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19TH CENTURY NATIVE AMERICAN TRADE SILVER ARMBAND:  A single 19TH Century German Silver Native American Armband.  Silver ornaments were one of the earliest items carried in the inventory of the fur buyers who began trading with the Native Americans in the first decades of the 1700’s, and due to the immediate popularity of the bright metal ornaments, their value continued to grow through the 19TH Century as the trade moved out on to the prairies, plains and into the Western mountains.   

The trade silver of the 1700’s and early 1800’s was often made of sterling or coin grade silver.  By the 1830’s, first the Germans, then the British, were able to copy and improve upon a metal initially produced by the Chinese as early as the 1600’s known as “paktong”, literally “white copper”.   Recognized as a viable substitute for sterling silver with the obvious advantages, the Germans developed the alloy with a mixture of copper, nickel and zinc, hence the name “German silver”.  Once available in sufficient quantities, German silver replaced sterling silver in the trading posts and on the trade routes throughout the West.   

This armband, measuring 3 ¼” in diameter and 2” wide, was most likely produced in the later years of the 19TH Century, certainly in the post-Civil War years.  Other similar styled armbands are known, in two instances identified to particular Indians from whom they were collected, and those known examples feature the same style of rolled stamped decorative strip running the length of the armband.  With all of the advances of the Industrial Revolution, machine manufacturing replaced the hand work of previous years, and the production of trade silver was no exception.  These armbands were probably manufactured by roll stamping long sheets of metal pre-cut to width, then the armbands were cut to the appropriate length, the tie holes were punched in each end, and finally the armbands were formed in the finished shape as a final step.   

This armband shows some signs of use and wear, but it is still full form, and the design is still legible along its full length.   

Recently obtained from a very old collection, these pieces of trade silver are anything but common and they seldom appear on the market.  This would be an excellent piece to display with a Northwest Trade Gun, any of the tacked Indian-used guns, or any grouping of Native American artifacts.  (0106)  $550



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