Native American Pawn Bracelet – Tortoise Shell


Would you be kind enough to visit my site Dara’s Attic to help me identify and price my special pawn piece? I so admire your site, and your knowledge.

Purchased at the Trading Post in Capistrano at age 12-13 in 1969, I was trying very hard to learn from my only mentor, the store owner, when I could get down there. She’s been gone for decades but I am still learning.

I LOVE your site, style and presentation.  Dara (the Collector)

Hi Dara,

I visited your site. What wonderful and varied items you have !

Tortoise Shell was used in Native American jewelry until 1973 when it was outlawed. You can see an old tortoise shell bracelet in our pawn shop and I’ve inserted it here also.

Vintage Native American Tortoise Shell Bracelet

Vintage Native American Tortoise Shell Bracelet

When I visited your site, I clicked on the Native American Pawn bracelet on your home page so I could enlarge it. It is pretty hard to see from the one photo what the piece is all about. Having a few more views would be helpful for your potential buyers.  You can visit our Pawn Shop to see how we display our items.

When I enlarged the photo of the bracelet on your site, it seemed like there was a fine crack all the way across the front of the tortoise shell. In my experience, this devalues a piece substantially even though you say the shell and stone seem secure.

However, because the material is rare, it could offset the devaluation by the crack somewhat.

And, if the artist who made the piece is a noted Zuni or Navajo, that would also weigh into the price. If you could tell me what the signature on the back says, that will be most helpful. Oh, and speaking of weighing in, the weight of a bracelet is also a significant factor in pricing those pieces made of precious metals like sterling silver – which I assume this is…………but you don’t say that on the description. Is it marked as Sterling Silver or have you tested it yet to see if it is sterling? You can do that with an inexpensive reagent kit.

One final suggestion is to measure the inside circumference of the bracelet so you can give potential buyers an idea of size. Using a flexible tape measure, measure inside from end to end. Also measure the space between the ends which is called the gap.  For example, you could express this as 6 1/4″ inside circumference from end to end PLUS a 1 1/4″ gap. A bracelet like that would fit approximately a 7 to a  7 3/4″ wrist.

You might also want to provide the measurement at the front from top to bottom so a person would know scale….or put a dime or quarter next to the bracelet in one of the photos.

Best of luck !  Paula

6 thoughts on “Native American Pawn Bracelet – Tortoise Shell

  1. Dear Paula, thanks for your advise, quick reply and compliments on my site. I hope you don’t mind if I give you more information so as to help identify my piece. By the way, if you know this artist would you let me know? Did the piece strike you as Zuni as I was told? I would love to see the “inside” of your pawn shop to see your full display. I saw the “sold” section and more..don’t know how I missed it. The photography was excellent. Do you do it?

    By the way, spent ALOT of time going through your site. I love it! Your tortoise piece is so light and delicate! As you requested, the name of the artist on back in script is D. M. Aronilh. The inside circumference is 5 1/4″ with a 1 1/2″ gap. The inlaid front is 3″ w/ a silver bezel on straight silver backing about 1/8″ around and double stamped on top, bottom and both sides. There are extra silver doubled straight braces joining the the triple silver joined bands, the outer ones gently stamped and the inner braided, the braid continuing to the back. It weighs about 8 oz. or more. It’s not stamped sterling as far as I can see but having handled a lot of silver from Native American, Bellini, Japanese ceremonial tea sets, Tiffany’s and more, I believe it is. Perhaps it’s too old to be so marked, like the tea service.

    Sorry if I’m being long-winded. I just haven’t re-visited this arena in ages and I am so excited. I also spent a lot of time in New Mexico, collecting pottery, meeting artists in the square, spending hours picking ceremonial drums, large rattles, Navajo rugs…so much fun..and the desert tribes in CA, too much! (and Taxco too). Feels good to share. Thanks again. Dara

    • Hi Dara,
      I have never heard of the artist D. M. Aronilh nor does that family name appear in any of my Native American hallmark books. Is the name stamped in script or written in script with an engraver? When names are written in script they are often tricky to read – I wonder if it could be something else? Which letters of the last name are you absolutely sure of? I have sent you a note to your personal email from my personal email so you can send me an in focus, close up of the signature and perhaps I can help decipher it.
      As far as whether it is Zuni or not, it would be hard to say – the bracelet structure looks more Navajo but then I only see one view – and the weight of it seems more Navajo. Zuni pieces usually are more delicate. However, signing with an engraver is more of a Zuni thing – Navajo artists usually stamp their symbol or name inside. So unless I saw more photos or the item in person, I would just be guessing !
      An 8 ounce bracelet would weight approximately 225 grams which is a whopper, in fact I’m not sure I have ever seen one that heavy. Most Native American pieces are expressed in grams.
      Many of the old silver pieces are not sterling silver and those that are might not be marked as you suggest. So the only way to definitely tell is to test the metal.
      I’m like you, I love handling the old pieces ! They had such history – they almost talk.

  2. Paula, sorry for the delay. Feel free to post your comments on my site. I’ve subscribed to your site but need some newbie help to set up subscriptions on mine. (Hint,hint). You are right. It’s engraved and open to interpretation–the above is the closest I can get. For sure the highly decorative D. M. first initials are clear, and the A; then the “r” could maybe be an “n” but doubt it, the”i” is certain, the “l” is long looped so I deem it certain,then the last letter could be a “K” instead of “h”. So, Aronilh could be a slightly different configuration. I have left this unpolished for the past decade or 2 but this sig is readable in the dim light of my computer although I wish I had a macro, but even a casual shot will do since the signature is at least 1 1/2″ long. I’ll see if I can round up some help. I did not receive your personal request for this back shot but do get your new posts. How can I send you mine? I have a large carved turtle on bone or ivory piece in flat silver top ALSO engraved in script and I am thinking Inuit. Can you help? My “webmaster” is off to college and I am such an old school non tech “newbie”. Gie me a shout-always fun talking to you. Dara

    • I’d better stick to jewelry feedback and advice and leave the blog workings to the wordpress support team. If you click on Support under My Account, usually way over in the left column, it will take you to the support section where you can search what you need to do and find great help there.
      I have no knowledge or experience with Inuit, bone or ivory pieces.
      I’m at a loss as to that last name………..Paula

  3. Dear Paula,

    Thanks as always for your quick response and advise. If I can get some help in here next week I can have the back photographed for signature review, the Ivory and/or bone carved turtle piece has not been photographed or posted yet and altho’ I have not opened my squash collection, do have one piece “out”. However the big news is I found a long (39-40″ X 1/4″)delicate and complex beaded piece with cotton ends with lighter colored beading/symbols over black beads. Tiny,tiny beads. It may be early frontier since it has English writing on it “What ‘Virsus’ Unit(e) –Death Cannot Part”–too long for a picture. I’ve had it forever and it just revealed itself. Who should I see about this one? It’s so light it could easily be mailed. For it’s age it’s in great shape. Someone loved this piece, there are tiny cherry(expensive!), emerald, “crystal”, white and blue beads tightly woven. As a former weaver, this is a well controlled, even piece. Any suggestions? Your input is always welcome.

    Regards, Dara

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