamped concho belt handcrafted by Native American artists features coral gemstones at the center of each concho and butterfly-shaped piece. Comes with a signed Certificate of Authenticity.
Caring for Your Concho Jewelry
To keep your handcrafted jewelry and genuine gemstones looking their finest, do not expose them to heavy chemicals, ammonias, oils, lotions, soaps or detergents, which can cause damage or discoloration. To clean, wipe each piece gently with a soft, damp cloth and use a dry silver polishing cloth to lightly buff the metal. All gemstones have been hand set and over time may become loose with wear. If you notice a loose gemstone, please take your piece to a qualified silversmith to have the stone tightened. Heavy impacts may crack or damage stones.
More than a century after its creation, concho jewelry remains one of the most celebrated forms of Native American art, showcasing the artistry and expertise of Native Southwestern silversmiths. Sign up for our newsletter for more great tips and to expand your treasured jewelry collection.