The snake in some Native American cultures represents speed and swiftness, the same properties as lightning or the lightning arrow and they often have a similar visual form. The snake does not symbolize anything negative or treacherous. Rather, the snake represents abundant rainfall, fertility and healing. Snake symbols are rarely seen in Navajo jewelry and art but are often used by Zuni.
We here in northern Colorado live with snakes on a seasonal basis – they are part of the landscape and ecosystem. Since our climate is semi-arid, we welcome the abundant rainfall the snake might bring.
What a diverse group of belts I’ve been researching this week. Here are a few samples from the White Buffalo Collection.
The word concho comes from the Spanish “concha” which actually means “conch” or “seashell” but has come to mean round or oval disks (occasionally rectangles) of silver used to decorate saddles, bridles, clothing, used as jewelry such as for pendants and bolo ties and for adorning or making belts.
Concho belts are a long-time Navajo tradition yet it has been suggested that the Navajo borrowed conchos from Mexican tack items or from the Plains Indians.
The earliest conchos were silver dollars that were hammered, then stamped and edged, then slotted and strung together on a piece of leather.
Later in the evolution of concho belts, copper loops were added to the back of the conchos so that the conchos could be slipped onto a leather belt.
I have attached some images of the belt buckle. I would like to know who made the buckle – it has a marking of “EM” on the back. Also, I would like to know an estimate of its age. Thanks for your help!
Using the penny in your other photo as scale, it looks like this buckle is about 4″ x 4″, so what a nice chunk of beautiful turquoise that is !
Judging from the style and nice stone and the hallmark, I’d guess this is a 1970s Navajo made belt buckle.
I don’t know who EM is but we have had once piece with that hallmark in our pawn shop. I was unable to identify EM at that time and still don’t know !
Perhaps one of the readers of this blog might know.
Good treasure Ryan.
These are the photos of the Whirling Logs turquoise silver belt buckle I had e-mailed you about. The buckle is approx. 3 and 3/4 inches wide by 2 and 1/2 inches tall. The second photo — of the bear claw hallmark on the back — isn’t great, but I have no photo tweaking programs and I am about as computer illiterate as a person can be. I hope it will do. I don’t know what the black pen mark “135—” means on the back of the buckle; I inherited these items from my father and don’t know if that’s what he paid for it back in the 60s or 70s or what.
I would like to know more about the piece: its age, what the hallmark means, et al.
Thank you so much. Leigh
First of all, what a nice treasure to inherit from your father. I’ll mention some things I can tell from the photos and some things I can’t determine from photos.
First of all, whether or not this is sterling silver or a lesser silver (such as coin silver) or another metal can be determined by a simple acid test. Any jeweler can do this for you. Knowing the metal content will impact the value of the piece, so it is always good to know what you have that way. Reference “Not All Silver is Created Equal”.
As far as the stones, they appear to be natural turquoise stones set in smooth bezels. As far as what mine they would be from, I’d be guessing just using this one photo, but they are full of matrix and character and nicely placed. References “Types of Bezels” and “Turquoise Mines in the US” and “Green Turquoise”.
The magic marker number on the back is indeed the price. I’ve always thought that it is an odd way to mark a piece of art, but that has been the tradition with much Native American jewelry. So that is likely what the asking price was for the buckle back when your father purchased it. Whether or not he paid that much, we don’t know because negotiating prices on Native American jewelry is common with many buyers – almost a hobby with them.
The piece seems consistent with the era you suggest – 1960s to 1970s..
I’d say it is a Navajo made belt buckle.
The hallmark is similar to many Navajo and Hopi badger or bear track hallmarks I have seen yet I don’t know of one that is exactly like this one, so I am afraid I have come up empty on the artist.
The whirling log design is described in my article on that topic here on this blog. “Whirling Logs”
Enjoy that unique belt buckle !
Hello there =)
My husband was born and raised in the Santa Barbara area and was raised by a woman by the name of Ms. C W in Santa Barbara. He was handed down some turquoise belts that we were told by his parents were hand-crafted by Roger Skeet (not sure Jr or Sr.) Ms W died in 1993 or thereabouts so it’s possible that it was Sr. We are being told that some of the items in her collection are one of a kind pieces of art created specifically for Ms. W, and they are now in our possession, as we have inherited a large portion of her art collection. I’m not entirely sure what to do with it or if any of it’s really even worth anything at all??? We’re not really looking to get rid of it as much as to find out the “story” behind the pieces and how much, if anything, they’re worth.
Again! Thank you for your help! Nick & Sarah
Hi Nick and Sarah,
First of all, be sure to read my article About Concho Belts also known as Concha Belts.
Roger Skeet was a Navajo silversmith for Tobe Turpen and Tanners and made concho belts during the 1970s. His hallmark is RS in Gothic Print just like I typed it.
As far as finding out the “story” behind it, well I think you already know it !!
In terms of value, if it has the hallmark and tests sterling silver and the stones are tights and not damaged, it would be worth more than if there is no hallmark, if it is coin silver or lower and if there is damage.
When we purchase used Native American jewelry we do a thorough examination. You can read about the process here in my article “Do We Buy Native American Jewelry?”
I was given a very unique turquoise, coral and – not sure what the large center stone is (have been told different things including petrified wood) belt buckle years ago. The shape and silver work are highly unusual. The hallmark on the back is MT with something after the T that looks like a small crescent. Can I send a photo of front and back? Would love to identify artist!
That is a very unique buckle ! If it is stone, I’m thinking a jasper, perhaps picture jasper, but that’s just a guess.
I know of several MT hallmarks, and two have a rocker UNDER the MT but I don’t know of any with a crescent or rocker off to the side.
I thought I’d post this in case another reader might have some ideas.
I have several pieces of Native American southwest Santa Fe, New Mexico sterling & gold turquoise jewelry by the same artist. Purchased over 20 years ago and I have been searching for a name to go with the jewelry. It is just gorgeous and very detailed, BUT to no avail.
Would like to send photos of the artistic logo. Do you think this could be an early piece by F. Wero?
Thanks for your help ahead of time. Elyn
I am not familiar with the hallmarks or the artist you suggest.
I’m posting this so that if anyone else can help you, they can add a comment to the end of this post. And Elyn, if you find out any information, I’d appreciate it if you would add it as a comment at the end of the post also.
Could you please let me know if you have buckles to fit a 2 inch wide belt?
Karl from London, UK
That’s a good question and there are several points that will help you find the perfect fit for your belt and adapt if you have a belt or buckle you absolutely love but there’s a width issue.
First of all, most Native American artists purchase standard buckle back and peg kits. While the buckles themselves are usually made of Sterling Silver, the buckle back kits are made from nickel silver. “Nickel Silver” or “German Silver” has no silver in it at all. It does have a silver color to it but no silver. It is made of an alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel.
Buckle backs are available in 1/2″ increments from 1/2″ to 2″ BUT a 2″ buckle back really only will accommodate a 1 3/4″ belt because of the room that is taken up by the hinges.
So unless a particular artist hand makes buckle backs, the vast majority of Native American made buckles would fit belts up to 1 3/4″. It is not uncommon for a belt to be listed as “fits 2″ belt” because the seller measures the buckle back on the outside or even the inside up at the top. But when you measure between the hinges you will come up with a smaller dimension. Several years ago we tested the buckles on our own belts and saw that a 1 3/4″ buckle back measures closer to 1 1/2″ between the hinges, so really only will accept a 1 1/2″ belt.
That’s why we report the actual width between the hinges.
But there can be a similar discrepancy with belts too. For example, we custom ordered belts last year for ourselves asking for 1 3/4″ and the belts came in at 1 5/8″ and we were told that was pretty normal. So we started measuring belts and found that the actual width is often 1/16″ to 1/4″ narrower than the described width.
With that said, let’s say you bought a big buckle like this one
It is a whopping 4″ x 2 3/4″. But let’s say the seller didn’t specify what size belt it would fit. When you received it, you found that it only accommodated a 1 1/4″ belt !! Yikes !!
You were expecting to be able to use it with your 2″ wide belt.
Well here are some adaptations you can consider. You can taper (or have a leathersmith do this for you) the end of your belt where it attaches to the buckle from 2″ to 1 1/2″ so it will fit the narrower buckle back. That takes care of one end of the belt.
To adapt the other end, you can change the way you buckle your belt. The normal way is to pass the tail of the belt through the buckle back.
Instead, pass the tail end behind the rest of the belt – that is, closer to the waistband of your jeans. That way, the tail of the belt can be wider than the buckle back because it does not pass through it.
Because buckle backs are hinged, when you use this alternative method, you can fold the hinge down which will lower the profile of the buckle and help to lock the belt in its fastened position.
I hope this has helped. Whenever purchasing a belt, it is good to double check on the width of both your belt and the width between the hinges of the belt back. Best of luck.
I was poking around to try to identify a belt buckle which I bought based on it having been purchased on an Indian Reservation in the 1970s. It’s large and heavy and arrestingly designed so I thought I might be able to find the tribe and artist. I did find another similar buckle that had been sold and looks like it had been made by the same artist but there was no info on that one either. Would you be willing to take a look? Linda
Information with the above reference buckle:
My buckle is much more lovely in person than the pics, but enough to give you a good idea, I hope. Linda
Well you did most of the work here ! My job is easy. Before even seeing the photo and information on the reference buckle that you sent, I suspected this was a Mexican-made buckle. Although you didn’t send a photo of the back of the buckle, where one can see the effects of time on the metal, I suspect this is not sterling silver but Alpaca. If you suspect it could be sterling silver, a simple test at a jewelers will tell you whether it is or not. If it is sterling silver, due to its weight, it would be worth a lot more than if it was alpaca.
Alpaca is a term that is often stamped on Mexican (and German) pieces and sometimes it is called Alpaca Silver but it contains no silver at all. Alpaca is usually composed of 65% copper, 18% nickel and 17% zinc. It is similar to German Silver and Nickel Silver (read full article about silver here).
The stylized road runner design and the use of the large chips does not look Native American to me. Nor does the engraving which appears on both buckles. The chips seem to be made of turquoise, coral and perhaps faux tortoiseshell.
So when you say you purchased the buckle based on the fact it was purchased on an Indian Reservation in the 1970s, it sounds like it might have been misrepresented. But that is just my humble opinion !
The main thing is that if you like it, enjoy it ! Thanks for writing and best of luck.