Get to Know American Indian Jeweler Debbie Silversmith

Debbie Silversmith is a Navajo jeweler from Steamboat, Arizona. The granddaughter of legendary Navajo silversmith Kenneth Begay, Debbie Silversmith has had large shoes to fill. Debbie has filled those shoes wonderfully in her own contemporary American Indian jewelry, which are special adaptations of her grandfather’s impeccable designs.

Debbie Silversmith was born on the Navajo reservation in 1957. As a young girl and the eldest grandchild, Debbie was blessed with the opportunity to spend a good deal of time with Kenneth Begay, really getting to know him and learning the art of jewelry making from him. By the age of 12, Debbie Silversmith had learned to make her own silver beads entirely by hand, a traditional that she upholds to this very day. Debbie remembers that her grandfather stressed technical perfection and the use of clean lines all the while teaching her old techniques like tufa casting. Especially influenced by Kenneth Begay’s famous swirls, which represent “water and life,” Debbie loves to recreate them in her own jewelry.

When Kenneth Begay passed away in 1977, Debbie Silversmith received his treasured tools including many of his stamps, which she still uses today. Since Debbie’s early instruction has remained with her, she still proudly creates her jewelry by hand. Living on her grandfather’s old property, Debbie still digs tufa for her tufa cast jewelry from her own backyard, and painstakingly solderes and sands silver to make her beaded necklaces. Don’t let the “silversmith” surname fool you, for most recently, Debbie has embarked on using gold as well as silver to make her jewelry. Debbie creates just about any kind of jewelry you can imagine from earrings to bracelets, bolos, and concho belts. Often adorned with natural pieces of turquoise from many different turquoise mines, Debbie’s jewelry is fantastic! Even more fantastic is that Debbie Silversmith’s jewelry is actually quite affordable, and therefore accessible for almost every budget.

Debbie Silversmith comes from a family gifted with a remarkable sense of design, and she’s been able to use that inherited design sense to create her own dazzling jewelry.