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coin silver, 1.5 x 2.5 x 1.25 in (3.8 x 6.3 x 3.2 cm), circumference: 7 in (17.8 cm), 21 g



Private Collection, Kansas City, MO;
by descent.

A late 19th C Indigenous coin silver bangle bracelet, probably Haida

  • Please contact Dealer for more information


    Ingo Hessel  |    613-818-2100   |

    Nadine Di Monte

    647-286-5012   |

  • Please contact Dealer for more information

    While metal adornments have a long history on the Northwest Coast, the arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Company brought with it an influx of metal coins. The 1858 gold rush in the Fraser Canyon attracted thousands of immigrants, accompanied by their American silver dollars. Silver, and to a lesser extent, gold coins were heated and hammered into narrow bands and ornamented with engraved designs. By the 1890s the bracelet tourist trade economy was in full swing. Crest motifs were popular designs, and this fine bracelet is an example of just such a design. The engraved formline elements of the sea bear express the shape of the bracelet that it decorates. The recessed areas of the creature are marked with hatched lines. These tool marks have oxidized and darkened over the years, which serves to further the sense of spatial depth. 

    References: One of the earliest known accounts of the use of American coins for jewellery is found in John Dunn, The Oregon Territory and the British North American Fur Trade, (Philadelphia: G.B. Zeiber & Co, 1845), p. 301. Coin silver jewellery was made for personal use and for consumption by other First Nations individuals. There is some evidence to suggest that bracelets replaced tattooing during status-changing Potlatches sometime after the arrival of Christian Missionaries. For the first, albeit dated and paternalistic, art historical examination of Northwest Coast Silversmiths, see Marius Barbeau, Alaska Beckons, (The MacMillian Company of Canada: 1947), pp. 212ff. For an overview and examples of early silver jewellery, see: Bill Holm, The Box of Daylight: Northwest Coast Indian Art, (Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum/University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1983), p. 122-126. See also Nancy Harris, "Reflections on Northwest Coast Silver," reproduced in ibid., p. 132-6. Harris discusses early examples of metal work on the Northwest Coast and the stylistic differences as the craft moved down the coast. See also Alexander Dawkins, Understanding Northwest Coast Indigenous Jewelery: The Art, The Artists, The History, (Vancouver / Berkeley: Greystone Books, 2019), p. 134-142. For an undated image of Charles Nowell (1870-1957) with silver bracelets on display poles at a Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw potlatch, see Elizabeth Kirk, Tradition & Change on the Northwest Coast: The Makah, Nuu-chah-nulth, southern Kwakiutl and Nuxalk, (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1986), p. 66. See also Helen Abbott, ed., The Spirit Within: Northwest Coast Native Art from the John H. Hauberg Collection, (Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1995), p. 158 for a similar image of three men with coin silver bracelets on display poles that is dated 1910. For a very interesting look at early jewellery and its relationship to Euro-American motifs, see Kathryn Dunn-Marcuse, Reflected Images: The Use of Euro-American Designs on Northwest Coast Silver Bracelets, M.A. Thesis Dissertation, University of Washington, 1998. Dunn-Marcuse comments, in her thesis, “A definitive study of Northwest Coast Native silverwork needs to be undertaken” (p. 94). We could not agree more.

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