SilverTQ, LLC has been handling and selling Native American sandcasted sterling silver jewelry since the mid 1970’s. Understanding the process by which the artist creates this uniquely American made
handcrafted jewelry is a fascinating education. Observing the impressive dexterity of these skillful
artists working on their creations is nothing short of an eye-opening experience. Their knowledge,
craftsmanship and innate ability to create beautiful works of wearable art are amazing.
How Is Sandcast Sterling Silver Jewelry Made?
Sandcasting sterling silver Native American pieces of jewelry is a labor intensive method of
handcrafted production. The artist first obtains a soft, easily carved stone that is named “Tufa Stone.”
The design is laid out on a flat Tufa Stone, and then hand carved into the body of the stone (see photo below). This design essentially defines what the finished piece of jewelry will look like. A pour hole is cut into the top of the design, but not into it. Small slots called “sprue lines” are then carved along the sides and bottom of the carved design.
These carved lines allow the air to escape and the sandcast form to completely fill with molten silver poured in from the pour hole. Another slab of Tufa Stone is placed over the top of the carved stone and held in
place by a strap. Many times this strap is like a large rubber band cut from a tire inner tube.
The molten silver is then poured into the pour hole and instantly hardens. The band is removed and the top
and bottom separated. The design will now pop out and be released from the mold. The artist will break off the little
lines of silver formed from the sprue holes and throw them back into the molten silver crucible that he or she
poured from. This will be the artist’s master form from his or her master mold. It should be noted that too many pours can burn out the master mold.
Now the true meaning of this sandcast procedure starts. The artist will have prepared a box, typically
wooden, filled with compacted damp sand. The master form will be laid on top of this sand and a piece
of flat Tufa Stone will be used to push the master form into the sand. The top stone is removed, the
master pulled out with pour and sprue holes cut into the form in the sand. The flat Tufa Stone will
now be placed again on top and secured with a wide rubber band. Molten silver will be poured into the
pour hole and a perfect cast will be created of the master form. When the top stone is removed, the sand is then dumped and the new sandcast piece is recovered. After loading the box with sand again, more pieces can be made using the same technique to produce duplicate pieces. Using this system to “cast in sand,” the master mold is not lost or burned out.
No mechanical means are used to produce sandcast jewelry; everything is done entirely by hand to
create this beautiful and unique style of wearable art. All styles of handcrafted Native American jewelry
can be created using the above sandcasting methods. Rings, buckles, bracelets, bolos, Concho belts,
earrings, pins and pendants, necklaces, squash blossom necklaces, baby spoons, and letter openers are to name a few items that can be handcrafted by this described sandcast method.