Can you Help me With OLD Bolo Hallmarks?

Hi Paula
I came by your information by chance and thought I would see if you could help me with some Native American jewelry Hallmarks on bolos.  First is a horse shoe type with an arrow over rays or other arrows. The other is a dancer with a simple hand engraved T I H. Both are quite old, somewhere between the 1930’s and perhaps early 1950’s.
Thank you,
IMG_20130430_104527_652 IMG_20130430_104610_576 IMG_20130430_104623_061 IMG_20130430_104646_170IMG_20130430_104623_061 closeup
Hi Connie,
Both your Naja and Knifewing bolos seem to be quite old, with hand made bolo slides – before the popular Bennett bolo slide appeared on the scene.
First the Naja with an arrow and rays. Read more about the Naja here.
I don’t recognize the hallmark and do not see it in any of my hallmark reference books.
Next the Knifewing with TIH. Read more about Knifewing here.
I don’t recognize the hallmark and do not see it in any of my hallmark reference books.
I looked it up as you suggested with TIH and also as a cross followed by IH which is what it seems to me. I came up empty.
Perhaps a reader of this blog might recognize these old marks.

20 thoughts on “Can you Help me With OLD Bolo Hallmarks?

  1. These are both very fine pieces. I don’t know the hallmarks. I would say on the knifewing that the characters may not be the artist but may be trader or owner initials. I’d flip through the Sei book called “Knifewing and Rainbow Man in Zuni Jewelry”, and even though there are tons of errors in there, you want to similar forms. This is early so you won’t find to many in that inlay style. But the form, the way the legs and feet and wings and hat and tall are done, you probably will find in one or more artist. I especially like the other piece. At some point those hallmarks should be identifiable on that one. Good luck with it. Linda

  2. Perhaps the knifewing is a very early Horace Iule and it’s HI not IH. He had a fondness for crosses so this came to mind. Barbara

  3. I don’t think so on Horace Iule on the knifewing, but I just squinted at those initials and saw them as AH for Alonzo Hustito. He’s been considered the originator of the knifewing figure and he did a zillion of them including that type of inlay early on. He’s my artist of choice for this one. Good to see you, too, Paula.

  4. Both Iule and Hustito were credited as inventing the knifewing, by different sources. Ostler credited Hustito. But they don’t have to have invented it to have made it. I have not seen Iule do work of this type of inlay (I haven’t seen examples of Iule’s work like this, either depicted or in person) and I’ve seen and owned several with this type of inlay by Alonzo Hustito. He was doing tons of them in that period of time and also in that style of inlay, done with his wife Helen. I don’t know what that plus sign or T or cross is, but it is a little separated from what I now see as an AH. Wish it were an H for Helen but it’s not. However, I think the piece is very like his work. So I’m going with him. A few others could have done the piece but those initials really strike me as AH now… Wish we could figure out the other one, Paula.

  5. Here’s an item on eBay, item number 121098573680:

    The inlay style is the same as that in the piece above, though the particular form is different. Hustito did create similar forms to that one though: there are numerous examples in that book for a form like Connie’s, without the cornmeal belt, though. In those days he wasn’t signing his pieces, by the way. Few people were. Iule was doing more of the cast knifewing figures, rather than the inlaid ones, but Hustito was one of those doing them in inlay.

  6. I think there’s another reasonable possibility. There’s an example on page 96 (Rainbowman and Knifewing in Zun Jewelry) of a signed piece by Frank Vacit of a knifewing pin made in this inlay style with some similarity in design and form to Connie’s piece. If we assume that the “hallmark” is the mark of a trader or owner and just ignore it, it could be Frank Vacit’s unsigned piece. The example on page 96 does have the cornmeal belt, too, similar wing and leg shape and similar body and wing shape too. The one in the book has a lot of feathers, which Connie’s doesn’t have but that is not a reason to rule out that Frank Vacit was the artist.

  7. The way I was seeing the I as an A was looking at the right side of the A as being dark (the I) and the left side of the A as being very light. I could see that and also the line between them as very light. But I agree that this is not clear at all. Given that few were signed at that time and mostly the traders and owners put their marks on them, it might be easier to dismiss that “hallmark” for now and just go with artistic style indications. Connie’s piece is very similar both to the Hustito on eBay and the Frank Vacit depicted in the book on page 96. I don’t know how many others may have used that style inlay then — probably the 1940s into early 1950s. Ted Edaaki has an example of a bracelet in that style, but not the same form at all. Both men, Hustito and Vacit, are documented as having used it and also they did similar forms, and they are both renowned artists, too. Unless we find a twin to hers that is signed it’s going to be very hard to pin it down.

  8. Signatures in the 1940s were uncommon. However sometimes someone scribbled the artist’s name on them even if the artist did not. But the traders almost always inscribed their own marks on them, so if the pieces weren’t bought directly from the artists, they usually had a trader’s mark. And then some owners would inscribe their own names or social security numbers on them. So there’s a tangle of marks on the backs of many of them, as I know you know but I’m mentioning it for those reading this who may not know.

    There will be more books, updates to current books, and more info will come. I wouldn’t give up. I’m always looking for identifying info and sometimes I’m lucky. I just snagged a piece that will be a Rosetta stone for one artist. Very exciting.

  9. That’s a great way of saying it Linda “a tangle of marks” on the backs of some pieces. Since we receive many estate lots here, we do find that owners, both Native American and non Native American, have inscribed or written their names on the back of pieces. When we see Betty McNamara, we know it is a non NA owner but when we see something like Roland Boone we aren’t sure if it is an owner or artist. That’s why it is good to be able to see the piece and the hallmarks in person and know design techniques and styles – like you do ! We try our best here but sometimes it is just a guess so that’s why I post these things in case someone can add a lead in the future perhaps.

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