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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What is the gold and black on my Sterling Silver Singer cross?


I just received the beautiful Tom Singer cross. But I do have a question
about the cross. It is stated to be sterling but the front surface is copper
colored. Can you explain the process used to make it that way?


NPC602-AB-rsinger-B-1Hi Len,

The cross is solid sterling silver and Tommy Singer (and his son Richard whose crosses I am using to illustrate this article) oxidizes part of it (the black areas) for accent and puts a layer of 12 K gold on other parts of the design. This is called gold filled.

You can read about Gold Filled here

Beautiful cross !!!


Antiqued Satin Finish Navajo Pearls are Here – How they are made

When we ran out of our antiqued satin finish Navajo Pearls, many of you requested more but we had a hard time finding someone to make them for us. Finally we got a few more in !!

They are perfectly fine to wear alone whether you’re in jeans or dressed up……AND they also make a great place to hang pendants !

6 mm Antiqued Satin Finish Sterling Silver Beads

These antiqued satin finish beads are made by starting with a bench made sterling silver bead. What is a bench made bead?

Handmade (hand made) beads are entirely hand crafted: cutting, stamping, dapping, drilling, soldering, filing, polishing, stringing is all done by hand. Hand made beads are very labor intensive, therefore much more expensive than bench made beads. Also, when taking the time to make beads by hand, Navajo silversmiths generally use heavy gauge sterling silver, which also adds to the price. Handmade Native American beads are the most cherished and desired by customers. Because each bead is made individually, there might be slight variations from bead to bead.

Bench made Beads (also known as Bench Beads) usually refer to beads that are partially manufactured and partially hand made. Usually the silversmith starts with some machine cut pieces, which are then soldered and strung by hand.

Excerpt from  Everything You Need to Know about Navajo Pearls

A bench made bead has a little ridge around its equator. The bench beads are antiqued, then satin finished and then the ridge on the bead seam is polished. That’s what gives them their characteristic look.

Bench made beads that have been antiqued, satin finished, and edges polished.

Vintage Native American Thunderbird Pin Wanted

Dear Paula,
Is it possible to get another thunderbird like the vintage P133?  the new thunderbirds do not look like this one.  Thank you very much.
Sterling Silver Vintage Thunderbird Pendant #P133


Dear John,

Thanks for writing. The items in our pawn shop are older items and we get them in, usually in a lot such as from somebody’s collection or an estate lot, so there would be no way of predicting when we might get something similar to that Thunderbird pendant in. It looks a little more Pacific Northwest to me rather than Southwest.

You could keep an eye on our NEW page which is where we list something new each day – and that means pawn items as well as new contemporary.
I’ve just listed a few new Thunderbirds which I think you might like……….

These wonderful old style pins are made from heavy gauge sterling silver plate; hand cut, deeply hand-stamped, smoothed and polished leaving some areas intentionally oxidized or darkened. A polished turquoise stone is set in a handcut smooth bezel. A twisted sterling silver rope encircles the bezel. Albert Cleveland typically uses King Manassas turquoise, known for its brilliant greens with gold or brown matrix. They have a locking pin finding. Very retro.

Albert Cleveland is of the Dashchanii clan and was born on the Navajo reservation near Mt. Taylor. He and his wife live near Gallup, New Mexico. His brother is Bobby Cleveland and his parents Etta and Philip Cleveland. Cleveland signs his pieces AC if he works on them alone or AJC when his wife Jacqualine works with him. Albert Cleveland works in a retro style, reminiscent of the 1940’s curio shop work which featured Native American symbols such as Eagles, Thunderbirds, Bears, Waterbirds and other animals.


Native American Jewelry – Hallmark on Squash Blossom Necklace

Hello Paula,

Thank you for the beautiful Terry Martinez bracelet !  I recently bought a beautiful green turquoise squash blossom necklace ( I love green!) at Hubbell Trading Post but do not know the artist – looks like old pawn – but says “sterling” on it – also initials LFK. Any idea how I could research the artist?


Hello AH,

Note on 12-7-2019 LKF is the hallmark of Leon Curley AKA Keith Stone. Paula

On the squash blossom necklace, are the three letters all the same size (or is the F larger?) and are the letters in plain Gothic letters or script and are there any periods after any of the letters?


No, the letters are all the same size and very close together – no periods. But thank you for trying to help me – the necklace does seem older – the beads are rather large and are melons I was told – very beautiful – not a real shiny necklace – looks used. I was told it was silver and the stones were turquoise but did not ask about the artist – the lady at Hubbell’s had written the artists names on the receipts for me but I did not look at the receipt for the necklace until we had left – no artist name was given for this piece. Just looked closer in the light and on one of the squash blossoms the letters are there also – and the F is faint but could be longer – no periods tho. The word sterling is also on this squash blossom.  Is this usual?
Generally if the piece is marked Sterling, it might be used but not real old. That seems to be more of a recent trend, say 80s and later. And even initial hallmarks are more of a “modern” trend, same time frame.
Before that, most pieces had no sterling designation, no initials, no letter hallmarks but might have had symbols like arrows, claws, thunderclouds etc.
Quite a number of contemporary artist are making things in the “old style”, that is, old design patterns and pieces and antiqued to look old. Here is an example of a brand new contemporary bracelet made to look like it has a 20 year old patina.

An example of a contemporary Native American bracelet with antiquing

Although melon beads are an old-style bead, a few contemporary artists such as Virginia Tso are making them. This example is also antiqued. The melon beads are the long ones in the photo.

An example of contemporary Native American antiqued melon beads

The reason I asked about the size of the letters in the hallmark is that sometimes two artists, such as two brothers or two sisters or a husband and wife team will put the last name initial in the middle slightly bigger and then either of their first names on the sides. For example the belt buckle below has the hallmark LLC which stands for Leslie and Gladys Lamy two talented Zuni artists. Often when more than one artist is credited on a piece, it means that one does the stone work and the other does the silver work.

Inlay Zuni Belt Buckle by Leslie and Gladys Lamy

In the case of your squash blossom necklace, the LFK could stand for something like (and this is a hypothetical example, not real names) Linda and Ken Francisco or it could stand for (another hypothetical example) Lawrence F King. However, I can not find LFK in any of my hallmark books. And most last names that begin with K are Zuni and since your squash blossom is Navajo, I’m leaning more toward F being the last name.
But the bottom line is that your best bet, as always, is to contact the seller and ask them – it would be the most certain and definitive answer, otherwise anyone else would be guessing……….and I don’t even have a good guess on this one!
Best of luck and come see us again. Enjoy that beautiful bracelet !