The term “First Phase” is a historical term that refers to the early experimentation and development in jewelry by the southwestern Native American Indians.
It is generally though to be a period from approximately 1860-1900.
First Phase jewelery was made for personal use or for family or friends – it was not driven by commercial influences.
Sometimes First Phase is used to refer to the design styles from that era, so a bracelet made to look like a First Phase bracelet would be “First Phase Style” but not First Phase itself. This is an important distinction that should be used when describing items.
Between 1900-1930, tourism grew and Native American jewelry began being influenced by commercialism – what would sell. This is sometimes referred to as the Transitional Period.
To see more views of the items pictured and learn more about their estimated age, click on the photos.
Ten years ago, when I first started working here one of the very first items I listed was a vintage storyteller bracelet by Navajo silversmiths Tom and Sue Kee. I put it in the pawn shop.
The bracelet had the hallmark TSK and a hogan. I was told by several people more experienced than me that it was the hallmark of Tom and Sue Kee, Navajo husband and wife silversmiths who specialized in storyteller items.
“The Little Book of Marks on Southwestern Silver: Silversmiths, Designers, Guilds and Traders” by Bille Hougart states the same thing on page 181 – that the hallmark is shared by Tom and Sue Kee.
And so over the years, I’ve listed barrettes, bracelets and all kinds of things attributed to Tom and Sue Kee.
Then the other day, when I got to work, there was a message on the answering machine something like this
“Hi Paula, This is Sylvia Kee. I see on the internet you have the storyteller bracelets by Tom and Sue Kee. It should be Sylvia Kee. I thought you would like to know.”
Sylvia, I wish I had been here to talk with you or that you left your phone number……..but anyway, I did some more digging and heard that years ago Tom and Sylvia had made some jewelry for a store and when Sylvia signed for the payment, her signature was misinterpreted as Sue – and it STUCK !!
Thanks for bringing this to our attention Sylvia. We have corrected our website listings.
Did you ever wonder why there are so many Native American jewelry items from the late 1960s and early 1970s?
Those were the times of peace and love, alternative dress, hippies, movie stars going wild and a big publicity boost for Native American jewelry from Arizona Highways magazine and other publications.
Although many celebrities began wearing Native American jewelry in the late 60s and early 70s, perhaps two of the most influential were Jim Morrison of the Doors and Cher.
During the late 1960s when the Doors were at the height of their fame, Jim Morrison bought a concho belt from Wayne and Irma Bailey when they were traveling in California. Joe H. Quintana (1915-1991), a Cochiti Pueblo master silversmith was the maker of this famous belt. Quintana likely made the belt in 1966 or 1967 when he worked for Irma Bailey’s Indian Art & Pawn on the Old Town Plaza in Albuquerque.
Cher (Cherilyn Sarkisian of Armenian, Irish, German, English and Cherokee descent) has used Native American jewelry and accents throughout her career from 1965 and has had a dramatic influence on fashion. Her album Half Breed was release in 1973.
As a result of such publicity, everyone wanted some of the action !!
One of the most popular items made in the 1970s were squash blossom necklaces. There was a huge demand for them. It is also one of the most common vintage items offered to us today. The retail price of a squash blossom necklace during the early 1970s boom was the same or higher than the same item today. And often they were full size, heavy and ornate, something that doesn’t sell well today because a good number of people would rather wear than collect Native American jewelry.
During the boom some beautiful items were made. However, to cash in on the demand, some shops and silversmiths cranked out the items, sometimes with inferior workmanship and maybe the work wasn’t even done by Native American artists.
One thing that wasn’t skimped on was the sterling silver. Silver was only $1.29 per ounce when Jim Morrison’s belt was made in 1966. Today silver is trading at $27.27 per ounce. Read more about silver prices here. How Silver Price Affects the Value of Native American Jewelry
Back in the late 1960s there was ample US mined turquoise around to fill needs but as demand rose, Persian turquoise began to be imported from Iran. In the 1970s a one carat U.S. turquoise stone would be considered expensive at $1. Today some of the more sought-after U.S. turquoise can cost up to $100 per carat.
Because of the great demand, the 1970s experienced the first BIG influx of imported copies and reproductions which gave some people the idea that Native American jewelry was chintzy and poorly made.
The boom crashed about the mid seventies when the fashion cycle started changing and the silver price started rising, hitting an artificially inflated high near $50 per ounce in the late seventies.
The Four Winds are evoked in many Lakota ceremonies. The Four Winds are all wakan. Wakan is a Lakota word which represents mysterious powerful beings or spirits.
The first wind is the WEST, Yata. This is where Wakinyan (the Thunderbird) lives. It is where all animals are created and the West Wind is present when man and animals die. The West Wind is strong and mighty but good natured. It is where the sun goes to rest. The eagle is the akicita (marshall) of the West Wind.
The second wind is the NORTH, Woziya. The tonweyapi of the North are the white owl, raven and wolf. Tonweyapi are aides – they can be marshalls, soldiers, spies or counselors. The North Wind is strong and usually cruel but occasionally jolly. The things he touches grow cold and die. The North Wind decides if the dead people are worthy to pass or wander forever cold, hungry and naked.
The third wind is the EAST, Yanpa. The nighthawk is the tonweyapi of the East. The East Wind sleeps a lot. It is called on to help the sun and the dawn appear. And it gives a place for the moon to regrow. The sun and the moon know and see everything on earth and they tell it to Yanpa. Lodges face east to please Yanpa. The East Wind is evoked by the sick asking for a rest.
The fourth wind is the SOUTH, Okaga. The tonweyapi of the south are waterfowl and the meadowlark. The South wind makes beautiful things, flowers and seeds. It is the giver of life. It is kind and brings good weather. The south is a place where spirits can go after death.
The winds are sometimes at odds with each other over women or other things. Iktomi (spider wakan) purposely stirs up trouble among the Four Winds so he can have fun watching them fights.
All of the black matrix you see contains pyrite; some dark spots in the photo are exclusively pyrite. Most are mixed with the black matrix, however. Notice the quarter for size comparison. All the stones rise at least 1/8″ above their settings, and some rise as high as 1/4″ or higher. Amazing, right? The earrings appear to have hand engraved rising suns on them (the suns are not identical, causing me to think they were hand carved, however they may have been distorted during the shaping of the petals?). I love this necklace so much, as both my folks have passed. Knowing they wanted me to have it makes me feel very blessed.
I sent you the photo in natural undirected sunlight, but I also took a couple pics in direct sunlight around 8:00 this morning, before the skies became overcast (we’re expecting freezing rain here in northwest Ohio this evening. great). If you want me to send a photo of the piece in direct sunlight, I can. The pyrite shows up better in the sun.
Much to my delight, I rediscovered the Fred Harvey bracelet my parents gave me as a child, and set it next to the necklace for you to look at as well. I had a copper one also, but I hated it, and either traded it for a plastic animal with one of my childhood friends or threw it out altogether. Regrets!!!
If you venture a guess on the value of these pieces as you try to determine the mine this turquoise is from, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Good morning Sydney,
Beautiful sentimental treasure.
Without seeing it in person, I can’t say for sure, but I’d narrow it down to Blue Diamond, Kingman or Morenci.
We don’t appraise or give value from photos.
Enjoy ! That’s the main thing. Turquoise has a great power and feel to it.
I’m going to post the photo of your necklace on my blog so if anyone else has other ideas on the stones, they can chime in.
Thank you so much for your input, I appreciate it very much. Per your knowledge of turquoise and my further research, I am pretty sure the stones in my squash blossom necklace are from the Blue Diamond hat mine. I’m pretty happy about that. I knew it started production in the 1950′s and stopped in the 80′s. The mine is now buried under thousands of tons of rock, making Blue Diamond turquoise highly collectible today.
In the descriptions I’ve read, Blue Diamond is known for the triangular-shaped black chert, which is readily seen in the stones of my necklace. This is why I believe my stones are Blue Diamond. Plus, the pyrite is not silver colored as in the Kingman turquoise. Morenci turquoise doesn’t exhibit the black chert so recognizable in Blue Diamond. So, by process of elimination, I have concluded my squash blossom stones are Blue Diamond turquoise.
It will be interesting to read the input from your blog after you post the photo of the necklace. I’m no expert, but as in all things, when I become interested in something, I become a super sleuth until my desire for knowledge has been satiated. I too welcome your readers’ input.
Thank you for indulging me with this sleuthing, it’s been much fun, and of course I love the products on Horsekeeping,com.
I was contacted a while back about permission to use one of the photos from our website in a book. I gave that permission and then forgot about it.
So I was surprised when we received a thank you note and complimentary copy of a lovely new book “Southwest Art Defined: An Illustrated Guide” by Margaret Moore Booker and published by Rio Nuevo Publishers.
It is a beautiful 11″ x 9 1/4″ hardbound book with dust jacket. Here is what the publisher says
Southwest Art Defined, by Santa Fe author Margaret Moore Booker, is now available! This beautiful hardcover book brings the traditional arts of the Southwest are brought together in one volume for the first time. Almost 500 comprehensive descriptions of Native American and Hispano art are accompanied by 370 full-color photographs of art from museums, galleries, and private collections. Lose yourself in the stunning pottery, textiles, jewelry, carvings, and architecture of the Southwest.
I received my package today. Thank you for such a careful and professional packing, fast delivery and beautiful necklace. I do have a question. Is the tourquoise stablized and dyed or stablized but real? Is it chalk tourquoise? I am sure I will wear it to death because it is what I wanted and the price is excellent. I am just curious. Please let me know. Thanks. Shelly
Most of your questions are answered here in an article where I try to describe all the forms of turquoise – All About Turquoise.
Most heishi turquoise is stabilized because if it wasn’t, it would be brittle and could crack. Also, when natural turquoise comes in contact with skin oils of the neck area, it would become discolored. So stabilization helps prevent that too. Some turquoise heishi is enhanced which further strengthens it and could make its color more vivid. You’ll read about these terms in that article.
When you say chalk turquoise, are you referring to “block turquoise”? Block turquoise is a manufactured composite product, with little if any real turquoise in it. No, the turquoise heishi necklaces are not block turquoise. Most are stabilized real turquoise, some are also enhanced.
Do you know what the symbolism is, if any, of the design on the inside of the Bruce Morgan cuff I just purchased?
I see that it is quite similar to the designs on the inside of the Mary and Ken Bill and the Mary Bill cuffs. Jeff
I love the bracelet # nbs351a or # nbs351b but I am unsure about the sizing
My wrist measures 7 inches.
I measured my bracelet and it measures 6 inches with a 1 1/4 inch opening .
Will one of these fit?
Regarding the Julia Smith Wide Repousee Cuff Bracelet
Just to clarify:
Your wrist measures 7″ around where you wear a bracelet?
And your current bracelet measures 6″ from end to end inside plus a 1 1/4″ opening for a total of 7 1/4″ inches?
If that is correct, then these bracelets which measure 6 3/8″ and 6 5/8″ (that is the total INCLUDING the gap)…would be too small.
I have a 6 7/8″ wrist and just tried to put on NBS351B and it was too small (which is logical since it is 6 5/8″) ………..I usually wear a 6 3/4″ to 6 7/8″ bracelet.
You need to look for bracelets in the 7″ section which is here.
7″ refers to the total size, which is usually about the same size as your wrist.
The bracelets are arranged on the page in the order of size….so once you get to 6 7/8″ just look at everything from there on down the page………..
let me know if you have any other questions.
Also, note that when you purchase a very wide cuff like the Repousse bracelets, you need to get a slightly larger bracelet than if you buy a skinny one………the wider cuffs cover more of your wrist and arm so need to be a little bit bigger……