Hopi Overlay Jewelry:
The overlay technique used by most Hopi silversmiths today was part of a collaborative effort to differentiate HopiJewelry from that of the other Native Americans. The Colton's from the Museum of Northern Arizona were a major influence in the development of this technique prior to 1940 through their annual shows at the museum. The effort stagnated during the war years and then picked up pace in 1947. Veterans returning from the war enrolled in the Veterans Silver smithing Classes which were sponsored by the US government and provided them with all the needed tools, training and living expenses for a period of 18 months. In 1949 the Hopi Cooperative Guild was established which further advanced the new Overlay Technique and provided the Hopi with training, tools and the silver to work.
Silver overlay jewelry is created by cutting a negative design out of a sheet of silver and then soldering the negative onto another piece of silver. Once this is done the area of the bottom sheet that is exposed by the negative cut out is then "matted" using small blade or wedge chisels. This matted or textured area will then be darkened using liver of sulphur for either a black or platinum gray background. The final step is buffing either to a high polish using soft wheels or buffing to a satin finish using very fine steel wool. The satin finish is the most predominate today but can easily be turned into the high polish with a buffing wheel. The silver overlay technique is unique to the Hopi but many Navajo artists have been known to duplicate it with some success.