In a series about Native American authentic handmade silver jewelry, George Francis, a Native American silversmith for the Navajo tribe, explains what inlay jewelry is.
He also compliments the Zuni tribe as they mark themselves as great inlay jewelry artists.
What is Native American Inlay Work?
Inlay work is where you’re taking stones and combining them. Originally it was called channel inlay. You ran channels of silver and metal alongside stones, and once you have them set you would tap on the metals, which would expand and cover the stones and hold them in place. I think it has changed over the years, taking stones and using different glues. I use an epoxy and that seems to hold the stones in place. You can lay stones and make very intricate patterns with them and still be able to maintain a quality product. Unfortunately some (artisans) are using super glue, and that’s really dry and really hard. Sometimes it can crack that bond that it has with the metal or other stones so they fall out. That’s where I come in for repairs.
Zuni Mark in Native Jewelry
There are a lot of people associating inlay work with the Zuni.
Yes, Zuni inlay work is something they started to work with. They have very intricate work, and very detailed and thin. Some of the stones that they cut in place, like animals, geometric designs, etc. hey do a great job and the credit should go to them.