This striking Necklace showcases a Tufa Cast Sterling Silver Pendant by Navajo artist Merle House, made in Gallup, New Mexico. House crafted the Pendant by carving a mold into tufa stone,* then filling the mold with molten silver. This traditional design technique is practiced by only a few experienced artists and is very labor intensive, but the results are impressive. The finished design is imprinted with texture from the stone, producing a unique finish. The rectangular-shaped Pendant is generously sized, and has detailed geometric patterning. It has been lightly oxidized to bring the patterns into high relief. The Pendant Bail is also tufa cast, molded to a triangular shape and adorned with 5 raised circles. The back of the Pendant is stamped with the artist's hallmark, "M H." We've paired this exceptional piece with Graduated Turquoise Nuggets, ranging in length from 16 mm to 38mm. The Turquoise is blue green with brown matrix and is chunky and irregular in shape, adding texture and visual appeal. Each Nugget is separated from the next by a disc of dark brown Pen Shell Heishi, giving definition to the design and allowing the Turquoise to be viewed from all angles. On either side of the Pendant Bail are 16mm Sterling Silver Spiral Rounds, which are stamped and slightly oxidized, mirroring the Pendant. At the top of Necklace the Turquoise transitions to 2 strands of 5mm Pen Shell Heishi, streamlining the design and ensuring a comfortable fit. The Necklace is finished with an oversized Stamped Sterling Toggle Clasp and adorned with a Southwest Designs Sterling Charm. The piece weighs 284 grams and is 23-1/2 inches long plus the Pendant, which is 3-7/8 inches by 1-1/2 inches including the 7/8-inch Bail. This one-of-a-kind piece is sold along with its tufa stone mold.
*Tufa stone is compressed volcanic ash material. Its porous surface leaves a unique texture on cast sterling silver once the metal has cooled. To cast, a tufa stone of the desired size is first cut into 2 halves, and the halves are rubbed together to create a flush surface. A cone shaped hole – called a sprue hole – is carved at the top of the mold to allow the metal to be poured in. Additional holes are carved along the sides of the mold to allow air to escape. The artist then carves their design into the flat surface on one side of the mold, carbonizes the mold, and tightly binds the two halves together with clamps. Sterling silver is melted with a torch and poured through the sprue hole into the tufa mold. Once cooled, the silver is taken out of the mold and the artist will sand and clean the design, making sure to leave the texture created by the tufa stone. The last step is to shape the metal into its desired form. Typically the tufa stone mold can be used just once, so every piece is one-of-a-kind.