Wide Sterling Silver Navajo or Hopi Overlay Cuff with T Hallmark

Hi Paula

I’m curious about the mark in a 2″ widest, cuff bracelet that appears to be overlay work.  Inside, the mark looks like a capital “T” with the word sterling printed under the mark.  The top center design is sunface and there are two bear claw designs, one on each side.  It measures 6 1/2″ around, from edge to edge.

I was not able to photograph the mark on the inside as it is not in the middle but near one end of the bracelet — it is a capital “T” with the word “sterling” underneath.  I believe it was bought in either Santa Fe or Taos about 25 years ago. Thanks for any info you can give me.

Thank you,  Penny


Hi Penny,

Your nice heavy overlay bracelet has a sunface and what the artists we talk to usually call badger paws although they say that the buying public would rather think of them as bear paws, so that’s OK with them too ! We’ve heard the stylized depiction such as on your bracelet referred to both ways.

According to Hallmarks of the Southwest by Barton Wright, the hallmark T has been attributed to Navajo artist Tommy Singer. Early on he used the T, TS and and variations of a T often accompanied by a quarter moon or bird form.

His more recent hallmarks are

T. Singer

THOMAS SINGER

Hallmark T. Singer
Hallmark THOMAS SINGER
Hallmark THOMAS SINGER

Since you said this was originally purchased 25 years ago, it is possible it is some of Tommy Singer’s earlier work, however without seeing the piece in person or seeing the hallmark it is hard to say positively.

Tommy Singer is more noted for chip inlay and storyteller pieces such as the examples that I have used here. I personally have not seen simple overlay like this by him, although I have seen such bracelets by a number of both Navajo and Hopi artists.

It is possible that this could be a Hopi bracelet or a Hopi style bracelet made by a Navajo artist that used the T hallmark. If you can send me a photo of the hallmark, maybe I can see something distinctive about the hallmark. Also a closeup of one of the paws, would allow me to see the black oxidation background better to see if it is textured or a flat wash. When I zoom in on the photos you sent, the dark background appears to be a flat wash, more typical of Navajo made Hopi style overlay.

Below, for example is a Hopi style overlay bracelet made by a Navajo artist. It had simple, clean lines, no decorative stamping or embellishments. The black background was a wash, not texturized. It was sent to us as a Hopi bracelet and from the photos sent to us, it could have been, but as soon as it arrived it was clearly Navajo made and by an artist we were familiar with. So making positive determinations strictly from photos is difficult. If you click on this bracelet photo you can see more specs about it in terms of size and weight. We received and sold this bracelet a few years ago in our pawn shop.

So the jury is still out, but here is some more info on Tommy Singer and Overlay.

Who is Tommy Singer?

Known world wide for his silver work, chip inlay and necklaces, Tommy Singer pieces are highly collectible and sought after. The Tommy Singer family has been involved in silversmithing, stone and beadwork for a very long time, handing the art down from one generation to another. Tommy Singer grew up on in the community of Dilcon on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and has been attributed as the first Native American artist to use chip inlay. This is where a silver piece is decorated with turquoise or coral chips.

What is Overlay?

Overlay pieces are made of two layers. The bottom layer is a solid sterling silver piece. The top layer has a cutout design. The cutout is placed over the bottom layer and the two pieces are “sweated” together, that is heated so that they become one. The bottom layer (background to the cutout) is usually accented. The Navajo silversmiths oxidize the bottom layer which darkens it. Hopi silversmiths typically oxidize and etch the background (texturize it) with hashmarks.

8 thoughts on “Wide Sterling Silver Navajo or Hopi Overlay Cuff with T Hallmark

  1. Hopi jewelry was my first passion, and I can usually spot a piece of Hopi from a mile away. If the capital T is real fat, it could be the Antelope Rattle mark used by Floyd Namingha Lomakuyvaya. He began silversmithing in 1973, so the timeline would work out.
    A handy tip to help tell Hopi overlay from Navajo overlay, besides the hashmarks that you’ve mentioned, is that Hopi artists almost never use stamping details on the top layer of silver. Navajo artists frequently do. You can see a lot of surface stamping in Tommy Singer’s horses, clouds, and small plants, adding intricate detail to the design.

    • Hi Diane !!
      Thanks for the great input !
      From what I can see, it could be either Hopi or Navajo. I’ve asked the person who asked the question to send some photos of the hallmark and closeup of the background but have not heard back from her.
      I LOVE Hopi items as well and must admit if the house was burning and I had to grab one bracelet it would be my Hopi Wolf bracelet !
      Love your comments ! Paula

  2. Very good answer, certainly looks like Floyd’s excellent smithing and the solo T is the Antelope rattle, his mark
    Have not seen many Hopi wolf bracelets, there is a Coyote clan however, and the Badger/Bear claw comment will go on forever I believe, ha ha, can be either……..both are very highly regarded clans within the tribe

  3. Is there anyone who could provide me with information about Floyd Namingha Lomakuyvaya or get me contact information so I can communicate with him directly?
    I would appreciate it very much.
    Thanks!
    Brigitte

  4. Hi there, I have a Beautiful sterling Buckle. It has a Bear with inlayed Turquoise, and above the bear looks kinda like a sunrise with a cabachon of a half circle on its side of turquoise. My main question is the markings say T. Thomas with sterling underneath… I know its Navajo, but are you familiar with this marking? Is it possibly an earlier marking from another Artist? I do thank you kindly for your time, and any info. you could provide.

    Many Thanks,
    David

  5. I have a arm cuff bracelet that my husband purchased for me 20+ years ago in New Mexico. It has a turquiose and coral stone on top. On the inside it has a T mark along side the word Sterling. I’m trying to find out more about the designer. Thank you for your help. Is there a way to send you a picture ?

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