The ability of Vernon Begaye to create distinctive, contemporary jewelry designs using materials and symbols associated with tradition is his hallmark – and the result has been innumerable awards. It has been written, “Vernon Begaye is a Navajo jeweler whose individual vision sets him apart from tradition while retaining the cultural origins that inspired his talent.” This exceptional bracelet looks nothing like traditional Native jewelry, but the hand-fabricated technique and use of silver, turquoise, and coral, are a direct line to the past; the addition of other “new” stones and the complex design are anything but.
This splendidly ornamental design features a high-grade natural Number 8 turquoise perched on top of an arched band of matte sterling silver. This bracelet has two different designs on each side, with many elements set into the space between the arched band and the base of the cuff. This complicated but rugged design results in an “industrial baroque” look. The ensemble of materials, textures, stones, and shapes all add up to a fascinating composition, powerful in impact.
On one side, a textured stepped rain motif is set with a glowing pearl – not traditional, but a beautiful contrast of surfaces. Next to that, a large onyx gleams darkly, adjoining a row of beads of various kinds, sizes, shapes and materials. Turquoise disks are set on the edge with a stamped silver bead, also sideways, two shiny silver rounds, and a natural cylinder fragment of red coral. To the right of the textured rain sign and pearl is a slender, slightly curved, toothed element that looks industrial.
On the opposite side of the bracelet, the gorgeous, coveted turquoise and large red coral cabochon, both hand cut, dominate our attention. They almost eclipse the stamped, sinuous serpent slithering behind and below the coral and turquoise. Right on top of the arched band a small natural amethyst is closely embraced in a simple toothed bezel. This top band is stamped with tiny, alternating crosses and circles. The circles are raindrops; the crosses represent the four corners of the universe -where it is hoped the blessing of water will extend.
With the variations of colors, shapes, textures, and levels, this bracelet is really like no other. It fits comfortably, and ingeniously melds a robust, modern sensibility and a reverence for tradition along with the highest quality stones. Vernon’s award-winning work is always immediately distinctive.