Tufa Casting - A Lesson in Texture

Kingman turquoise tufa cast Navajo made Native American bracelet

Texture is an important element in how we see and sense our world. It provides depth and dimension; it piques our interest and curiosity. The amazing technique of tufa casting is one such technique that not only embodies essential elements of texture, but captures the beauty of mother earth in one-of-a-kind works of art.

Tufa stone is found primarily in the southwest Navajo and Hopi reservations. It is soft and extremely porous thus giving its highly recognizable signature look.

To make a cast, skilled artisans form a 2-piece mold and carve their design into one side. Depending on the detail, this can take several days. Once the design is complete, the two stones are bound tightly together and molten silver is poured into the cast to fill the negative space. Though the stone is soft, it can handle the high heat. However, the mold is fragile and most often can only be used once. The cooled piece is then carefully removed, sanded and shaped and embellished.

The Navajo, Zuni and Hopi have mastered the art of tufa casting to create some of the most beautiful and unique jewelry.

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