I missed out on this buckle – help me find another Paula

I recently missed out on purchasing this buckle. I really like the style and was hoping that you may know the maker and could point me in the right direction to find something similar.
buckle has two hallmarks, one is the sun face, other is a hammer or stamper in motion. I looked and looked for the hallmark, could be one of the unknown hallmarks out there. I know there are a few well known Native America silversmiths who use the Sun face hallmark. the buckle measures 2 3/4″ x 2″ wide. In beautiful condition, notice the way the sterling silver has been laid on top to form the designs there are only a few Native Americans who do this type of design. Many Thanks

Jim RL-2486_1L untitledHi Jim,

I’ve learned the hard way a few times. When it comes to Native American made jewelry, if you see something you like, you should buy it because it is likely you might never see the same thing again – this is especially true of vintage items.

Overlay pieces are made of two layers. The bottom sterling silver layer is a solid piece. The top sterling silver layer has a design of a scene, figures or symbols meticulously cut out and then placed over the bottom layer. The two pieces are “sweated” together, that is heated, so that they become one. The bottom layer is the background behind the cutouts and is traditionally darkened (oxidized) for contrast. The result is a 3-D picture with great depth and interest.

The bottom oxidized layer (background to the cutout) might be smooth or accented with hash marks. The Navajo silversmiths usually leave the oxidized background smooth like the Sunface pendant by Charlton Lindsay shown below.

Native American Navajo  Sterling Silver Sunface pendant

Hopi Sterling Silver kokopilli belt buckle

Hopi silversmiths etch the background (texturize it) with hashmarks before oxidizing it, like the kokopelli maze buckle by Joe Josytewa shown at left.

As far as the hallmark on the buckle you missed out on, according to Hopi Silver by Margaret Nickelson Wright, variations of the sunface hallmark are associated with a number of independent Hopi artists as well as a quite a few members of the Hopi Silvercraft Guild. The Guild is an association located at the Second Mesa which began producing silverwork in 1949 and continues to the present. Each smith has his own guild stamp, and although all look similar since they are sunfaces, no two are alike. There are a number of examples in Hopi Silver and none look exactly like the one on the buckle you wrote about.

As far as finding something similar, we have a number of outstanding Hopi buckles on this page.


PS. An observant reader pointed out that the buckle depicted a bird when flipped over. She saw an Thunderbird. I see an eagle from the Hopi Eagle Clan.

buckle flipped

7 thoughts on “I missed out on this buckle – help me find another Paula

  1. Not that it’s very important, but I think that top photo of the buckle is upside-down. If you turn it the other way it shows a thunderbird.

  2. That looks like Ted Wadsworth’s Rabbit Stick stamp on the back, just over the Hopi Guild’s Sunface stamp. A very nice piece indeed! Mr. Wadsworth passed away in 2005, after working for many years. He was one of the first Hopi silversmiths.

  3. August 25, 2015

    I’ve had a beautiful ring from Ted Wadsworth with his rabbit stick hallmark inside. I hoped he would make another just like it for my wife which we would use in our upcoming wedding. After numerous dead-ends in the Four-Corners area, I found a roadside Indian Jewelry shop whose owner knew Ted and the village where he lived on the Arizona side. It is quite a story, but eventually I found myself knocking on Ted Wadsworth’s door. He was out but due back anytime; his gracious wife invited us in to his modest hand-built adobe set in a grove of elms. He arrived home with his boys, who didn’t say a word. Ted agreed to make the ring for $100, which I gave him over only a handshake. Time went on and so did our wedding; our assumption was Ted likely ran into some misfortune.

    Several months after the wedding, perhaps six after meeting his family, an envelope showed up containing the ring, fitting perfectly, apparently addressed with the ring sealed inside. It was beautiful.

    I noticed that Ted had died in 2005. Did any of his sons carry on the jewelry tradition because I’d like another piece from one of his family, if that is possible. If anyone knows, please contact me. Thank you

    Kaz Latven
    San Diego, CA

    • Great story, thank you for sharing. I don’t know the Wadsworth family but do know that Ted was an early Hopi guild smith……….not sure if his boys have carried on the craft. Perhaps another reader of this blog might know……….Paula

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