Navajo Concho belts are a beautiful form of Native American expression. The idea for them seems to have started as far back as the 18th century.
The Southern Plains Indians had an early form of the Concho belt. The Navajo got them from these other Indians and blended them with early Spanish/Mexican designs found on tack such as harness buckles and spurs.
The word concho came from the Spanish "concha", which means a seashell. The early belts used this design, but the term has come to include round, oval or rectangle disks. Besides being used for belts, they are used to decorate horse tack, clothing and jewelry such as pendants and bolo ties.
The Navajo Concho belts can be divided into 3 periods. In the first period we see a Navajo; named Arsida Chon (Ugly Smith) hammering Mexican silver pesos into round pieces. They had diamond shaped slots and a center bar where a leather belt was laced through. The edges were scalloped to form the seashell look, and there were round decorative holes punched inside the scalloped edge. Concho belts were made like this from the 1860s to the 1880's.