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

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

Book Look: Zuni Fetishes and Carvings by Kent McManis

We have many fetish reference books in the store but the one I reach for first is “Zuni Fetishes and Carvings” by Kent McManis.

There is a first edition (left) and second edition (right)

The first 37 pages are devoted to “The Power of the Fetish” and discuss the symbolism and usage of the various fetishes. The section is organized by animals and human forms: owls, badgers, maidens to mention just a few.

Claudia Peina – Zuni
Warrior Maiden Carving

The next 34 pages discuss the various materials the Zuni artists use in carving and decorating their fetishes.

Emery Boone – Zuni
Horse Fetish Carving of Pipestone with inlay

The next few pages discuss the art of carving.

Antler carving of eagle taking rabbit

The next 55 pages are devoted to the Zuni carving families telling a brief history of the family. Each family section includes a detailed family tree. There are also examples of pieces made by various members of each family.

An ammonite bear by the Laiwakete family.

The book closes with a brief guide to collecting, indexes and so on.  See the slide show below of various buffalo fetish carvings.

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This is a valuable book for the Zuni fetish collector.

Paula

Sadly we lost our mentor and friend Kent McManis earlier this year. His passion lives on and he is held in high regard.

What is a Ketoh, Bowguard (Bow Guard) or Wrist Guard?

 

When shooting a bow, depending on the bow but more importantly, the anatomy, musculature and skill of the archer, it is possible for the bow string to contact the inside of the arm that is holding the bow.

Examples of various archers to illustrate the above point.

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When the bow string contacts the inside of the arm, it results in “string slap”. Here are some examples of the after effects of “string slap”. The location of the injury will vary depending on the person and the bow.

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To protect the inner arm from string slap, arms guards can be used. They can be full length or partial. Partial arm guards are usually centered on the inner forearm (bow guard) or at the wrist (wrist guard).

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Native Americans were skilled with their bows but with the frequent use for hunting and protection, in all types of weather, in variety of positions and when fatigued, it is easy to see why bow guards and wrist guards were used. At first they were just wide strips of the heaviest hide leather. Later other stiff materials such as metal were added.

Navajo began making bowguards are early as 1895; some say earlier.  The Navajo bowguard is called a ketoh. It consists of a metal plate affixed to a leather wrist or arm piece.

The metal plate is either wrought or cast.

A wrought piece is one that has been made from metal either cold (no heat) or using a fire (forge) and hand tools. The term wought is most often used to describe the shaping, altering and molding of various metals using a hammer. In the case of Navajo silver work, this often includes stamping and repousse work. (Repousse is a method of forming a pattern on metal by stamping, hammering or pressing a design from the back to produce a three-dimensional bas-relief surface on the front.)

Indian Silverwork of the Southwest, Illustrated Volume One Harry P. Mera

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See the slide show below for examples of modern wrought pieces.

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A cast piece is one that has been made using a mold and molten metal. Early cast pieces were sand cast. Today they are usually tufa cast. Read more about casting in my previous post Native American Cast Jewelry.

Indian Silverwork of the Southwest, Illustrated Volume One Harry P. Mera

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See the slide show below for examples of modern cast pieces.

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Following are some more historical examples of bow guards from this book.

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Today decorated ketohs and Plains beaded wrist guards are mainly worn for ceremonial and social occasions, including dancing at pow wows. See the slide show below for examples of modern beaded Lakota wrist guards.

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There has been a recent surge in popularity of bow guards as a jewelry item including smaller ketohs for women. See the photo group below for examples of womens’ ketohs.

Following is a slide show that that show the various ways ketohs can be worn. The sky is the limit as to where you position your ketoh and how you tie it on.

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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.

Front_Cover_Mex_Book_2013_Final_May_13_360x

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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