North America: Plains
Materials: German silver (aka Nickel silver)
This German silver tie slide was made by the prolific Oklahoma artist and metal worker George “Dutch” Silverhorn. Dutch Silverhorn was a member of the Kiowa tribe and learned metalworking from his father. Many members of the Silverhorn family are acclaimed artists and crafts people, including the ledger artist Silverhorn, Kiowa Five painter Stephen Mopope, and beadworker Katherine Dickerson. Continuing his family’s artistic tradition, Dutch was also a painter and a carver, producing mainly objects related to the Native American Church.
German silver, also sometimes called nickel silver, is an alloy or combination of copper, nickel and zinc. Nickel silver first became popular as a base metal for silver plated cutlery and is still used today in zippers, keys, costume jewellery, musical instruments, and coins. German silver jewelry and metalworking has also been an extremely popular art form in Native American communities for centuries. The earliest examples of Native American metalwork were made by pounding coins and European style cookware flat, then cutting and forming the metal into jewelry. In the late 1800s the first sheets of German silver began to reach the plains tribes. These sheets were quickly put to use for jewelry making. Countless examples of German silver conchos, belt buckles, tie slides, earrings and more can be found in museums and throughout the native community today.
Here is a video (part 4 of 15) that shows some of the tools and techniques used to make this type of German silver jewelry.