Bell Trading Post History and Hallmarks

Bell Trading Post was founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1932 by Jack Michelson and his wife Mildred. They sold southwest style jewelry at various tourist locations in the United States.


Bell Trading Post got its name from Jack’s wife, whose maiden name was Bell.

The types of jewelry sold by Bell Trading Post included sterling silver, nickel silver, gold, and copper.

To see a selection of  Bell Trading Post jewelry, visit our Copper Shop.   Here are some examples:

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Their main competitor was The Maisel Company until Maisel’s closed in 1968.

In 1969, Sunbell Corporation was formed and included these merchandise lines: Bell Jewelry (which now carried the Sunbell hallmark), Gregorian Copper Ware, and Oglala Lakota moccasins from Pine Ridge South Dakota. Sunbell also purchased Maisel’s inventory.

Sunbell Corporation

Sunbell Corporation catalog

Gregorian Copper Ware

Gregorian Copper Ware catalog


Pine Ridge moccasins

catalog page showing the Pine Ridge moccasins

Sunbell continued to offer jewelry items, now with the Sunbell hallmark,  as well as giftware and moccasins until the late 1980s. 

Over the years numerous hallmarks were used on items sold by Bell Trading Post and Sunbell. The hallmarks typically included the image of a bell or that of an arrow sign post with a bell sign hanging from it. Shown here are just a few of Bell Trading Post’s hallmarks.

According to a reader who researched the trademark records, the mark “Bell Jewelry”  was first used in 1935.

The “Arrow post hanging bell sign” was first used in 1961.

Bell Trading Company hallmark   Bell Trading Company hallmark   Bell Trading Company hallmark  Bell Trading Company hallmark

Bell Trading Company hallmark     Bell Trading Company hallmark   Bell Trading Company hallmark

When the name changed to Sunbell, this is the hallmark often used.

sunbell cropped

February 2019

I originally wrote this article in 2011 but just updated it after receiving a note from Jacquelyn Michelson: “As the Daughter of Jack and Mildred Michelson you are incorrect in your facts about the Bell Trading Post. It was never called Bell Trading Company and Bell never merged with The Maisel Company in 1935. They remained fierce competitors until the 70’s when Sunbell Corporation bought the Maisel Company. Please correct your facts. Thank you”.

So I thanked Jacquelyn for taking the time to write and I have corrected the errors in my article and added more information and photos courtesy of Jacquelyn. I’m so glad she wrote, how else would I have known !!

I now want to share with you some references that I had used originally and that I dug out again today as I rewrote this article. I am including them all so you can review the information and draw your own conclusions. As is often the case, things aren’t always black and white.

An article online entitled Bell Trading Post, Albuquerque, NM (1932 -1969)

Although that article seems to provide some good information, Jacquelyn Michelson did point out there are a few errors, in particular this sentence:

“Then in 1957 Jack Michelson pasted away4 leaving the company to his two sons, Jack and Douglas.”

Well not only should that have said passed away, not pasted away, it should have said:

Then in 1957 Jack Michelson passed, leaving the company to his two sons, Jack and Douglas and his daughter Jacquelyn who was a proud and active part of the business. It was Jacquelyn who came up with the name Sunbell and the logo when Sunbell became a corporation.



An excellent book Reassessing Hallmarks of Native Southwest Jewelry by Pat and Kim Messier.  I’m showing one excerpt here but there are other discussions on this topic and much more !


Mssier excerpt

In the book Fred Harvey Jewelry, there is a timeline that states Maisel’s and Bell merged in 1935 which Jacquelyn Michelson says did not happen.

The author of the above book referenced the following book as the source for the merger information. Here is the book cover and the page referenced.

Finally, this is another reference with much about Bell Trading Post, Maisel’s and more.



136 thoughts on “Bell Trading Post History and Hallmarks

  1. Pingback: While metal detecting found a vintage Boy Scount Badge or Native American pin? « Native American Jewelry Tips

  2. I found a very sweet mother of Pearl ring stamped with “Bell Sterling” with a bell in the center with Bell above and Sterling below in a circle.

    Thanks for the info….have any idea how old this ring may be?

  3. Thank you for helping me identify the Bell Trading Post hallmark on a copper bracelet from the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. I purchased it second-hand many years ago because I attended the fair at age 5 and didn’t have a souvenier. I now need to sell it and knowing the hallmark certainly adds value. I grew up in Puyallyup, WA — a Native American area — and was glad to learn that this equisite bracelet was also crafted by Native Americans

  4. i’d like more information about my ring. I bought it in 1976 and a friend is convinced it is Bell and probably made by a Navajo artist. I’ve worn it and loved it for a long time.

  5. some years ago I found a bracelet in an old junk shop in Australia. One day I decided to go through my junk shop finds of which I have a trunk full, and found the bracelet something made me look it up. It looked American Indian I found it was made by the Bell Company and is post war the large turquoise is real. I have never been able to find a bracelet to fit me in my life yet this fits perfectly. There was a picture of the exact bracelet on the internet and it said it was the only one and was sold already. I was so pleased with my find.


  6. i was given a turquoise ring stamped ” bell sterling ” in a circle around the bell. how would i tell what time frame it was made in?

  7. There was a California based competitor to Sunbell and Maisel active in the ’70s and early ’80’s making turquoise rings and bracelets. Do you remember that company’s name and/or have their hallmarks? I sold goods from all 3 firms in the 70’s..

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  9. Hi, I came across a hair accessory of the Bell Trading Company and was wondering if I could get some more info about it. May I send you a picture?

  10. We have a cpl charm bracelets that have multiple charms with the Bell Stamp. We were curious to know if they are collectibles? Worth anything?

  11. I came across some native american jewelry that belonged to my grandmother and maybe even my great grandmother who was full native american. The ring i have a question about is sterling silver with turquoise and inside its stamped Sterling with the Bell Trading Post hallmark. The hallmark is a arrow sign post with the arrow pointing left with a sign hanging from it with what looks to be a small dot inside it. I was wondering what the age of this ring was. Any help would be much appreciated.

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  13. Thats really interesting! I got an old turquoise ring on Etsy and i noticed it had the bell& arrow hallmark on it, now i know where its from!

  14. Thanks for the interesting post! I went to an antique store today and picked up a lovely copper pendant and chain. It’s stamped on the back with the bell image and the words “Copper” and “Bell” I poked around the internet and couldn’t find anything similar, so I’m not even sure this piece really came from the Bell Trading Company. I’d love to know more about it if you have a moment. Also, I’d be happy to send you some pictures. Thanks!

  15. Great site, I learned alot just going thru and reading the posts. Is there anyway to tell on the Bell Trading Co. pieces which tribe or artist it might be from and maybe time period it was made? Thank you

    • Since Bell Trading Co. employed many workers over a period of years, it would be difficult to impossible to attribute a particular person to a piece. Most were Navajo. Also it would be difficult to pin down the exact time period other than what I mention in the article.

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  17. I have a Bell Nickel Silver & Turquiose money clip, do you know how much it might be worth? it’s in very good condition, almost no discoloration, and still very shiny.

  18. Pingback: What Bell markings are on this copper bracelet? | Native American Jewelry Tips

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  20. I have a sterling pin bearing the bell shaped logo encircled by the word sterling. I remember it from my childhood (i am 71) – it belonged to my mother. it’s different from the Indian motiff in that it is a bowlegged cowboy wearing a 10-gallon hat, chaps, neck bandana, and pistols. I’ve dubbed him “Pistol Pete”. It is about 2″ in height. Are these early pieces “collectibles”?

  21. Hello. I purchased a vintage Bell Trading Company ring recently. We have identified it as the Lion’s Head. I was wondering if you could please help us identifying the era it was manufactured based on it’s hallmark. Thank you for your time.


  22. Pingback: Bell Trading Company History and Hallmarks | Native American Encyclopedia

  23. Pingback: Origin of Stamped Cuff Bracelet please………. | Native American Jewelry Tips

  24. Hi,
    I have a very pretty turquoise ring that is stamped:
    Circle O
    Or circle O.W.
    I was wondering if you could tell me more about the stamp/maker. Thank you.

  25. I just identified the hallmark on my sterling silver ring having a thunder-bird on each side.
    the stone is a rectangle of fire agate. For ten years I’ve been stumped! The mark is a
    sign post with arrow and a hanging bell sign. From what time period is this mark?

  26. While going through my fathers “keepsake” box I found a ring that I’ve been able to identify as a Bell Trading Post ring, thanks to your descriptions above of the hallmarks. It has the signpost/arrow with the bell sign hanging from it, with the word sterling beside it. However, I cannot identify the stone. It’s black or possibly navy, perfectly round and polished. Any ideas on what it may be? My father has asked me to identify whatever I can of his keepsakes.

  27. I have a sterling pendant with a large(probably a karat)stone at first glance the stone looks like onyx yet in certain lighting conditions it has a purple hue to it.Anyway it bears the signpost hallmark.Can anyone give me any more information about the pendant.I will try to post a picture of it if possible.Thanks!

  28. Hi there, I recently bought a ring exactly like this- would you be able to tell if it’s real turquoise? I’ve seen a lot of Bell pieces that have this type of dull, uniform colored, bright blue turquoise. Regardless, it’s a beautiful ring and I didn’t pay much for it, but I was curious. Thanks!

  29. I have a turquoise cuff bracelet bought by my mother in Santa Fe in 1969 from a gentleman selling in the square. It is stamped Nicklesilver Bell. I was wondering if it is real turquoise and did the company ever produce jewelry with faux stones? It is beautiful regardless and I get comments every time I wear it. Thank you.

  30. Hello! I have a Bell Trading Post Ring from the 1970s, according to the stamp described above. It is a men’s ring with Indian arrows, tee-pees and wings stamped on the sides. It has a beautiful turquoise stone in an oval cab, with significant brown matrix, and large spiderweb formation with the matrix. The color is a light blue. I believe it was stabilized. I would love to find out where this turquoise was mined. If anyone is willing to communicate with me, I’d be happy to email them pictures. I’d appreciate the expertise. Thank you!

  31. My grandfather left me a Bell Sterling turquoise ring with crossed arrows and a design above it (three triangles). I was wondering if you could tell me the year it was made. If you can email me, I can send photos.
    Thank you.

  32. Hi : )
    I have a s.s. abalone bracelet by bell and was searching for one like it on the web. I couldnt find not one bracelet with abalone. There were several with turquoise. So Im curious about this now. Which one is more sought after by collectors ? Or about the same? Is it because they made more turquoise bracelets than abalone ? or some other reason why there were none on ebay or any other site that I could find.
    ~ Thanks ~

  33. Pingback: Fred Harvey, the Man, the Era, the Jewelry | Native American Jewelry Tips

  34. Hello I found this ring with a metal detector. It had the same symbol as one in the 4th picture you have on this page. How old is it? It says sterling next to it.

  35. My father was a machinist at Sunbell. The factory at first was located on Central west of 12th Street, and re-located to the west side of Albuquerque around 1975/76 on Bluewater west of Coors NW. Both my parents worked there until 1979 until my dad was laid off. The company went through hard times with many layoffs. My mother sold jewelry at Maisel from 1976 to 1978.

  36. According to trademark records the mark “Bell Jewelry” (top middle picture)was first used in 1935, and the “Arrow post hanging bell sign”(top right, middle, and bottom left pics) was first used in 1961.


  37. I have a copper cuff bracelet thathas a mark saying it’s solid copper. Nothing else. I looked through ebay and I found the exact duplicate of my bracelet and it said bell copper. Does that mean that mine is a bell. My grandmother and my grandfather gave it to me in the early 1970s. Hoping to hear from you real soon.

  38. Interestingly, I just bought an old typewriter table which had one of their metal inventory tags on the underside. Says “Bells Trading Post, Inc.” and the number 167. Glad to know where this was used!

  39. I have a copper cross with turquoise with solid copper mark with a bell in the middle.looks old ,ide like to know how old?

  40. i have a what looks like a Fred Harvey Era Western Saddle Ring lol it has the trademark stamped on it its the one in the top left i was wondering how old it was and it has a what I want to say sapphire in the head of the saddle I cant seam to find one online that has the sapphire in the head of the saddle any where but they all look like it just no sapphire or the back of the saddle has a pattern on it myns just smooth

  41. i have what looks like a Fred Harvey Era Western Saddle Ring it has a the trademake with sterling above a bell the one in the top left corner in the article and it has a gemstone in the saddle horn which i believe is sapphire at lest i think it its but i cant find this exact one any where online and was woundering how old it is was can any one help

  42. I found a “Copper Bell” baby bracelet. The hallmark has the a bell with the word copper above the bell and bell below the bell. I’m trying to date the bracelet. It doesn’t match any of the hallmarks above. Thank you!!

    • This mark would fall under the same time period as the one above that reads Bell above bell and Jewelry below bell. Mark was first used some time around 1935 and the trademark for it expired in 1998. Usually with this mark to find a date range you have to go by the style of the jewelry itself.

      Hope this helps,


  43. Just bought a lovely copper bracelet from a trading post in Santa fe. The owner was telling me about Bells. My momma had bought one like it on our way out west in 1959. I wore it all the time and im thrilled to have another one now.

  44. Hello..I have a sterling silver ring. .cowboy on rearing horse ring. ..cobra on one side and a cactus on the other. .I bought it in 1967 souvenir shop in Haughton lake mi..I can send pictures. .thank you for any info. .

  45. we found a belt buckle with the bell stamp on the back with silver and nickel wrote on it. Could you tell me when it was made and the value it. On the front it has four turquoise in each corner. I can send a picture

  46. I have a roadrunner baby bracelet and a money clip by this company. Bracelet is a little worn but great shape, money clip has never been used. I can email photos to help date them

  47. Thanks for the info! I have a pony/horse (?donkey?) pin, evidently acquired on vacation in 1961 in New Mexico that has the Bell hallmark (bell outline with the name inside & STERLING overarching) that led me to your site.

  48. Mine has BELL on top. Then a bell stamp.then STERLING under the bell stamp. Do you know anything that would help me get more information on this ring. It is a green turquoise

  49. Is there any way I could send you pictures of bracelets recently acquired? One is stamped Maisels , the other has no stamp and another says Sterling with initials as the hallmark. I’d like to figure out the type of turquoise used. Thank you

  50. Barbara Milloy, I have a sterling silver cuff bracelet with a Carnelian stone shaped like a bear claw a shell on each side of that markings shown the cuff with 3 half moon shapes and lines coming down the side then two arrows and ending with a circle and silver raised oblong in the silver. it has the Bell trading Post mark with the J and the arrow over it with the sign and the bell inside. It is marked sterling. the Bell Trading Post sign said in your description that it was used in 1961. Could you give me some history on the bracelet. If you want me to send you a picture online, I can do that too. thank you for any information.

  51. Hello, I was reading your article on Bell Trading Post and I was wondering if you could let me know how you documented a couple facts.

    First I have seen two different dates when Bell Trading Post was formed, 1932 and 1935. How did you prove the 1932 date? I have found that Jack and Mildred were married in 1932 but I haven’t found the incorporation papers for the trading post.

    And second I believe your information about Maisel and Bell merging is a mistake. according to the National Park Service Maisel built his store in Albuquerque in 1939 and ran the store until he passed away in the 1960’s.

    • My references were The Native American Curio Trade in New Mexico by Jonathan Batkin and Fred Harvey Jewelry by Dennis June. The latter says the merger took place in 1935 which is quite at odds with what you say above. There is a timeline in the front of the June book. I’d like to recheck all my facts so will go through my notes once more. Have you read either or both of the books? Paula

      • Hey Paula,
        No I’ve not read those books but here is where I got my info on Maisel’s Indian Trading Post

        The National Parks Service says that Maisel opened his shop in 1939 and ran the shop until his death in the 1960’s
        In the 1980’s his grandson Skip Maisel reopened the shop and in 1993 the shiop was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
        One interesting fact I did see though was that after the Michelson brothers incorporated Sunbell in 1969 they filed for a trademark name during the 70’s “Maisel Black Hills Gold”. I would have to look it back up on the USPTO site to find the exact date and if they followed through on the trademark, but I know they filed for it sometime after Maisel’s Indian Trading Post closed.

      • Thank you ! Both books are detailed and quite thorough but conflict with the information in the link to the NPS link you just sent so I am going to wrestle this to the ground next week and update my post with links to some more information for readers. Thank you very much for asking these questions. Maybe at least I will be able to lay out the various versions of the facts ……..more next week. Paula

  52. Hi. I just want to ask about a pair of copper earrings i have that is marked with the symbol bell with the rays around it and is followed by the word sunburst. It is a simple straight earrings with 3 rhinestones on it. Is it a bell trading mark or another? Thanks

  53. Did the bell company sell authentic native American Jewelry? Did do what Fred Harvey and not use real Indians to make the jewelry?

  54. Hi I bought a bell bracelet off eBay with the bell on the arrow, it was sold as sterling and it’s stamped sterling. The thing is it looks more like copper than silver why is that. would you give me some insight to this as I feel like I got took. Thanks

  55. I have 50 state spoons that have the identical design of Bell Trading Co. They are marked STERLING on the back but there is no other hallmark (Bell or otherwise). Any idea who may have manufacture the spoons? Thank you

  56. I was at a antique market over the weekend and I picked up what appears to be a ww2 aerial gunner pin (aerial gunner wings). The pin shows a bullet in a downward facing position with wings coming out of either side, on the reverse of the pin is a very clear “bell sterling” mark the exact same as the first image you have on this pag. I tried searching the internet for any information and came up with nothing. If anyone has any knowledge on this it would be greatly appreciated.

  57. Do the Nickel Silver pendants with large turquoise stones use authentic turquoise? It is a Bell Trading Co. logo. Thanks.

  58. BELL NICKEL SILVER TURQUOISE PENDANT – INDIAN SYMBOLS. I would like to know about this pendant I have could you please help!

  59. I have found a Bell Nickel Silver Money Clip that belonged to my FIL, I would be happy to send a picture and would like some information on it. It appears to have the initial RS next to the Bell emblem.

  60. I have a turquoise ring with the word “Bell” over the actual “Bell” and under the “Bell reads Sterling.” What is the approximate value of this ring?

  61. As the Daughter of Jack and Mildred Michelson you are incorrect in your facts about the Bell Trading Post. It was never called Bell Trading Company and Bell never merged with The Maisel Company. In 1935. They remained fierce competitors until the 70’s when. Sunbell Corporation bought the Maisel Company . Please correct your facts. Thank you . Jacquelyn Michelson

  62. I have been trying to reach out to the Michelson family for some time, without any info on how to do so. I am deeply interested in the history of Bell Trading, but more importantly, I ran into old stock and just really want to honor the memory of the family and company correctly. And not make errors lol, and I am interested in another very important idea that I believe will deeply benefit and bless the Michelson family, while benefitting and blessing many Native American artists of today. Maybe that will hit close to home for you (I hope) – something I know was important to the heart of the original company was to help and employ many Native Americans in one of the worst financial times of our nation. Thanks, Jazzy

  63. I came across this while trying to find out more about the rings a very dear friend gave me and he is 100% Native American. I have always loved NA jewelry due to having NA blood myself. I would love to send you pictures .

  64. I bought a ring in michigan 1966..cowboy on rearing horse ring and a cactus and snake on side…maker mark is a bell with sterling draped over it an bell written inside..I have pics. .thanks

  65. In the article about the mickelson boys inheriting the bell trading post along with helpful sister it ahould be stated that the boys were not up to running the business so my uncle leonard bell the uncle to the boys stepped in and ran company for them for many years….and now no credit..if not for uncle leonard bells involvement it would have closed with death of Jack..thanks

  66. I have a copper cuff bracelet that is the exact one shown at the top of your website….Thunderbird in the center with a figure on the left and right. My question is the stamp. Mine has a bell in the center with the words SOLID COPPER in a circle around the bell. There is no sun, the word “Jewelry” is not included as shown on your page under the different stamps used. Can you please tell me if this is an actual Bell piece and the value? Thank you!

    • I have never seen the mark you are referring to but according to the RCJ website there was a mark that was just a bell, and then there were the bell on post marks that had “solid copper” written around them. Sometimes the Bell name was actually inside the bell mark very small. Considering the many variations of the mark over the years I would say it probably is one of their marks. Sorry couldn’t help more, maybe someone else will chime in with more info.

  67. I have found a small cuff bracelet with a stamped design and an interior label (stuck on type) that reads “Cole Silver Indian Made”. I’m looking for information that would indicate if that is a maker or a seller.

  68. I have a Fred Harvey era turquoise bracelet with a “silver arrow” hallmark on the inside. There are thunderbirds on either side of the center stone and other stamp marks along the sides. I’m wondering what the silver arrow hallmark is. It’s a long arrow with “silver arrow” written across it.

  69. I have the tourquoise bracelet with the patent silver nickel that has the Bell and eIL??? How does this date my piece to what year and value ???

  70. I have an eagle or thunderbird pin that’s really quite plain and was told by someone that Maisel’s sold such. However, I’ve been looking at the older pieces from the ‘Fred Harvey’ era and I believe it may be from that time period. I saw in this threat that Maisel’s is related to Bell (I also have a turquoise ring from Bell). On the back this pin is marked sterling and with what appears to be a stamp of 1. a kachina, 2. a woman or 3. a female god. Not 100% of that either, since it’s tiny and faded. The wings of the bird are upswept with simple 3 lines incised on each wing, the tail has 4 inverted V’s on it and the eagle is facing left. Could this be one of the cheap souvenirs that were being sold during that era, and if so, any idea who made it and when? Thank you!

  71. I was tilling up my backyard to start my garden and happen to see a faint colored blue in the dirt. I found a turquoise ring that has what looks like some stress fractures in the stone and needs to be slightly straightened… It has a post with an arrow through it a sign under it with a bell on it and says Sterling. It Looks to be hand stamped and has crescent moons on the sides, with lines filling them in across the moon. Can you tell me anything about this ring?

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