Dragonfly and the Isleta Cross

About the Isleta Cross

Also called the Pueblo Cross, the Isleta Cross is a very old Pueblo design associated with the Isleta Pueblo. The double-bar cross design is said to have originated with the Moors and Spaniards.

To the Pueblo Indians the double-bar cross was very similar to the dragonfly symbol of their culture, so many Puebloans incorporated the Isleta cross in their jewelry. By the early twentieth century, Pueblo artisans made elegant necklaces with a large central cross as a pendant and smaller crosses along the sides interspersed with beads.

Many crosses of Spanish and Mexican origin as well as Isleta crosses have a heart or a partial heart at the bottom. This is sometime referred to as the “bleeding heart”. In the Catholic Church, the Sacred Heart (the pierced and bleeding heart) alludes to the manner of Jesus’ death and represents Christ’s goodness and charity through his wounds and ultimate sacrifice. However it has been said that the reason the Puebloans put a heart on the bottom of their crosses was for other reasons. They felt it represented the big generous heart of the dragonfly who loved the people. Also, the Pueblo women were said to like the crosses with the hearts on the bottom better, so it could have simply been a case of fashion preference.

The Isleta Pueblo is located in central New Mexico, on the east bank of the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque. It is on the same site as when it was discovered in 1540. It was the seat of the Franciscan mission of San Antonio de Isleta from approximately 1621 until the Pueblo revolt of 1680. The Spaniards captured the pueblo in 1681. In the late 1700’s, when Isleta was repopulated with native peoples, it became the mission of San Agustín de Isleta. Tiwa, a Tanoan language, is the tongue of the Isleta Pueblo.

Read more about Pueblo here What does Pueblo mean?

About the Dragonfly

The dragonfly is associated with many Native American tribes but most notably those of the southwest beginning with early HOHOKAM and MIMBRES depictions on pottery. Early Puebloans and many contemporary southwest artists have continued the tradition.

from Heart of the Dragonfly by Allison Bird

Mimbres reproduction Dragonfly AD 1250 Site Mimbres Valley New Mexico

 

Dragonfly represents rain and its life-giving force, a source of renewal for the land, plants, animals and thus allows human life.

from Landscape of the Spirits: Hohokam Rock Art at South Mountain Park By Todd W. Bostwick, Peter Krocek

1000 year old dragonfly-petroglyph photo by bryan-pfeiffer – click photo to learn more……………

 

From Rock Art Symbols by Alex Patterson

The dragonfly inspires spiritually and creatively and helps us on the path of discovery and enlightenment.

It spiritually embodies the stripping away all negativity that holds us back, helping us to achieve our dreams and goals.

Dragonfly is the keeper of dreams, the energy within that sees all of our true potential and ability. Dragonfly reminds us that anything is possible.

If you have ever seen a dragonfly’s wings glisten in the sunlight you can see why they have inspired jewelers. And how their intricately colored bodies would lead to works of stone inlay.

It is no wonder that contemporary Zuni, Hopi, Navajo and other southwest silversmiths create many beautiful dragonfly pieces.

Paula

 

Native American Buttons and Button Covers

Buttons on Native American dresses, shirts. leggings and moccasins were originally of bone, shell, stone and other natural materials.

In the mid 1800’s, a few Navajo began to learn the art of silversmithing from Mexican plateros.

To learn more on that, read my article   Where did Navajo silversmiths learn their craft?

Early silver beads and buttons were made from coins. Later when silver and sterling silver were more available, buttons were made from ingots and sheet silver.

Read about early Navajo silversmiths.

Early buttons from about 1870 were round, flat and with two holes like conventional buttons. Plain domed silver buttons were made soon thereafter.

 

Buttons were originally for fastening garments but soon became more ornamental and even were used as a trade item. Navajo Indian agent John H. Bowman observed in 1886 “When they wish to buy anything and have no wool to exchange, they simply cut off the needed number of buttons. These vary in value from 2 1/2 cents to $1 – and are never refused as legal tender in this vicinity.”

With access to more diverse tools in the late 1800s and early 1900s, hand-made buttons were domed, filed, etched, fluted, stamped and a loop would be forge-soldered onto the back.

Stones were added about 1900.

See the end of this article for several book excerpts that show button-making techniques.

When button production became mechanized (die cut and machine stamped) hand-made buttons which were labor intensive couldn’t compete price-wise so fewer were made. That’s why hand-made Navajo buttons are fairly scarce.

 

A mixture of vintage buttons and contemporary button covers - can you tell which are which?

A mixture of vintage buttons and contemporary button covers – can you tell which are which?

Enter button covers………………

A variety of sterling silver button covers

The 1970s Native American jewelry boom (see my article The 1970s Native American Jewelry Boom) and the popularity of southwestern and western style dress beginning in the 1980s brought us the tourist version of the Native American button – the button cover –  a clever system that could be slipped over and clasped to any button to dress up a shirt or dress. Instant Urban Cowboy !

Manufactured (not Native American made) southwestern style sterling silver button covers.

Buffalo Nickel Button Covers

The hinged fasteners are machine made of plated steel or stainless steel.

Commercially stamped sterling silver button covers

The design portion or button cover top is usually made of sterling silver. They can be Native American hand-made or commercially machine made.

Contemporary Native American made button covers

Yellowhorse hallmark on above group of button covers

Since most buttons and button covers do not have hallmarks, it requires experience and a good eye to recognize design styles and see details under magnification to determine whether the button tops are hand made or machine made.

Likely these are Native American made concha style sterling silver button covers.

It is possible that the sterling silver shadowbox bear paws with turquoise cabochon were made in a Native American shop.

Navajo-made onyx button covers with dangles – you might ask why one has the oval dangle stones set horizontally and the other vertically……….this is not a set but two individual button covers designed to be worn on the top button of a shirt or blouse. So perhaps his and hers?

 

BOOK EXCERPTS SHOWING HOW BUTTONS ARE MADE

 

Indian Silversmithing by E. Ben Hunt

Indian Silversmithing by E. Ben Hunt

 

Indian Jewelry Making by Oscar T. Branson

Paula

 

Do Due Diligence when Researching Native American jewelry

What is Due diligence? It is business term used when describing research before financial transactions with a company.  Commonly used when considering investing in the stock of a company, a person should do their own due diligence, their own research, to learn about the company’s products, debts, stability.

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When it comes to researching Native American jewelry, it refers to the care a person takes in gathering factual details when selling or buying, whether in a brick and mortar store, in person, through Craig’s List, on eBay, etsy or another website.

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Due diligence should be done by the seller before an item is represented. In legal terms it is often said that “reasonable care” should be taken “by a reasonable person”. This implies that in some cases it is impossible to state absolute facts with certainty, but due diligence represents a seller’s very best effort at representation.

facts

However, there is a wide variety in sellers, some do Sherlock-like research, others hardly any at all and some knowingly misrepresent. Add to that, the fact that in the reference books available (and internet sources, don’t get me started), there are some accidental errors and some blatant falsifications which might mislead either a seller or buyer when researching.

due-diligence

Even hallmarks aren’t a perfect solution. First of all, they don’t appear on very old items and when they did start appearing, it is well known that an artist might change his or her hallmark several times over a lifetime, more than one artist might use the same hallmark, and then there are the forgeries that not only copy the piece, but the hallmark as well. So hallmarks are a piece of the puzzle but not definitive.

Capture

Just like with stocks, it is best if a buyer does due diligence of their own before dealing with a particular seller and buying a Native American piece, especially if it is expensive.

rosieOnce both the seller and buyer have done their due diligence, a certain amount of gut feeling and trust or distrust will weigh in.

I’m using a rooster pin as an example of the various scenarios that might occur.

This vintage sterling silver and turquoise rooster pin came in a collection that consisted predominately of high quality verifiable Native American made items.

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Vintage Sterling Silver Rooster Pin

It tests positive for sterling silver. The clasp is a standard ring safety clasp that has been available since about the 1940s.

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Ring safety clasp

How the Pin Clasp Helps to Date the Piece

In doing research, a seller might come upon this almost identical pin on page 143 of the book Southwest Silver Jewelry and think “Great, this is a 1940s Pueblo pin and I’m going to ask $250 for it !! Whoo hoo !!”  But note the use of the words “possibly” and “probably” in the book caption.  And note the title of the book is “Southwest”, not Native American.

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page 143 Southwest Silver Jewelry

But  since the back of the pin is not shown in the book, the seller would not be able to compare the backs of the two pins which often gives important clues such as any hallmark or other stamping, the type of pin finding used, signs as to whether the pin was handmade or cast…………….

The seller CAN and SHOULD examine the pin he or she has for sale under high powered light and magnification.

due-diligence

The back of the pin clearly shows signs that it is a cast piece.

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Back of pin showing it is a cast piece.

With minimal cleaning, you can “read the fine print” it says “MADE IN MEXICO”

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Back of pin showing “MADE IN MEXICO”

What does this all mean?

First the obvious – the vintage sterling silver rooster pin is not Native American made, it was cast in Mexico.

Then the rest becomes a bit muddy………the pin in the book may or may not be NA made. It might be hand made or cast – to me it has the look of a cast piece.  It could be a cast Mexican pin.

Without being able to see the back of the pin in the book, it is a leap of faith to bank on the pin in the book being NA made. But if it IS, then that either means the Mexican pin is a copy.

OR………….

The Mexican pin might be the original and the pin in the book is a copy……..I just have no way of verifying one way or the other.

Bottom line, in our store, this pin will be listed in our “Bargain Barn” as a vintage sterling silver pin made in Mexico.

And I will hold the pin in the book suspect.

Detective-Girl

Paula

 

 

 

Fred Harvey, the Man, the Era, the Jewelry

Fred Harvey (1835-1901) and the phrase “Fred Harvey era” are often misunderstood and misused when it comes to describing early Native American style jewelry.

Fred Harvey lived during fascinating times and his story tells us much about US transportation, westward travel, railway restaurant cars and the early tourist trade. But what is curious about his legacy is that we Native American jewelry aficionados erroneously use his name to describe a particular type of Native American style tourist jewelry that he personally did not have much to do with and that actually exploded onto the scene after his death.

Instead of referring to the the tourist jewelry from the era as “Fred Harvey jewelry”, it has been suggested that “railroad jewelry” would have been more appropriate. But that’s water over the bridge.

Is Fred Harvey responsible for the introduction of Americans to America? Yes.

Is he responsible for the first Native American jewelry boom in the US? Well, yes and no. But that’s putting the caboose before the engine. To understand the man, the era, and the jewelry, first of all a very brief timeline:

southwest design border669

1835    Fred Harvey was born in London, England

1850    Fred Harvey, age 15, sailed to America, his first job was a dishwasher in NYC. He became a US citizen in 1858

1876   Fred Harvey entered into a handshake agreement with restaurant operator Peter Cline who ran the eatery at the Topeka, Kansas railway depot to transform the lunchroom to better serve train passengers. After a radical makeover, he offered a 35 cent breakfast which included steak, eggs, hash browns, six wheat pancakes with maple syrup, apple pie and coffee all served in a clean and pleasant atmosphere.

1878    Fred Harvey signed a contract with the Santa Fe Railway (also known as the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe or AT&SF) to operate small restaurants (called tea rooms) at railroad depots along the railroad’s route.

Early Santa Fe Railway

Early Santa Fe Railway

1880 and onward trading post owners (called traders) began carrying tools and supplies for the Native American production of spoons, buttons, squash blossom necklaces, and other jewelry items.

1885   Fred Harvey managed 17 lunchrooms, called Harvey Houses, along Santa Fe’s line. They were run by Harvey Girls, single, young waitresses in starched uniforms.

A Harvey Girl in a Harvey House lunchroom in the early 1900s

A Harvey Girl in a Harvey House lunchroom in the early 1900s

1888    Fred Harvey begins to operate dining cars on the Santa Fe Railway. He signed his last contract with the Santa Fe Railroad in 1899. Here is a sample menu from one of the Harvey dining cars.

menu

Santa Fe Railway dining car interior - 1890

Santa Fe Railway dining car interior – 1890

1899    Fred Harvey Company (notably Indian Jewelry manager Herman Schweizer) supplied pre-cut turquoise and pre-measured silver pieces to traders for the manufacture of lightweight jewelry (aka railroad jewelry) to satisfy the demand of the railroad tourist trade.

Phoenix early 1900s

Phoenix early 1900s

1901    Fred Harvey died at age 65.  His son, Ford Harvey assumed control of the Fred Harvey Company

1909    The Thunderbird design was copyrighted by Fred Harvey Co.

Bell Trading Co. Thunderbird Cuff in Copper

Bell Trading Co. Thunderbird Cuff in Copper

1920    Fred Harvey Co. is the principal concessionaire in the newly established Grand Canyon National Park.

1923    Maisel’s Indian Trading Post opens in Albuquerque offering coin silver jewelry

1932  Bell Trading Co began operation

1935    Maisel’s merges with Bell Trading Co. and Bell converts to machine manufacturing remaining in business until 1972

southwest design border669

Fred Harvey’s main goal as an entrepreneur was to provide good food and good service for railroad travelers. He was immensely successful at that and essentially developed America’s first chain restaurants – Harvey House.

So what does he have to do with the railroad jewelry?  He created the market and the place to sell the wares. By making travelers comfortable, well fed and happy, they were ready to purchase souvenirs as mementos of their travels. The lightweight tourist jewelry was sold in the depot hotels and restaurants and alongside the train tracks.

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1905 Fred Harvey Gift Shop Alvarado Hotel, Albuquerque NM

1905 Fred Harvey Gift Shop Alvarado Hotel, Albuquerque NM

Some of the most popular items were bracelets, pins, spoons, all heavily laden with symbols.

Indian Symbols 2

The meanings for these symbols, in a large part, did not come from the Native Americans but were made up by the marketers of the jewelry such as Herman Schweizer of the Fred Harvey Company. He is attributed to say that the very popular Thunderbird symbol was (see the Harvey chart below) the “sacred bearer of happiness unlimited.”  That sounds good, I’ll take two.

indian-symbols-chart

Bell Trading Co copper symbol bracelet

Bell Trading Co copper symbol braceletCSB21-symbols-bell-2CSB21-symbols-bell-3

Early Whirling Logs ring

Early Whirling Logs ring

One of the most popular tourist pieces was the split shank Pretty Girl bracelet.

The peak of the Fred Harvey era tourist-quality Native American style jewelry was from 1900-1930, the decline caused mainly by the closure of the railroad depot lunchrooms and shops. Even so, it continued to be produced until the mid 1940s or 1950s.  The Bell Trading Co. continued on until the 1970s.

The authentic, sometimes called ethnographic, Native American jewelry was made before and during the tourist era and continues to be made today. Using heavier silver and stones, authentic Native American jewelry speaks volumes about its heritage and makers.

Fact or Fiction?

The Fred Harvey Company produced Indian jewelry. FALSE

All “Fred Harvey era” southwest jewelry was Indian made. FALSE

Some tourist jewelry is Indian made. TRUE

Paula

References:

fred harvey the man

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When was the STERLING stamp first used on Native American jewelry?

An exact date is not available for when the stamp STERLING was first used on Native American jewelry.

According to some sources, the STERLING stamp appeared after 1932.

Most Native American made items from the 1930s and before would not have a STERLING stamp nor any artist hallmark for that matter. But there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to hallmarks – there are always exceptions.

Some items made in the 1940s to 1950s might have the STERLING stamp, most notably, those made by Bell Traders during that time period.

C-ring-harveyera-4

But in general, Native American artists began using the STERLING stamp in the 1950s and 1960s. Since then, the STERLING or Sterling or 925 stamps are quite common as are artists’ hallmarks.

STERLING stamp

Sterling stamp

Sterling stamp

.925 or 925 indicate that the item is 92.5% silver which is the requirement for something to be called sterling silver.

.925 stamp

.925 stamp

In the vast majority of cases, if a piece of Native American jewelry is stamped with one of the above marks, the item is made from Sterling Silver.

If an item is not stamped with one of the above, this does not necessarily mean the item is not made from sterling silver. Most vintage sterling silver Native American items do not have the STERLING mark.

The only definitive way to know is to perform an acid test.

Paula

What is a Native American Hallmark?

What is a Native American Hallmark?

Native American jewelry is art and as such, it is often signed by the artist. This signature is called a hallmark.

A hallmark can be a stamp, that is, an impression made into the sterling silver (or other material) by holding a die on the silver and striking the die with a hammer. Depending on the temperature of the silver, the integrity of the die, the force of the blow, the steadiness of the hands, and other factors, the resulting stamped hallmark will range from faint to deep, from fuzzy to clear.

smith

Navajo Silversmith

Stamped hallmarks can be all types of letters in various fonts as well as pictures and symbols.

Another way Native American artists sign pieces is by using an engraver, also called and “electric pencil”.

Engraving Pen 003

“Electric Pencil” or Engraving Pen

Zuni artists use this method to write out an entire name, or at least the last name, and often Zuni, NM too. Fetish carvers use an engraver to sign their mini sculptures and depending on the size of the base, they might be initials or a full name.

In addition to individual symbol hallmarks, Shop and Guild marks are used. Shop and Guild marks (and there are many) are usually an image such as a bell (Bell Trading for example) or a sunface (a Hopi mark).

When a piece has a shop mark it is hard to identify which specific artist did the work, and in many cases, it is a collaborative effort – one person does the silversmithing, one does stone setting, another inlays etc. With shop hallmarks, it is impossible to guarantee that the work has been done by a Native American artist as shops can employ anyone.

With Guilds, however, it is almost certain that the work is Native American because membership in the guild is usually based on tribal affiliation.

Why are Native American hallmarks important?

In many cases, the hallmark on a piece of Native American jewelry is the only definitive proof that a particular item was made by a particular person. But even this is not foolproof because counterfeiters copy hallmarks onto their foreign-made, faux Native American items. The very best way to use hallmarks is in conjunction with paperwork, provenance, point of purchase, quality of workmanship and materials, the artist’s style and other factors that an experienced eye will see.

Why is it Difficult to Identify Native American Hallmarks?

Native American hallmarks are not an exact science. A number of factors make hallmark identification difficult:

1.  Several artists might use the same hallmark. For example, over 20 Native American artists have used S for their hallmark.

2.  An artist might change his or her hallmark several times during a lifetime. The late Tommy Singer, for example, has used the following hallmarks (all stamped). Perhaps there are even more:

Thomas Singer hallmark

One of Tommy Singer’s hallmarks

T

S TC

T with a crescent moon

S with a crescent moon

S T and a crescent moon

THOMAS SINGER

T. SINGER

T. Singer

T. Singer (in cursive)

3.  Family members might use a (famous) father’s, mother’s, brother’s, uncle’s or cousin’s hallmark. As an example, you will see this in the Iule family (known for their crosses) and the Effie Calavaza family (known for Zuni Snake bracelets and other snake items).

NPC697-AB-lg-turq-iule-A

Iule cross

BOL21-turq-snake-calavaza-5

EFFIE C. hallmark on a vintage bolo

NR382-snake-turq-coral-effie-1

This contemporary ring also has the EFFIE C. hallmark but is likely made, at least in part, by the family of Effie Calavaza.

4.  Native Americans that sell jewelry at trade shows and fairs but do not make the jewelry themselves have told us that the associations hosting the event require that all items must be authentic Native American made and hallmarked. So when we asked about some of the hallmarks on the pieces we saw, we were told “Joe XXXX doesn’t used a hallmark on his jewelry. We just put something on his pieces because we were told we had to in order to sell it at the powwow so we used this hallmark “xyz”.” True story. Names changed.

5.  Depending how well the hallmark is placed onto the silver, it may or may not be readable and could be confused with another hallmark.

6. Sometimes a piece will inadvertently not get marked. We’ve often purchased 6 similar pendants directly from an artist only to get home to see that 5 have hallmarks and one does not.

When did hallmarks first appear?

Native American artists haven’t always used hallmarks.  Early items in the First Phase period usually had no hallmarks because the items were made for personal or family use, not for sale.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s the few hallmarks that appeared were made by chisel marks

In the 1950s, the Navajo Guild, among others, encouraged hallmark use by its members.

During the Native American jewelry boom of the 1970s, hallmarks kicked into full swing and their use continues to this day on the majority of jewelry items.

And yet the bottom line is:

Many authentic Native American made pieces have no hallmarks. The majority of stone necklaces (heishi, nugget etc) do not have hallmarks. The same goes for many silver bead necklaces. However, If silver beads are large enough, sometimes the artist will stamp the last bead up by the clasp with a hallmark.

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Hallmark of Virginia Tso on Navajo Pearls

Alternatively, silver and stone necklaces might have a signature plate.

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Signature plate on a stone necklace.

Items like twist bracelets, for example, just do not have a flat place to add a hallmark.

half inch heavy classic twist bracelet

Classic Navajo Sterling Silver Twist Bracelet AKA the Horse Whisperer bracelet

But what’s particularly bad is that some pieces with seemingly authentic hallmarks are on pieces that are not NA made.

How can you learn about the hallmark on your piece?

BOOKS – A number of books have been written identifying stamped hallmarks. You can purchase the books or look for them in your library. Here are a few:

Native American and Southwestern Silver Hallmarks

index

Hallmarks of the Southwest (A Schiffer Book for Collectors)

bartonAmerican Indian Jewelry I, II, III by Gregory and Angie Schaaf

AmIndianJewelry-set-500w

Hopi Silver: The History and Hallmarks of Hopi Silversmithing

hopi

WEBSITES – There are also some websites that list hallmarks.  Here is one to get you started, but you can search on the internet to find more.

Indian Native American Jewelry Artists  & South West Shop Hallmarks

hallmark sample

Hallmark samples from a website

You can browse our website and use the search link at the top of most pages to search for your hallmark. If we have or have had an item with that hallmark you will be able to find it on our site.

Once you have exhausted all sources and still can not find the hallmark on your piece, you could submit it as a question through our website. In addition to the resources above, we can sift through our memories and look through our hand compiled lists to see if we can help. But, we receive quite a few questions every week so it will likely be 30-60 days before your question is answered.

Paula

To view our full list of articles or to ask a jewelry question, follow the instructions here

http://www.horsekeeping.com/native-american-jewelry-artifacts.htm

If you are selling your jewelry, read this

http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn-buying.htm

Visit our pawn shop for your research and shopping

http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn/pawnshop-vin.htm

Are these items from my grandmother real?

Hi Paula,
I found your email from a blog and was wondering if you could take a look at a couple of pieces of jewelry that I inherited from my late grandmother. I know nothing about these pieces or even if they are real. Any help is greatly appreciated. There is a necklace, ring and bracelet.
Thank you so much,
Jennifer
2013-07-05 16.14.28 2013-07-05 16.14.42 2013-07-05 16.20.19 2013-07-05 16.33.00Hi Jennifer,
Yes of course they are real !! I see them and you can touch them !! All joking aside…….
Whether or not these items are Native American made or not, they are treasures since they came from your grandmother !
I’d say the necklace is Native American style but not Native American made.
The bracelet could very well be Native American made – it looks like something from the Fred Harvey era, perhaps from Bell Trading Company. You can read about that in these articles and perhaps look for some hallmarks.
As far as the ring, it is a chip inlay ring that may or may not be Native American made.  We have a similar ring in our pawn shop that tests positive for sterling silver but has no hallmarks. It came in an estate lot so we don’t know the origin of it but if you click on this photo it will take you to the page where you can read more about it and chip inlay.
PR409-412-turq-chip-butterfly-1
Enjoy your treasures !  And be sure to read the comments left by others about this post. Valuable information !
Paula