Published on February 10, 2013 by Casey
Ric Charlie is an accomplished, self-taught Navajo goldsmith who has gained international acclaim for his tufa-cast jewelry. The texture and fine lines he achieves by carving in tufa stone, combined with colorful patinas and semiprecious stones, define Ric Charlie’s work. For nearly three decades, Ric has been drawing upon traditional Navajo techniques while pushing the boundaries to stay on the cutting edge of jewelry design.
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Charlie’s love of color draws him away from the turquoise commonly found in Southwestern jewelry. He instead favors the gold, rust, red, purple, blue, and green patinas he achieves by adding liver of sulfur to the silver. The fine lines in his jewelry are accomplished by cutting tufa stones (compressed volcanic rock) with dental tools.
Ric learned basic jewelry-making techniques in 1973 when he was in high school. He studied jewelry-making and design in college at Arizona State University and University of Arizona, and went on to teach himself tufa casting after being inspired by the work of Preston Monongye and Charles Loloma.
“Sandcasting is a pretty difficult medium,” Ric Charlie says. “But for me it’s second nature. Everything I do is cast, and 99 percent of them are one-of-a-kind.”
In 1983, Ric helped to design and construct the staff and medallion used by the president of Arizona State University.
Today, Ric Charlie teaches and advises Native artists in his unique tufa-casting methods, while still producing top-of-the-line work for galleries and collectors around the world. Ric has received numerous awards from competitions at the Heard Museum and Sante Fe Indian Market, including Best of Show, Best of Class, and the Raymond Dewey Memorial Award for Excellence in Tufa Stone Casting.