Harry H. Begay has been smithing silver for over 35 years. His work is "ingot" work, meaning that it is hand wrought in the traditional style. His bracelets have always been relatively rare and they will remain so because of the amount of work involved in creating them and their extreme collectibility based also on the rare turquoise stones he employs in his craft. While most modern smiths use Sterling products purchased from a jewelry supply house--sheet silver, triangle wire, twist wire, etc.--Harry fashions his own after melting his silver in a crucible, pouring it out and hammering it into the desired shapes. Such work requires multiple annealings (heating the metal to 1200° F to re-establish the original crystalline structure of the molecules) between hammering and is practiced by few Navajo smiths today.
We can look to John Adair's 1937 account of watching Navajo smith Tom Burnsides work in this method (pp. 57 and 58 in The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths, University of Oklahoma Press, published 1944):
After heating the metal for approximately thirty minutes, he removed the crucible from the forge and poured the molten silver into an open ingot mold.... The silver blazed up when it hit the mold. Silver solidifies very rapidly and, after a moment, Tom blew out the flame and waited for the metal to cool a bit before he took it from the mold. Then he picked up the silver with a pair of pliers and sat down tailor-fashion in front of his anvil. Holding the silver on the anvil, he began to pound it with a heavy hammer.... After striking about three dozen blows, Tom placed the bar on an asbestos pad...and heated it with the flame of his gasoline torch. Pounding hardens the metal, but if the silver is pounded when it is too cold, it will harden unevenly and will crack. If it is alternately heated and pounded, the hardening will be even, producing a finished piece that is fine in grain, with no flaws. If the silver is pounded when it is too hot, it will get brittle and flake off when cool. He continued to pound and heat alternately for about an hour.... During this annealing process, the metal bar was lengthening, and as it lengthened it became increasingly thinner and slightly wider.
Such is Adair's account of Tom Burnsides initial steps in creating a cuff for a bracelet. It is laborious work and requires great skill and practice. Overheating the metal in the annealing process is disastrous, as is under heating it. Pounding the silver eventually renders it work-hardened and causes the hammer to bounce off the silver without achieving the desired effect. Silversmiths get a feel for the "bounce" of the hammer and the sound of the hammer striking the silver to determine whether it has become work-hardened and needs another annealing. Heating the silver becomes second nature and attaining the appropriate temperature in the process (1200° F, 648° C) is discerned by the color of the silver as it heats.
Harry's work is created through this method. It is the old way, the original method of smithing that the Navajo learned from the Spaniards. But the account above by Adair only begins to recount the whole process of making a bracelet such as this one. All the detail of sculpting the cut outs with a cold chisel, filing the edges, creating and attaching appliqués and more must follow that initial phase of preparing a strip of silver as the foundational cuff. In keeping with the quality and traditional aspect of his work, Harry only sets the finest natural, untreated turquoise in his bracelets. All of the turquoise he uses is graded as "High Grade" or "Gem Grade" and renders these pieces even more collectible. This bracelet holds a piece of gem grade Pilot Mountain turquoise in a deeply vivid blue with rust-colored webbed matrix. The photographs above clearly show the work and, aside from specific dimensions provided below, I cannot provide better description through words.
Hallmarked "HHB" over a left pointing arrow. Biographical information and photographic examples of Harry's work can be found on page 74 of Greg Schaaf's recently-published book American Indian Jewelry I: 1,200 Artist Biographies.
Stone: 13/16" x 11/16" Width of cuff at center stone: 1"
Width at terminals: 13/16"
Width of cuff at widest point on sides of cuff: 15/16"
Terminal to terminal: 5 3/8" Gap: 1 1/8"
Total inside circumference (including gap): 6 1/2"