What does “snake eye” refer to in Native American jewelry?

I love snake eye jewelry and when I use the term I have found that even long-time Native American jewelry enthusiasts don’t know what I mean.

Snake eye is a technique of setting very small spherical pieces of turquoise. It is somewhat related to petit point and needle point but different in shape and much smaller.

Although these techniques began with Zuni artists around 1930-1940, today they are associated with both Zuni and Navajo jewelers.

All 3 techniques use cabochons, which are small stones that have been rounded on top (not faceted) and polished. It is the shape that differs.

Here is where a picture is worth a thousand words. Some examples……..first of PETIT POINT – teardrop shaped – round on one end, pointed on the  other.

Petit Point stick barrette by Navajo Zeita Begay, contemporary

Petit Point set by Phillip and Virginia Byjoe – Navajo, Vintage

Petit Point Cuff by Johnny Mike Begay, Navajo, Vintage

NOW ON TO NEEDLEPOINT – long and narrow, pointed on both ends.

Needle Point Zuni Bracelet and Ring by EVA L WYACO, contemporary

Needle Point barrette by Nathaniel Nez – Navajo, contemporary

And finally to SNAKE EYE – the reason for this post in the first place. Spherical.  These can range from small to tiny. Here are several examples of snake eye jewelry in various sizes.

Large Snake Eye – Ring by Elanda Wyaco – Zuni, vintage

Medium Snake Eye – Bolo by Bernall Natewa, Zuni, vintage

Tiny Snake Eye – Link bracelet by Stephen Haloo, Zuni, contemporary

So now that you are an expert, what would you call the ones in the photos below?

Paula

 

I can’t find the artist “Bennett” anywhere – who made my bolo tie?

 

Hi Paula,

I have looked everywhere on line and in books and I can’t find any information on at artist, perhaps Bennett Pat or Pat Bennett whose name is on the back of my bolo tie. Can you help?

Ron

Well without a photo Ron, I’m guessing what you are seeing is something like this

BENNET PAT. PEND.

OR

BENNETT PAT. PEND. C-31

stamped on the locking slide on the back of your bolo…yes?

BENNETT PAT. PEND.

If so, that refers to a person who designed and manufactured the first locking bolo slide clip about the mid 1950s and the slides carried this stamp

BENNETT PAT. PEND. C-31

Although the above indicates that a patent had been applied for, there is no patent registered according to anything I  have read.

In the mid 1960s the C-31 disappeared and the stamp was simply

BENNET PAT. PEND.

It is my opinion and experience that soon thereafter, others began copying the clasp so the copy-cats didn’t add the BENNETT name on it. We refer to unmarked clasps as “Bennett-style” clasps.  I’ve seen unmarked locking clasps on bolos made from the 1960s through til today.

An unmarked Bennett-style locking clasp

The marking on your bolo slide might be a partial stamp that made you think it said “BENNETT PAT”.

You should look carefully all over the back of the bolo itself (not the slide) for any kind of marks – often these are quite light as they are sometimes done with an engraver. That information plus a photo of the front of the bolo would be helpful in determining the origin, and perhaps the artist who made your bolo.

Best of luck, Paula

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,
Connie
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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.
Paula

Silver Dollar Jewelry

Hi Paula,

I want to get my grandfather a silver dollar cuff and the one marked sold on your site is the one he really likes. Can you get another? Jan

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Hi Jan,

We never know when one will turn up in an estate lot. But if you have or buy a silver dollar that you like, you can have it made into a bracelet for your grandfather. The shop that does our repairs, Old Town Trading (contact info at the end of this post) can do that for you. Here is an example of a bolo that Henry, one of their silversmiths, made for one of their customers.

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Diane Radeke
Old Town Trading Co. / Jewels of the West
4009 N. Brown Ave.
Scottsdale, AZ  85251
602-350-4009

The Origin of the Bolo Tie

Origin of the Bolo Tie

Silversmith Victor Cedarstaff of Wickenburg, Arizona, claims to have invented the bolo tie in 1948.

According to an article in Sunset magazine:

Victor Cedarstaff was riding his horse one day when his hat blew off. Wary of losing the silver-trimmed hatband, he slipped it around his neck. His companion joked, “That’s a nice-looking tie you’re wearing, Vic.” An idea incubated, and Cedarstaff soon fashioned the first bola tie (the name is derived from boleadora, an Argentine lariat).

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Boleadoras or bolas (from Spanish bola, “ball”) are throwing weapons made of weights attached to the end of cords.

However, it is also said that the bolo tie is a North American pioneer creation that dates back to between 1866 and 1886. There is a bolo tie on display at a trading post in Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, said to date back that far.

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A recent exhibit at The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona entitled Native American Bolo Ties: Vintage and Contemporary generated renewed interest in bolos.

This is from the Heard Museum:

The distinctive tie originated in the Southwest, and its popularity quickly spread throughout the West and in many other parts of the country. The necktie has been made even more distinguished by contemporary American Indian artists in Arizona, who make bolo ties that are exquisite expressions of individuality and ingenuity.

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Bolo ties, representing the casual nature and somewhat rugged milieu of the West, emerged as a form of men’s neckwear in the 1940s. They directly countered business suits as well as the formality suits represented, and instead marked a different style and a different way of life. In particular, American Indian jewelers and silversmiths brought individuality and creativity to this art form, offering a broad range of unique and artistic options.

BOL32-inlay-yazzie-1

Western wear, including the bolo tie, was popularized through 1950s television shows and movies. Some TV and movie personalities who brought scarf slides and bolo ties into the everyday vernacular include the Cisco Kid, Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers. Bolo ties have been created by American Indian jewelers since the late 1940s and they continue to create them today.

BOL28-turq-cluster-wilson-1

The bolo tie’s road to acquiring the status of Arizona’s official neckwear took place over several years. KOOL Channel 10’s anchor Bill Close and five other bolo tie enthusiasts met in 1966 at the Westward Ho Hotel in downtown Phoenix. From the beginning, their intent was to make the bolo tie a state emblem. Perhaps to help the cause, Arizona Highways Magazine devoted several pages of its October 1966 issue to Southwestern jewelry, including bolo ties. Help arrived when Governor Jack Williams proclaimed the first week of March 1969 as “Bolo Tie Week.” After several unsuccessful attempts, a bill making the bolo tie the official state neckwear was finally passed on April 22, 1971. The bolo tie is also the official neckwear of New Mexico and Texas, although Arizona was the first state to designate it as such.

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NOS – New Old Stock

We are often contacted by stores and trading posts that are closing and want to sell us their NOS – New Old Stock.

The items range from contemporary to vintage Native American items but still on the stores cards or packages.

Often they are of designs that aren’t currently available anymore and most of the time they are made of heavier sterling silver and with stones we don’t see as often any more…….so they are cool !

Even though they are not used, we put the NOS items in our pawn shop since we didn’t buy them from the artist directly and they usually are not contemporary items. So they seem to fit best in our pawn shop.

We’ve purchased some interesting inventories and collections over the last few years and I am finally listing some of it on the website.

Here are some examples of the NOS we have recently acquired: