Vintage Navajo Bridle Loop Conchos Signed Ken B.

Hi, I have a pair of old Sterling 2″ bridle loop conchos with a large Turquoise stone rising out of or nestled in 2 Sterling feathers and I was wondering if you could help me identify the maker.
Both are signed KEN B on the back and I am really hopeful they are older works of Ken Bill but I have never found any items of his marked that way.
Any thoughts?

Thanks, Scott

Hi Scott,

First of all for those readers who want to know a little bit more about Conchos in general here is an article from our website:

Concho Belts AKA Concha Belts

Here is an excerpt

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.

Now as far as bridle loop conchos, today they are a popular embellishment to a show horse’s bridle but were a standard part of a Navajo bridle. The conchos can be attached in a variety of places on the bridle but when there is a pair of them, they are usually either for

a. the junction of the browband and the headstall or most commonly

b. to cover the buckle or adjustment area on the sidepieces of the headstall such as in this photo below

Now as far as the hallmark, which I know is why you really wrote……but I wanted to add a bit of info to the post……I have not seen that particularĀ  engraved hallmark nor does it appear in any of my reference books or journals.

For those that are new to hallmarks, a hallmark is usually stamped onto the back of a piece using a die or the hallmark is engraved on the back using an engraver – usually in cursive writing style such as the “Ken B.” on these conchos. Older Navajo pieces sometimes had signed engraved hallmarks. Zuni pieces, both old and new, are also often hallmarked with engraved “signatures”.

The pieces by Ken Bill that I have seen and that we have in our store have one of two stamped hallmarks: all caps KENNETH BILL and the other KEN BILL. I’ve not seen a hand signed piece.

Ken Bill also co-marks pieces with Mary Bill which are usually a combination of one of the stamped hallmarks above along with ” Mary” or “Mary Bill” often in a cursive stamp similar to the writing style on the back of your conchos.

I’m posting this in hopes that someone might have seen this signed Navajo hallmark and will reply to the blog.

Until then……..

 

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