About Native American Jewelry Tips

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

Choosing a Native American Ring

So many rings………so few fingers………….

Almost every day I wear one or two sterling silver Native American rings. Some are made solely of sterling silver. Others are inlaid with a variety of stones and shells or adorned with turquoise and other precious stones. For me, its important to pick the right ring for what I have lined up for the day or night.

Although the rings in these photos are my personal rings and not for sale, if you click on the photos, they will take you to pages of similar rings that are for sale at the Horsekeeping webstore.

Rings for all occasions………….

First of all, because I support Native American artists both contemporary and past, I try to only wear rings that are Native American made by enrolled members of Indian tribes in the United States. The rings I wear are either Navajo, Hopi, Zuni or Lakota made.

The two blood red stone rings were made from pipestone/catlinite quarried from Pipestone National Monument by a 5th generation Lakota pipe maker. He gave them to us for our anniversary.

Sometimes with vintage rings it is hard to tell who made the ring because it was not common to sign or stamp a hallmark on Native American jewelry until relatively recently.

This vintage ring is unsigned

RANCH WORK

One factor that affects which ring I will wear is that I live on a ranch. When I am going to be outdoors or working in the barn near metal panels, banging gates, handling ropes, reins and such, I opt for simple rings such as a well-fitting silver band.

Philander Begay, Navajo

When wearing a simple silver band, there is very little that could get caught and rip my finger off. Plus, by not wearing my stone or inlay rings around the barn, I run a much smaller risk of cracking the stones.

Sterling rings are safe to leave on when I wash my hands, something I do quite a bit up at the barn. So here are some of the ranch rings I wear. As you view these photos, remember that coffee is one of the essential fuels on a horse ranch.

Monty Claw, Navajo
Sunshine Reeves, Navajo

Calvin Martinez, Navajo
Sterling braids like a horse’s tail. Maker unknown.

Wilbert Benally, Navajo

OFFICE WORK

When I am at work at Horsekeeping, the Native American Jewelry webstore, it basically involves sitting at a desk typing, taking photos of jewelry, pulling items to fill orders and the like. My office ring options are much broader.

Zuni Snake Eye ring by the Haloo family

Still, though I usually wear moderate rings to work, I don’t wear rings that are too huge or have prominent features. Since many of my “work day” rings have stones, inlay, petit point or needle point, I made sure to remove rings before I wash my hands because getting stone rings wet can do a couple of things, all bad.

Unmarked vintage chip inlay ring

First of all, with repeated wetting and drying, the adhesive behind inlay rings can become softened and eventually let go of the stonework.

Contemporary Lapis Inlay Ring

I’ll never forget the customer who said “After I washed my hands in a rest area just like usual, I watched my turquoise inlay slide down the drain.” No comment.

Contemporary Tiger Eye and Jasper Ring
Inlay Ring by Merle House, Navajo
Contemporary Jet and Imitation Opal Ring
Contemporary Inlay Ring

Contemporary Coral and Sterling Silver Channel Inlay Ring

With stone settings, since most are backed with sawdust or another shock absorbing material, getting them wet will cause that material to swell and push the stone upward, putting pressure on the bezels which often let go of the stone.

Again, a customer, “After I took a shower, the stone just popped out.” Ah hah.

White Buffalo Stone Ring by Tony Garcia
Philander Begay, Navajo

Turquoise and Coral ring hallmarked RB

Micro Snake Eye Ring by Jason Amesoli, Zuni
Custom Made Amber Ring by Henry Yazzie

COCKTAIL RINGS

The final category is date rings AKA cocktail rings. For that special night out when all you have to do is lift a fork or a glass.

Date Night Selection

Cocktail rings are those unique creations that are saved for special occasions when you are just plain showing off. Often large and worn on an index or middle finger, these rings look great whether you are picking up a cup of tea or a glass of whisky. The big bad boys just call out for your date and others in the area to check out your hands and your fabulous Native American made ring.

Tyler Brown, Navajo
Hallmarked RB

Tyler Brown, Navajo

Cluster Ring by Robert and Bernice Leekya, Zuni

Choose an authentic Native American made ring and you’ll always have a winning hand.

Paula

Glittering World – Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family by Lois Sherr Dubin

The breathtaking, large and very detailed photographs is this coffee table style book make you feel like you are almost holding the jewelry. The sumptuous pieces are captivating. I’ve spent hours paging back and forth through the beautiful work, drooling over the buckles.

 

9 3/4″ x 9 3/4″
Hardbound with dust jacket
272 pages
Full color

There are many outstanding Yazzie jewelers. Because the subtitle uses the phrase “Yazzie Family” I expected more Yazzie artists to be included. However, this book mainly focuses on the life and work of brothers Lee and Raymond Yazzie. There is a good deal of text about the family, design, techniques and materials.

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It devotes a few pages to the Yazzie Sisters who make a variety of necklaces and bracelets and sterling silver Navajo Pearl necklaces.

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This 1970s Lee Yazzie buckle is part of my personal collection.

 

2014
National Museum of the American Indian
Smithsonian Institution

Glittering World
Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family
by Lois Sherr Dubin

Paula

Southwestern Indian Ceremonials by Tom and Mark Bahti

While researching for a personal project, I borrowed this book from the reference library at the web store where I work. Horsekeeping.com

Part of the Native American reference library at Horsekeeping

Southwestern Indian Ceremonials is an excellent resource by Tom Bahti and Mark Bahti.

This 9 x 12 paperback is in full color. 64 pages

Table of Contents

Apache
Hopi Pueblos
Native Religions and Foreign Influences
Navajo
Peyote
Rio Grande Pueblos
Tohono O’odham
Yaqui
Zuni

This highly illustrated book provides information on the above topics that you don’t find elsewhere.

In addition, there is a Calendar of Southwest Indian Ceremonials and a Suggested Reading list.

Paula

Kokopelli

Kokopelli is based on the Hopi word KOKOPILAU  KOKO = WOOD   PILAU = HUMP
The kokopelli, flute player, often associated with the Hopi Flute Clan is the symbol of happiness, joy and universal fertility: humans, crops, domestic and wild animals. He is often a part of rituals related to marriage, conception and birth and has been a part of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples since Hohokam times (AD 750  – 850). The Kokopelli is a presence in Hopi legends and can appear in in ceremonies as a kachina (katsina). See the slide show below for examples.

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Kachinas, supernatural spirit beings, are called “katsina” by the Hopi and “Koko” by the Zuni (which means “raw people”). Kachinas are associated with rain and other good things such as longevity, strength and good fortune. Kachinas serve as an intermediary between the people and the gods to bring blessings to the entire universe.

Today depicted as a non-gender figure, kokopelli was traditionally a male figure, often well endowed until the missionaries discouraged such depiction ! Tales include the kokopelli visiting and by morning, all of the young women were pregnant.

Here is an excerpt from North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment by Lois Dubin

The kokopelli might be simple or have various adornments. It most always is holding and playing a flute, which announces his arrival and is suggested to represent rain, precious to the southwest. His legs are dancing in time to his own music. Sometimes kokopelli is depicted with feathers or a headdress protruding on the top of his head. In a few instances (mostly rock art) he has been depicted with a stick or bow.  He is most always shown in profile.

Milton Howard, Hopi

Kokopelli talks to the wind and the sky. His flute can be heard in the spring breeze, bringing warmth after the winter cold. He is the symbolic seed bringer and water sprinkler. His religious or supernatural power for fertility is meant to invoke rain as well as impregnate women both physically and mentally. He is also associated with fertility of wild animals.

From a Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest by Alex Patterson

The humpbacked kokopelli image is found from Casa Grande, Mexico to the Hopi and Rio Grande Pueblos and then westward to the Californian deserts in prehistoric rock, effigy figures, pottery, and on kiva walls.  Some say the reason he has a hump or is bent over is that he was carrying a heavy sack, perhaps full of seeds or some say with an unborn child he is going to deliver.

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Anasazi, Hohokam and Mibres peoples used the symbol on their pottery. Today many southwest Native Americans use the symbol on their pottery.

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Many Native American tribes use the kokopelli symbol. Here are some samples of its usage by Hopi, Zuni, Navajo and Oglala Lakota artists. Click the photos for more information.

Hopi Overlay Kokopelli Belt Buckle by Steven Sockyma

Hopi Overlay Kokopelli Belt Buckle by Steven Sockyma

Oglala Lakota Catlinite (pipestone) pendants

Navajo Overlay Kokopelli Ring by Calvin Peterson

Navajo Overlay Kokopelli Ring by Calvin Peterson

 

Navajo Sterling Silver Kokopelli Pin Pendant by Robert Vandever

Navajo Sterling Silver Kokopelli Pin Pendant by Robert Vandever

You may have heard of Ledger Art, where Plains Indians used the materials at hand, such as old ledger paper from forts and missions, on which to paint and draw. Well, this is Cigar Box Art, a creative repurposing of vintage cigar boxes by Lakota artist Alan Monroe.This box has a large capacity so will hold quite a few treasures or a good amount of sage and other smudging supplies.

Navajo Kokopelli Inlay Pendant

Navajo Kokopelli Inlay Pendant

Zuni Horse Fetish with Kokopelli petroglyphs by Tyrone Poncho

Zuni Horse Fetish with Kokopelli petroglyphs by Tyrone Poncho

 

Hopi Kokopelli Overlay Belt Buckle by Joe Josytewa

Hopi Kokopelli Overlay Belt Buckle by Joe Josytewa

This article is meant to round up the various interpretations of kokopelli, not serve as a definitive tome on the subject.

Paula

Repousse

What is repousse?

A method of embossing metal by stamping and hammering a design from the back to produce a three-dimensional bas-relief surface on the front.

Here is an excerpt from Indian Jewelry Making by Oscar T. Branson that shows the process.

Below are some examples of the repousse technique used by Native American jewelers.

One of the most classic uses of the repousse techniques is on ketohs (bowguards).

Ketoh (bowguard) by Navajo artist Daniel Martinez

View the slide show for other uses of repousse on ketohs. (Read more about ketohs on my previous post.)

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Sterling Silver Repousse Buckle by Floyd Arviso

Sterling Silver Repousse Cross by Robert Joe, Navajo

Orange Spiny Oyster and Satin Finish Sterling bumble bee pin by Tim Yazzie

    

A vintage NOS (New Old Stock) pin marked AP Sterling

The technique was used by Bell Trader’s craftsmen in the Fred Harvey era such as this copper cuff bracelet.

Read more about the Fred Harvey era in my previous post.


View the slide show below to see examples of Navajo barrettes that feature repousse designs.

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Paula

Navajo Artist Mary Livingston

Navajo artist Mary Livingston has been actively making jewelry since the 1970s.

She specializes in mosaic inlay and carved stone pieces.

Her hallmark is either ML or MARY LIVINGSTON. Below are two examples of her hallmark.

Here is a beautiful piece of her work, a turquoise eagle collar.

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Another one-of-a-kind creation made by Mary Livingston is this enormous carved turquoise chief belt buckle.

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Paula

Zuni Artist Don Dewa

Zuni artist Don Dewa has been actively making his spectacular inlay jewelry since the 1970s.

He has used several hallmarks:
DON C DEWA
DON DEWA ZUNI NM
DON DEWA CUSTOM MADE JEWELRY ZUNI NM STERLING with a sunface (see example below)

 

When he he collaborates with his wife, Velma E. Dewa, they sign D & V DEWA

He is noted for his beautiful inlay and most notably his spinner bracelets. A spinner, in this case, is a rotating sunface that has different inlay on each side.  See the photos.

Don Dewa spinner pendant

Don Dewa spinner bracelet

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Click to see a spinner bracelet by Don Dewa

 

From American Indian Jewelry by Gregory Schaaf

Paula

Interesting Vintage Price Lists found inside Zuni The Art and the People Sets

 Zuni the Art and the People is a popular and valuable set of reference books on Zuni jewelry. The 3 volumes are in full color and feature many Zuni artists.

Zuni The Art and the People – 3 Volume Set

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Over the years we have sold a number of these vintage book sets through our store and have often discovered paperwork, receipts and more tucked inside. In a few cases, southwest store owners have made up retail price lists to go along with the items in the book, presumably to show offerings to potential customers like a catalog. Following are two such lists. I have blocked out the store names. You can follow along with the page numbers, item descriptions and comments. You might find that the page numbers could be slightly off from your copies of the books as different printings vary a little but you can use the descriptions to figure out which items they are referring to. Enjoy !

Price List A is from 1981

Retail Prices from 1981 Volume 1 Zuni The Art and the People

Retail Prices from 1981 Volume 2 Zuni the Art and the People

Retail Prices from 1981 Volume 3 Zuni the Art and the People

Price List B – year unknown

Vintage Retail Price List Zuni the Art and the People Volume 1

Vintage Retail Price List Zuni the Art and the People Volume 1 & 2

Vintage Retail Price List Zuni the Art and the People Volume 2

Vintage Retail Price List Zuni the Art and the People Volume 3

 

 

Paula

 

Zuni Artists Martin and Esther Panteah

Martin and Esther Panteah have worked together on their jewelry since 1973. Martin does the stone work and both Martin and Esther work on the silver. They specialize in both stone-on-stone inlay and channel inlay.

Their hallmark is M T PANTEAH and ZUNI

Here is an example of their work. This exquisite Antelope Kachina bracelet was likely made in the 1970s. It is 1 3/4″ wide all around and weighs 117 grams. Made from Mother of Pearl, Turquoise, Coral, Acoma Jet and sterling silver. The rounded edges are a signature finishing technique of Martin’s and a very difficult one to do so well.

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From Zuni the Art and the People

From Who’s Who in Zuni Jewelry

Paula

The Clothing Store Collection

The Clothing Store Collection

This collection is from the estate of a woman who owned and operated retail clothing stores in Pinetop and Show Low, Arizona from 1973 to the mid 1980s.

She ran the stores on a day to day basis and knew many of the Santo Domingo, Navajo and Zuni women who shopped in her stores. They would often bring in their hand-made jewelry to trade for clothing. She was glad to trade with the women and she sold their jewelry in her stores.

The store owner’s heir, her son, said that since his mother knew the women personally, she never wrote down their names so he has no record of who made the jewelry items she took in on trade.

The work is beautifully done and the materials are excellent – perhaps you will recognize the work of one of your favorite collectible artists from the 1970s and 1980s.  Visit the necklaces from the clothing store collection by clicking here.

Here are some jaclas.

Here are some jacla style necklaces

Delicate bird fetish necklaces – watch the slide show

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Beautiful turquoise stone necklaces from when when turquoise was a little easier to purchase !

Paula