A Tribute to Every Day Silver Cuffs

On a family road trip through the desert southwest when I was six, my father gave me my first silver cuff.  Three cut-out bear claws with an etched background of Navajo rain, circle this one inch wide sterling cuff.  The Navajo we met during our journey were all adorned in brilliant silver cuffs: some plain, turquoise clusters in others, cut outs and story tellers.  My eyes remember the dry working hands attached to these treasures.  I asked a young man why he wore these works of art riding horses down the canyon.  His reply was a laugh and knowing glance to his brother.  They told me in turns the story of each piece of jewelry.  In each case, a family member had made the art.  They wore their most valuable possessions each day for security, tradition and good luck. 

When my father gave me the bear claw bracelet, made by a member of this Navajo family, humbled with this gift, I knew I had to wear it everyday.  In rivers, on hikes, playing fields, tests, playgrounds, winter woods, dinner tables, formal dances it was apart of me until I outgrew it. A sense of loss of the familiar and an attachment to something greater than myself haunted me.  Other cuffs were given to me, but none felt quite right. 

In the poverty of my twenties, I taught math on the Navajo Nation near Shiprock.  Two turquoise cluster bracelets caught my eye. A payment plan spanning almost a year, allowed me to finally feel whole.  A story teller bracelet was given to me by one of students. These three were worn with pride and a sense of belonging.  They held me together through a wicked marriage and the birth of a beautiful daughter. 

In a wild transition about 10 years later, moving and changing jobs, two went missing.  I am still in mourning, but I hope whomever they found, feels their importance. 

It is now my own work that I wear daily.  I have added a friend's work and a few pieces I have purchased along the way. 

In my bland wardrobe of t-shirts and jeans, I realize adornment in silver, heavy and bold, along with strands of turquoise beads supersedes the importance of all other clothing. Shoes are another subject. 

The making of jewelry in fine and sterling silver, gold, precious and semi-precious stones delights me.  I hope my pieces help others feel their strength and become a part of their story.   

Beth Van De Water