About Native American Jewelry Tips

Manager of jewelry store, pawn shop, and vintage Dooney & Bourke handbags at www.horsekeeping.com

Our First Annual Vernal Equinox Vintage Native American Bracelet BOGO Sale

I love the Spring Equinox, when day and night are equal, because that means from here until the Summer Solstice in June the days just keep on getting longer and longer – more daylight! To celebrate I’ve put together a BOGO bracelet sale, from March 12 to April 12 , 2019 only.

You can choose bracelets from three places (see details below.)

Important note – New bracelets are not part of this sale.

Here are the 3 Vernal Equinox Sale Bracelet categories:

Vintage Native American Bracelets

Bargain Barn Bracelets

Mexican Bracelets

Buy One Bracelet – Get One FREE!!

1. Choose your bracelets from these three departments:

Horsekeeping Jewelry Bargain BarnVintage Bracelets

Bargain Bracelets

Mexican Bracelets

IMPORTANT NOTE: Bracelets from the NEW department are not part of this sale.

2. Put one bracelet in the shopping cart – this is the bracelet you will pay for.

3. Choose a bracelet of equal or lesser value and type the product number in the NOTE section of the order page – this will be your FREE bracelet (DO NOT add this FREE bracelet to the cart or you will pay for it).

4. You can do this for as many bracelet pairs as you want.

5. Pay for your order and wait for your bracelets to arrive.

6. Celebrate the coming of Spring!!

Write to me at the Horsekeeping webstore if you have any questions.

Paula

Hallmarks on Mexican Silver Jewelry

A big part of my job is sorting through boxes of jewelry from estate lots or personal collections that come into the store where I work. The boxes are meant to contain only Native American jewelry but often there is southwest style costume jewelry and Mexican jewelry mixed in.

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I set aside the jewelry with Mexican hallmarks and when I get a batch, I research and list it in our Mexican Jewelry section.

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I thought it would be helpful to outline what I have learned about Mexican silver jewelry hallmarks.

First of all, deciphering Mexican hallmarks is an imperfect science. That is, while I will try to provide some guidelines, the system is not black and white, is not accurate. Hallmarks are sometimes used improperly or fraudulently, old hallmarks are mixed with new hallmarks, so in general, the results are often unreliable.

With that said, there is a very good reference book that will give you some help. The Little Book of Mexican Silver Trade and Hallmarks by Bille Hougart.

OK, forging ahead – here are some very general Mexico Silver hallmark guidelines from 1900, which is the age of most of the Mexican silver we get in our store:

During 1900-1948, there was no eagle hallmark. Most pieces were stamped MEXICO and either SILVER or STERLING. They might also have the name of the region such as TAXCO stamped as well as a silver purity such as 925, 950 etc.

From 1948-1980, eagle hallmarks were used to signify sterling content. If there was a an eagle, it was to guarantee the piece was at least of sterling content (.925). The eagle stamp was used with a number to designate origin. For example, 3 for Taxco, 1 for Mexico City (Distrito Federal). Numbers were also assigned to established silver shops.

In 1980, the eagle system was replaced with a Registration Number system. The number stamped on the items consisted of two letters, a dash, and a number.

The first letter represented a place, such as Taxco or another area or city.

The second letter represented the name of the maker, but it could be either the first of last name.

The number after the dash is simply that person’s registration number. Numbers were assigned in order of application for each 2 letter combo.

In recent years the registration system has deteriorated – through lack of enforcement and misuse –  so many makers no longer use it and instead sign their pieces with their own hallmarks – in my opinion, that is as it should be.

Below I am going to show some hallmarks from items that have passed through our store. Using the guidelines above, try to place them in the proper time period. Underneath them I will give my best guess of their age but I welcome input and feedback.

MEXICO SILVER – likely 1900-1948

MEXICO STERLING – likely 1900-1948

S.R. SILVER MADE IN MEXICO – likely 1900-1948

STERLING 925 TAXCO – likely 1900-1948

STERLING TAXCO MEXICO – likely 1900-1948

TAXCO 925 MEXICO DM- likely 1900-1948

TAXCO 925 – likely 1900-1948

Eagle with a 3; STERLING TAXCO MEXICO cCc in center – likely 1948-1980

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Eagle with an illegible number; PLATA 0925 GUAD MEX – likely 1948-1980

925 MEXICO TR-151 The T stands for Taxco; R is for either the first or last name of the maker and 151 means he was the 151st person to register a TR hallmark – likely made after 1980

a hand and HECHO A MANO 925. The hallmark of contemporary artist Manuel Porcayo Figueroa. Contemporary.

Because of the unreliable nature of Mexican stamps, we have found quite a number of items stamped Sterling or 925 do not test positive for sterling silver using a simple acid test. Therefore we test all items in spite of their hallmarks before we list them in our Mexican Shop. We provide all the hallmark information we can discern from each piece even though we are often not able to attribute it to a particular individual.

A side note – another common metal used in Mexican jewelry is alpaca which is an alloy made of nickel, zinc and copper. Often you will see the work ALPACA stamped on such items. But I’ve found that alpaca items are sometimes stamped 925, thus our rigorous testing policy.

Paula

Southwest Native American Rings

A few years back a woman wrote me saying:

“I am looking for one of those turquoise indian rings.”

I thought, “Gee……..where do I start”……….?? So I asked her to describe the one she was looking for and she said “like a wedding band”. I immediately thought of the Zuni inlay rings that have been popular for many years and sold all over the southwest. I sent her this photo and she said – “Exactly”.

Phew, that was an easy one.

Shortly after that a man wrote asking for a ring like he saw in Thunderheart (the movie)

Now there I had a better idea of what he was looking for since I have watched that movie a dozen times and even got my husband a ring like the big turquoise oval one in the movie.

1 3/8″ turquoise ring by the late M. NARANJO, Tewa

However, there were at least 4 different types of rings in the movie, so I devoted a blog article to answer his question in detail – to see examples of the 4 rings in the movie, click the link below.

I want to get a ring like I saw in the movie Thunderheart

Over the years I have helped a number of people find the ring of their dreams. But I thought one way to further help would be to categorize, describe and show photos of some of the more commonly made types of Native American rings, thus creating a vocabulary of sorts to allow a dialogue to get started.

MATERIALS

In most cases, Native American rings are made from sterling silver – you can read about silver by clicking the link below to my blog post:

Jewelry Silver – Not All Silver is Created Equal

Some rings are solely made of sterling. But the vast majority also feature stones, shells and other materials.

Here is a list of commonly used materials in Native American rings: (I have written articles about some of the materials, so you can click on those that are hyperlinks to learn more). To read about other materials, look in the right hand column of the home page of this blog and you’ll see an outline of article topics – scroll to Materials – there are plenty more materials listed there.

Acoma Jet
Bear Claws and other claws
Coral
Gaspeite
Jasper
Lapis Lazuli
Mother of Pearl
Onyx
Opal (natural and imitation)
Malachite
Petrified Wood
Spiny Oyster (orange and purple)
Tiger Eye
Turquoise
White Buffalo Stone

TRIBAL STYLES

Generally southwest Native American rings are made by Navajo, Zuni or Hopi jewelers.

In VERY general terms, I’ll first describe the types of rings associated with each tribe but I’ll provide much more detail throughout this article.

Navajo rings are typically a sterling silver band, often heavy and/or elaborate. The band can be silver only or have stones that are set with various types of bezels.  For more information on bezels, read my article  Types of Bezels  If a Navajo ring is inlaid, the inlay pieces are usually separated by silver channels.

Zuni rings are usually either stone-on-stone inlays (no silver channels in between the pieces), snake rings, snake eyepetit point or needlepoint. 

Hopi rings are most often sterling silver overlays with contrasting (oxidized) and textured backgrounds.

NAVAJO RINGS

There are a number of ring styles that are associated with Navajo silversmiths. I’ll mention some of the most common and popular.

Storyteller

One traditional style of Navajo silver ring is a storyteller. Individual scenes depicting daily life are cut out of a sheet of silver and layed over an oxidized background.

Storyteller bracelets show Navajo life. The home (hogan) and the activities around the home such as cooking, weaving, tending livestock, driving a wagon to town. The scenery of the area such as buttes, trees and shrubs and sometimes clouds are also depicted.

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Silver

There is nothing better for everyday wear than a well-made silver Navajo ring. Below is a slide show depicting some popular silver Navajo ring styles including stamped, repousse, overlay and more. Click here to see more silver rings.

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Sandcast

Sand cast and tufa cast items are made using a mold into which molten silver is poured. Click to read more about Cast Jewelry, To see more cast rings, click here

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Single Stone Turquoise

Possibly the most iconic Navajo ring is the single turquoise stone. Put one on and you feel like a million dollars. Below is a wonderful array of single stone turquoise rings, both polished cabochons and nuggets. To see more turquoise rings, click here.

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Single Stone Other

When you need a Jet or Mother of Pearl or Lapis ring to go with your outfit, you will likely be able to find a beautiful Navajo single stone ring to fit the bill. To see more single stone rings, click here

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Cluster

Cluster refers to a group of stones usually set in a circular or oval pattern. While often associated with Zuni artists, there are a number of Navajo smiths that have made cluster rings over the years. To see the cluster rings we have for sale, click here 

Turquoise and Coral

A very popular color combination is coral and turquoise together. Turquoise is a happy stone by itself – add a dash of coral and you’ll just be giddy ! Very classic and classy. To see the turquoise and coral rings we have to offer, click here

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MOP and Other Shell

Mother of Pearl, Pink Shell, Abalone, Paua Shell and other shells add a bit of gleam and glitter to a ring. To see more examples, click here.  

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Claw

Claw rings are a popular design, especially with men, The claws can be real or faux claws and traditionally are bear but can also be from smaller animals like coyotes. To see more examples of bear claw rings, click here.

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Silver Channel Inlay

Navajo inlay usually features silver channels between pieces of stone. Click here to see more.

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Inlay

Although pictorial inlay is more commonly associated with Zuni artists, there are a number of Navajo that make beautiful and unique inlay rings. Click here to see vintage Navajo rings. 

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Corn Row, Cobblestone and Mosaic Inlay

Three types of inlay that are somewhat similar are Mosaic Inlay (click the link to go to a separate article), Corn Row and Cobblestone inlay. They are a more 3 dimensional type of inlay than the flat inlay of Zuni artists.

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Shadowbox

The shadowbox technique consists of a cutout top layer that is usually (but not always) domed and that is soldered to a solid bottom layer with or without a dark contrasting background. The shadowbox might be all silver or incorporate stones.

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Leaf and Feather

A very popular design style for Navajo rings, especially those made for the tourist trade, is the incorporation of a leaf or feather along with the other silver work or stones. The leaves and feather might be hand made or the could be ready-made cast pieces that the silversmith purchases from a trading post and adds onto the ring. Some wrap around rings are made of a single feather. To see many examples of leaf and feather rings, click here.

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Cigar Band

Cigar band style refers to a wide band with stamping. To read more about this style, click on my post- What is a Cigar Band Ring? 

Here is an example of a cigar band ring using White Buffalo Stone. It was made by Tony Garcia. 

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ZUNI RINGS

Zuni rings are usually one of 4 types: Inlay, Petit Point, Needlepoint and Snake Eye.

Inlay

Zuni inlay is usually stone-on-stone inlay, that is, the stone or shell pieces touch each other, there is no silver channel work in between. However, just as I say that, you will see below some examples of Zuni inlay that does incorporate silver channels. There are no hard and fast rules – just generalizations.

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Petit Point

Petit Point is comprised of long, narrow teardrop-shaped stones and possibly round dots.

Needlepoint 

Needlepoint is comprised of straight, long, narrow stones that are pointed on both ends. Here are examples of needlepoint rings:

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Snake Eye

Snake Eye rings are comprised of many tiny spherical cabochons of turquoise (usually). You can read more about Snake Eye in my article

Here is a 100 stone snake eye ring by April and Peter Halloo, Zuni

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Here are more examples of snake eye rings:

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Snake Rings

Some Zuni families, most notably that of Effie Calavaza, make snake motif rings.

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HOPI RINGS

Hopi rings are traditionally overlay with contrasting (oxidized) and texturized backgrounds. Sometimes the designs are easily recognizable animal and other natural elements, other times they are abstracts.

Here is an example of a Hopi overlay ring by Raymond Kyasyousie.

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More hopi ring examples:

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To read more about rings, here is an interesting book that I reviewed here on this blog:

Book Look: Southwestern Indian Rings by Paula A. Baxter

 

Paula

Knifewing – Native American Diety

Who is Knifewing?

Knifewing, also Knife Wing, is a half man – half eagle Zuni spirit or god with razor sharp feathers made of flint. He is the ultimate warrior.

Unmarked vintage knifewing pin

Anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing, who lived with the Zunis from 1879-1884 described knifewing this way:

“This curious god is the hero of hundreds of folklore tales, the tutelary deity of several societies of Zuni. He is represented as possessing a human form, furnished with flint knife-feathered pinions, and tail. His dress consists of the conventional terraced cap (representative of his dwelling place among the clouds). His weapons are the Great Flint-Knife of War, the Bow of the Skies (the Rainbow), and the Arrow of Lightning. His guardians or warriors are the Great Mountain Lion of the North and that of the upper regions. He was doubtless the original War God of the Zunis.”

From the Encyclopedia of Native American Jewelry by Paula Baxter:

Baxter

Baxter

From North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment by Dubin

Dubin

Dubin

Horace Iule (also known for his crosses) is credited with creating the first knifewing design in the late 1920s, cut and filed out of hand-wrought silver.

Read more about Horace Iule in The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths by Adair

Adair

Adair

Adair

Afterwards, other Zuni, Navajo and Pueblo began producing knifewing designs.

The knifewing became one of the first designs that the Zuni inlaid with stones. An interesting excerpt from Zuni – a Village of Silversmiths

Zuni – a Village of Silversmiths

In this slide show, there are three vintage kinfewing inlay bracelet examples. To see more details on them, visit our Vintage Bracelet section. 

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Below is a slide show of a Sterling silver box with inlay knifewing by Suzie James Navajo

Paula

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Custom Holster Silverwork by Henry Yazzie

My husband gave me a sweet gun for my birthday. It is a mint condition Colt Police Positive 38 made in 1917.

He said the gift came with a holster of my choice. So I selected a Barsony black leather holster, made in the USA.

I sent the holster to Henry Yazzie through his business partner Diane Radeke (see their contact information at the end of this article) along with my rough drawing that asked for 3 stars from Orion’s belt and a dragonfly in silver.

Knowing that the silver would have to be attached to and likely through the leather, I also requested that there would be no metal on the inside that would scratch my collectible treasure.  I probably didn’t need to mention this as both Diane and Henry collectively have vast experience and would have known this already, but special order instructions are always graciously received by them. They want to get it right.

I couldn’t have been happier and more pleased with the outcome – what do you think?  Paula

Diane Radeke
myfavoritesilversmith@gmail.com
602-354-5028
http://www.myfavoritesilversmith.com
P. O. Box 55935
Phoenix, AZ 85078

Meet Monty Claw and his Unique Jewelry

Monty Claw

We are so happy to have met Monty Claw and feature some of his unique jewelry in our webstore.

Navajo artist Monty Claw is largely self-taught although he did study at The Institute of American Indian Arts.

He has worked in many mediums including leather and beadwork, making feather fans, painting and silversmithing.       

See two of Monty’s fans below in this slide show   – for more details, see Fans on our website. 

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Monty Claw and his work have been featured in a number of publications including The Smithsonian Magazine and Native Peoples Magazine.

Monty’s pieces appear in museum quality collections such as Nelson Atkins, The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Denver Art Museum, The Sam Noble Museum, and Musée Du Quai Branly in Paris, France. Watch the slide show below to see some of his museum quality pieces. 

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Although he has only been a full time jeweler since 2011 he has already started accumulating awards: SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, The Heard Museum Indian Market, and Cherokee Art Market in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Today Monty focuses mainly on jewelry and metalsmithing and specializes in tufa cast pieces. He creates amazing works of silver and gold occasionally set with precious gems like turquoise, coral, and diamonds. But truth be told, he really prefers to work in all metal.

He enjoys creating sculptural pieces that look like they are going to walk or fly off a ring or bracelet and come to life.

His pieces are unique, with singularly creative details. His ideas range from traditional to beyond modern, from beautiful to edgy, from simple classics to groundbreaking creations. He creates many pieces related to animal and spiritual beings. Click on the photos below to see more views and dimensions.

First People

Yei Bi Chei

Apache Crown Dancer

Raven Spirit

Dragonfly Spirit

Wolf Spirit

 

His work is highly sought after by major collectors, museum board members, major curators and Native American jewelry enthusiasts who just love to wear his pieces.

Monty Claw tells us stories with his jewelry as he continues on his creative path.

Paula – I’m closing with a photo of the first of my many Monty Claw pieces – a treasured buffalo inlay buckle………..

Paula’s inlay buffalo belt buckle by Monty Claw

The Eagle Has Landed – Inlay Repair by My Favorite Silversmith

Carlene Leekity Inlay Eagle Necklace – do you see the missing inlay?

When this Carlene Leekity eagle inlay necklace came into the store in an estate lot, I didn’t even notice there was a piece of inlay missing because the backing material was black just like the shell inlay.

Henry and Diane to the rescue !

I’ve been working with Diane Radeke and Henry Yazzie for at least 6 years. Their team has done repairs on many vintage items that have arrived as part of estate lots but needed TLC before we could offer them in our Vintage Shop. Diane is the point person but I think of her more as a shepherdess who guides the project masterfully from start to finish. She determines what needs to be done, what the customer wants, and then confers with her partner, Henry Yazzie, to determine what supplies are needed and what the cost will be. Henry creates wonderful custom jewelry and also does careful, creative, excellent repairs. You can read about other projects we have worked on over the years by simply searching “Repairs” in the search box on this blog. Contact information for Diane and Henry is at the end of this article and at My Favorite Silversmith.

Henry graciously supplied us with some photos and explained the steps he follows to repair missing inlaid shell or stone pieces in jewelry:

He first examines the missing stone area.  There may be material in the opening that raised the stone or shell to the correct height.  This material may be clear epoxy, which turns brown or yellow over time, Dev-con, which is generally gray, or JB Weld, which is often black.  The base material can stay in place if it is still tight and in good shape. Otherwise it will need to be removed and replaced.

Henry then selects a stone or shell that will be the correct height and size for the opening.  The pen shell for this repair (see photos below) was procured for me by a good friend D. Robert Smith who is an excellent lapidarist at his Dancing Raven Stoneworks LLC.

Pen shell for inlay repair

Some shells and stones cannot be ground down from the face side, so careful sizing is important. Henry cuts a piece of replacement material that is a bit larger than the opening.

Henry then moves to the grinder, which is typical lapidary equipment that uses a water drip feed to keep the stone cool and reduce dust,. There he shapes the first edge of the replacement piece.

.

He then checks the fit to the missing inlay opening. Working back and forth, he continues to grind bit by bit until the replacement piece is a perfect fit for the opening (see the slide show below).

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Jewelers glue is used to secure the new shell piece in place.

With Zuni inlay, there is no bezel adjustment as found in traditional Navajo jewelry.  The piece must fit perfectly. If it does, it will maintain its fit for many years.

Henry reminds us ! “As with any bezel set jewelry, it is important to not let inlaid jewelry stay wet for any length of time – this could allow backing materials to swell and/or pop the inlay.  And it is particularly important to not bend the jewelry, as that would change the size of the opening and cause stone loss.”

and I add “That’s why we always caution our customers to not try and resize an inlay bracelet! If you do, when bending, the stones could go pop, pop, pop !”

For this eagle necklace, Henry also matched the feather etching on the wings using a Dremel tool.  A final polish removes any rough spots or bits of glue.

What a wonderful repair job !

Repair completed and necklace ready to enjoy for many years to come !

To contact Diane and Henry at My Favorite Silversmith for your repairs:

Diane Radeke
602-354-5028
P. O. Box 55935
Phoenix, AZ  85078
                                                                   Thank you Diane and Henry !
                                                                                                                         Paula