Is this Native American Concha Belt bought in 1976 from an Arizona Pawn Shop an Early Tommy Singer piece?

Hello Paula,

I just found your site & it is fascinating. I’ve been trying to do some research for my mother-in-law on a belt she has. In 1976, she purchased a concha belt from a pawn shop in Arizona. They had had the belt in their safe for about three years, the person who pawned it never came back for it. At the time she was told that it was a Tommy Singer piece. I have been in touch with a gallery that does business with Tommy Singer and he says that he doesn’t recognize the belt. I sent them photos. I have had little to no luck in finding out who the artist is going by the hallmark on the back of the buckle, a deeply stamped capitol “T”. There is also a fainter capitol “A” a little ways away. It is a beautiful piece, swooping birds (swallows, or maybe water birds?) on the buckle and each concha, inlaid with
turquoise and red coral chips. We were just wondering how else to discover who the artist is, since it is not who she was told it is, so that she has some knowledge about it when/if she decides to sell it. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks, Karyn

Hi Karyn,

The chip inlay figures on the belt are peyote birds or water birds. Some call it one – some the other. Here is an article on that figure. Peyote Bird, Water Bird

From what I can see in your photo of the back of the belt buckle, as you say the prominent hallmark is a T and there is a faint A that seems to be separate. Also engraved on the back with what the Navajo artists call an “electric pencil” is what looks like “T 28306 Colo”.  There might possibly be one more number after the 6 but nevertheless, I don’t know what that number stands for as it doesn’t seem like it could be a date. Colo certainly could indicate Colorado yet I’m not sure what that would indicate.

Tommy Singer has used several hallmarks over the years, the earlier one being variations on a T. Sometimes the variation is a peaked figure that looks something like an A. If I could see that portion more clearly on your buckle, that might help.

Tommy Singer’s contemporary hallmarks are gothic caps:

THOMAS SINGER

T. SINGER

There is a TA hallmark attributed to Thomas Atsitty first used as chisel cut in 1974, later as gothic letter as on your buckle. I’m not saying this is by Thomas Atsitty, because the two letters are so far apart on your belt buckle……..yet that is the only other lead I have at this point.

It is too bad that Tommy Singer told the gallery you contacted that he doesn’t recognize the piece as his because as soon as I saw it, I thought it very well could have been a Tommy Singer piece.

I’m posting this in case other readers might shed some light on this.

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3 thoughts on “Is this Native American Concha Belt bought in 1976 from an Arizona Pawn Shop an Early Tommy Singer piece?

  1. I can’t shed much light on this but I agree with Pauls’s comments. The Capital T, stamped, is often considered Tommy Singer’s early mark, and in this case the A is not only separate but isn’t it upside dow and not stamped in the same way? That can suggest two people worked on it. I wouldn’t necessarily consider it part of the same person’s hallmark but more like two separate people: like one for the belt, one for the silver or some collaboration on the silver work? There are a lot of people who use variations of the TA hallmark and I’ve gone nuts trying to track down a variation on that only to find out it’s a contemporary artist who wasn’t in the books but has recently become prominent. But these initials on this piece don’t seem to be part of the same artist’s mark. It is a very lovely belt and the birds are very graceful, and it’s an attractive piece indeed. I’d routinely test it for sterling silver, which it probably is, with a little testing acid, just to be sure, but I’d guess it is and I really like the belt. It’s true a big name can make it worth more, but an excellent design like this even without the artist, still is of good value, in my opinion. I know people then ask how much it’s worth and I really don’t know that, but I really like it.

    Linda

  2. I also have a belt by thomas Singer with this design. I purchased it at auction in Phoenix Arizona-it was listed in the auctions catalog as a Thomas Singer piece. It is marked with a simple T. I am
    planning on selling mine this september & will be traveling in the southwest.

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