Native American Concho Belts
An Evolving History
Concho belts have a long history among Native Americans. They were first recognized as being discs of metal strung on leather. According to history, the Comanche tribe was first credited with wearing these. In fact, they were often times worn like a bandoleer across one shoulder to the opposite hip. These early belts were mostly plain silver discs of nickel, copper or sometimes silver. The earliest recorded design of these belts was probably copied or seized from the early Spanish from the southern Texas to Mexico region where the Comanche tribe was known to commonly raid. These belts were then traded to the Navajo for their weavings, probably Chief Blankets, which were highly prized. The Navajos did not use nickel or copper to any extent. Navajo silversmiths used silver, a natural commodity more available to them.
Navajos liked to enhance their artful silverwork with stamping. The earliest of the Navajo Concho belts were all silver and changed to be worn around the waist instead of over one shoulder. The earliest silversmiths were not known not do much in the way of soldering. Consequently, these early belts had a slot with a center bar cut into each Concho. A leather belt was threaded through these slots, which also served to securely anchor them into place. The Navajos also added a buckle to the belt for fastening. Later, the silversmiths started including stones in their designs. Soldered loops were also added on the backs for the leather to slide through.
Today’s Concho Belt
Modern Concho belts have had added various elements to the original design. Belts may be strung on leather, or connected by sterling links rather than leather. These are called link Conchos. There might be an added element between each Concho termed a butterfly that acts as a spacer in either leather Concho or a link Concho. This practice of whether or not to include the butterfly spacers is determined by the artist. It should be noted these butterflies add extra silver mass and work, so generally belts made with Conchos and butterflies are more expensive.
Navajos, Zunis, Hopis and the Rio Grande Pueblos are all producers of these belts, with the Navajo producing the largest quantity. Consequently, the Concho belt can be acquired today in many of the various different styles including cabochon, petit point, needlepoint and inlay.
All of the tribes do make all of these styles; however some tribes are most noted for particular styles. Navajos are the major producer of cabochon styles. Zuni Pueblo Indians are the major producer of the inlay, needlepoint and petit point type of jewelry.
Cabochons are more naturally shaped stones that have silver work to enhance the stone. Needlepoint stones are cut to have sharp points on each end, like a needle, and are placed in a designed shape or shapes of silver. Petit point stones are cut and are smaller round, oval, rectangle, triangle, and pear shaped or even small squares called chicklets, placed in a designed shape or shapes of bezels. Channel inlay has dividers between the stones of thin slivers of sterling silver. Stone on stone inlay has no silver dividers and the stones are fitted to sit next to each other with little or no gap. These stones might be turquoise, or other semi-precious stones, or mixtures of these stones. All of these stone styles are commonly made in Concho belts.
Offering sterling silver Native American jewelry handcrafted in the USA is the fundamental “business mantra” of SilverTQ, LLC. Imported or imitation jewelry of any kind is not what we sell. No matter the style or styles of these expertly handcrafted pieces of wearable art, you can be assured complete satisfaction. Individually made, one at a time, each piece to be cherished and worn proudly.
Navajo Link Concho Belt – CB#1008$979.00
Navajo Multi-Stone Concho Belt – CB#1001$3,500.00
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