What does Coin Silver mean in relation to vintage Native American jewelry ?

Silver is 99.9% pure elemental silver.
Sterling Silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper.

What is Coin Silver?

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In the US, the coin silver standard was established in the 1820s to be 90% silver and 10% copper and all dimes, quarters, half dollars and dollars until the end of 1964 were made of those metals.

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Coin Silver, when used in association with vintage Native American jewelry, is a term used to refer to the alloy that resulted when pre-1965 US silver coins were melted down to reuse in jewelry making.

This 1930’s bracelet was hand forged from a coin silver ingot. Coins were melted down and poured into a mold. The bracelet was then forged from the coin silver block or bar.

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Paula

 

Petrified Wood, Picture Jasper or Agate?

Some vintage Native American jewelry features beautiful “stones” that almost seem to show a scene or tell a story. Such stones could be Petrified Wood, Picture Jasper, or Agate.

(In all these photos, please ignore the reflection from the lights – although these bracelets are over 50-60 years old, the stones are as bright and shiny as the day they were made and really reflect the light.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPetrified wood is result of fossilization, the transformation of wood into agate through the process of absorption of the minerals into the cells of the wood. The resulting agate can be harder than steel.

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Petrified wood can contain a wide variety of materials and minerals but most commonly agate, jasper and opalized wood.
The colors that appear depend on what minerals are present. Iron oxides show reds and browns while manganese results in pink. Copper, cobalt, and chromium will exhibit as greens and blues. Carbon is black and silica is white or gray.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPicture Jasper is similarly formed when quartz-rich mud is fossilized.
With all those colors from unique layers of various minerals, the specific chemical environment (pH, moisture, temperature etc.) surrounding the wood or mud along with the factor of time, some beautiful scenes and symbols can appear in petrified wood, picture jasper and agate.

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What is Birdseye Turquoise?

Birdseye Turquoise is a term that describes turquoise that is somewhat similar to spiderweb turquoise in that it is made of an aggregate of many small nuggets but instead of a dark matrix like spiderweb, Birdseye Turquoise is light blue turquoise with a darker blue turquoise matrix.

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Natural Kingman Birdseye Turquoise Pendant by Navajo silversmith Cecil Atencio

 

The result when the stones are polished or cross cut and polished is that there are many small areas of lighter blue stone encircled by darker blue matrix like a bird’s eye, thus birdseye turquoise. Sometimes it is referred to as “water web” turquoise.

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Natural Kingman Birdseye Turquoise bracelet by Navajo artist, Albert Jake

 

Although the term refers to turquoise from any mine that looks like this, there are only a handful of mines that produce birdseye turquoise – namely Turquoise Mountain, Kingman, and Morenci. Turquoise Mountain (closed in the late 1980s) is loacated near the Kingman mine in northwestern Arizona.

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Natural Kingman Birdseye Turquoise Bracelet by Navajo artist Bennie Ration

Paula

What is Spiderweb Turquoise?

Spiderweb Turquoise is a term used to describe turquoise that looks like a spiderweb. It is not associated with any one mine, but many mines, some of the most notable being Kingman, Number 8, Lander Blue, Lone Mountain, Candelaria and others.

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Natural Kingman Spiderweb Turquoise pendant by Navajo silversmith Phillip Sanchez

 

As described below from the book “Turquoise The Gem of the Centuries” by Oscar R. Branson, spiderweb turquoise can be thought of as small pieces of turquoise cemented together with the mother rock (matrix). It is when these pieces are polished or cross cut that the spider web design emerges.

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When other materials appear within turquoise, those materials which often look like veins, are referred to as matrix or part of the “mother rock”. Matrix can range in color from honey gold (rhyolite, a volcanic rock) or brown (iron oxide) to jet black (iron pyrite aka iron sulfide) and many other color variations.

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The matrix can be in large random blotches or it can appear as uniform lines around evenly spaced cubicles, almost pattern-like, which brings to mind a net or a spiderweb, thus the name.

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Natural Kingman Spiderweb Turquoise pendant by Navajo artist Bennie Ration

 

In some parts of the world, turquoise stones with matrix are considered imperfect and clear turquoise stones are most desired but in the US, spiderweb turquoise has much more appeal and value.

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Spiderweb Turquoise bracelet by Navajo artist Peterson Johnson

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Spiderweb Turquoise bracelet by Navajo artist Peterson Johnson

Paula

Lawrence Saufkie carried on the Hopi Tradition of Overlay

Lawrence Saufkie (1935-2011), Hopi Pueblo, Bear Clan, was the son of Paul Saufkie Sr. and Ruby Saufkie and brother of Andrew Saufkie, Paul Saufkie, Jr., Vaughn Saufkie; husband of Griselda Saufkie; father of Wilmer Saufkie Lomayaoma; uncle of Bob Sekakuku.

Lawrence_SaufkieLawrence learned silverwork, particularly overlay, from his father Paul Saufkie Sr. His father and Fred Kaboutie began perfecting this style in the 1930s and when Hopi soldiers returned from World War II, they began teaching them the method.

What is Overlay?

With silver overlay, there are two layers of silver. The top layer is a scene, figures, or symbols meticulously cut out and then place on a solid silver layer.

The bottom layer is the background behind the cutouts and is traditionally darkened (oxidized) for contrast. In addition the same areas are usually etched with hashmarks.

The two layers are “sweated” together – that is, the silver is heated so that the two layers meld.

The result is a 3-D picture with great depth and interest.

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Throughout his life, Lawrence was a great ambassador of Hopi jewelry and a teacher to many.

His hallmark is a bear and SAUFKIE like this

Hallmark of Lawrence Saufkie, Hopi

Hallmark of Lawrence Saufkie, Hopi

Lawrence Saufkie was a Hopi silversmith for more than 60 years. In 1998, he was recognized by the American Museum of Natural History for his contributions to this art form and was the recipient of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lawrence Saufkie was designated an Arizona Living Treasure in 2002. He has been featured in numerous magazines and books and his work has been collected by museums such as the Heard Museum, the Museum of Northern Arizona, the Peabody Museum, and Harvard University.

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Tommy Singer’s brother William also used the Chip Inlay technique

William Singer, the brother of Charlie, Jackie and the late Tommy Singer, has used various hallmarks since 1972: SD (both side by side and offset as below), SDX, SDXX, SDV, S/D, all variations of the Singer-Dodge family shop hallmark.

BU130-BG-inlay-buffalo-singer-3Here is an example of William Singer’s chip inlay – a buffalo belt buckle.

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Tommy Singer has been credited with first using chip inlay in 1970. His brother began using the technique in 1972.

What is Chip Inlay?

Chip inlay is a method where cavities in jewelry are filled with a mixture of crushed stone, typically turquoise and coral, and epoxy resin. The piece is then polished smooth after the resin has hardened

Paula

V/L Hallmark on Zuni Longhorn Kachina Inlay Belt Buckle

I’ve replied to hundreds of your queries on hallmarks and now its my turn !! HELP !!

I wonder if any of you have seen this V/L hallmark before. See the photos for the hallmark and the buckle itself.

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The buckle is from a collection we purchased from a gentleman who bought buckles over the last 10-40 years and kept them in a display case so they are NOS (New Old Stock).  The prong on this buckle was shaky so we had the prong replaced – that is the only new part on it.

It is a Zuni inlay of Longhorn Kachina also known by and associated with other kachina names including Saiyatash, Sai-astasana, Zuni Rain Priest of the North, and Hututu. Some say that Longhorn Kachina is usually accompanied by his “Deputy” Hututu. They look quite similar.

Longhorn Kachina has a single long horn sticking off to the right side of his mask and is always seen with his distinctive black and white (striped or checkered) neck ruff.

He has a long left eye which is said to bring a long life to good people. In addition, he is called a hunter/warrior and the Rain Priest of the North who has the ability to control the weather.

I’ve researched the hallmark in all of my references and online and so far this is what I came up – it is NOT the same as either of these other VL hallmarks.   Any ideas?

Vera Luna Virgil LeekyaBU128-BG-inlay-kachina-VL-3Paula

Since artists do change their hallmarks over the years and since one reader showed me a piece by Vera Luna that seems to be a match to this buckle, I will surmise, this buckle was made by Vera Luna. Here is the bolo. Except for the fact that the kachina on the buckle has one extra black feather, these are twins !

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