Many Men Thank Mary Bill on Mother’s Day

Mary Bill, along with her husband Ken Bill, is known for crafting heavy Sterling bracelets with and without gold.

Customarily, she uses at least 10 gauge sheet silver (and often 8 gauge) making her bracelets thick, durable and with great appeal to men.

Often she finishes the ends with a widened fishtail for comfort.

Sometimes she uses a lighter gauge silver and then use a combination of stamping, oxidation, and lightly brushing to give a satin finish.

She also makes substantial link bracelets

She has used and uses a number of hallmarks usually with STERLING and often with NAVAJO

Here are some of them:
K & M BILL
Mary and Ken Bill
Mary (often along with KENNETH BILL)
Mary Bill

Thank you Mary Bill and Happy Mother’s Day !

Paula

All About Link Bracelets – Native American and Otherwise

A variety of link bracelets

A variety of link bracelets, most Native American made with a few vintage costume jewelry and a few Mexican bracelets.

The traditional southwestern Native American bracelet is a cuff bracelet.

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Vintage 9 Stone Kingman Turquoise and Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet – C.T.E. Sterling. Raymond Etsitty, Navajo

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But a cuff is not for everyone and especially some women, so in response to market demand, along the way, Navajo, Hopi and Zuni artists began making link bracelets.

Link bracelets are a great alternative to cuff bracelet – they are light, loose, airy and have a nice movement and feel to them. They are great for summer.

And if you are like me and want to wear more than one bracelet at a time, link bracelets make a nice addition on the same wrist as a watch, cuff bracelet or bangle bracelet.

Ken and Mary Bill - Navajo

12 K G.F. and Sterling Silver by Ken and Mary Bill – Navajo

Shirley Tso - Navajo

Rhodochrosite, Mother of Pearl and Opal Inlay by Shirley Tso – Navajo

Southwest Native Americans learned the art of silversmithing from plateros, Mexican silversmiths. Therefore I am including some Mexican link bracelets in this group to show various features.

Two Mexican-made bracelets stamped MEXICO 925

Two Mexican-made bracelets stamped MEXICO 925

The first Native American link bracelets started appearing in the Fred Harvey era and were made of copper.

Copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet - Fred Harvey Era but no markings

Copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet – Fred Harvey Era but no markings

Not all link bracelets are created equal. They take a lot of work to put together. Because they are somewhat “mechanical”, i.e. they have moving parts, either they work well or they don’t. That aim of this article is to point out some of the variables so you can choose the perfect link bracelet.

First of all, these are the main styles with materials most commonly used in Native American Link bracelets.

Sterling Silver Stamped Bead Link Bracelet by Navajo Marie Yazzie.

SILVER – Sterling Silver Stamped Bead Link Bracelet by Navajo Marie Yazzie.

 

Larry Lincoln Navajo Sterling Silver and Gold Storyteller Link Bracelet

STORYTELLER – Larry Lincoln, Navajo Sterling Silver and Gold Storyteller Link Bracelet

12 K G.F. and STERLING link bracelet with decorative box latch.

SILVER AND GOLD – 12 K G.F. and STERLING link bracelet with decorative box latch.

Lambert Perry, Navajo sterling silver concha style link bracelet

CONCHA STYLE – Lambert Perry, Navajo sterling silver concha style link bracelet

Rhodochrosite Inlay by Navajo Shirley Tso

INLAY – Rhodochrosite Inlay by Navajo Shirley Tso

Turquoise and Sterling Silver Cluster

STONE – Turquoise and Sterling Silver Cluster

LEATHER – Concha Belt Style by Navajo Danny Martinez

Next, how are the various panels attached to each other?

HINGES

HINGES

RINGS

RINGS

How do the ends fasten?

ADJUSTABLE WITH TOGGLE AND RINGS

ADJUSTABLE WITH TOGGLE AND RINGS – Lambert Perry, Navajo

BOX CLASP WITH TAB INSERT

BOX CLASP WITH TAB INSERT – Alonzo Mariano, Navajo

LOBSTER CLAW CLASP THAT ATTACHES TO RINGS - Navajo Scott Skeets

LOBSTER CLAW CLASP THAT ATTACHES TO RINGS – Navajo Scott Skeets

SPRING RING CLASP - Marie Yazzie, Navajo

SPRING RING CLASP – Marie Yazzie, Navajo

Sister (Scissor) Clasp on vintage copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet

SISTER CLASP – Sister (Scissor) Clasp on vintage copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet

BUCKLE - Concha belt style - Danny Martinez, Navajo

BUCKLE – Concha belt style – Danny Martinez, Navajo

Fold Over Clasp

FOLD OVER CLASP – OPEN on Sterling Silver Marcasite Bracelet stamped 925

Fold Over Clasp closed on Sterling Silver Marcasite Bracelet stamped 925

FOLD OVER CLASP – CLOSED on Sterling Silver Marcasite Bracelet stamped 925

Peg With Keeper

PEG WITH LATCH (KEEPER)

Vintage Topaz link bracelet with hidden latch

HIDDEN – Vintage Topaz link bracelet (from my mother’s jeweler box) with hidden latch

What are some  other features?

Tillie Jon, Navajo Storyteller Overlay Link Bracelet with Safety Chain, Spring Ring Clasp

SAFETY CHAIN WITH SPRING RING CLASP – Tillie Jon, Navajo Storyteller Overlay Link Bracelet with Box Latch and Safety Chain

Stephen Haloo, Zuni Snake Eye Link Bracelet with safety chain and lobster claw clasp

SAFETY CHAIN WITH LOBSTER CLAW CLASP – Stephen Haloo, Zuni Snake Eye Link Bracelet with box latch and safety chain

Lapis Link Bracelet stamped 950 (greater silver content than Sterling) with box latch and safety clasp.

SAFETY LATCH (KEEPER) – Lapis Link Bracelet stamped 950 (greater silver content than Sterling) with box latch and safety clasp (keeper).

Box Latch with Keeper on top edge

SAFETY LATCH – Box Latch with Keeper on top edge

HERE ARE TWO UNIQUE HINGED CUFFS

Yazzie Navajo Link Cuff Bracelet with Amber

HINGED CUFF – Yazzie Navajo Link Cuff Bracelet with Amber

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

HINGED LINK CUFF – Jay Boyd Inlay Bracelet

Jay Boyd Hinged Link Cuff Bracelet

HINGED LINK CUFF – Jay Boyd Inlay Bracelet

Remember, you will be putting a link bracelet on with one hand, so choose one that has a fastener you can easily operate.

Although many link bracelets are adjustable, be sure to choose a length that will allow the bracelet to fit like you want – snug in place, loose, or actively moving.

I hope that this article has helped you find the missing link in your jewelry collection !

Paula

 

 

Replacing batteries in watch cuffs

Hi Paula,

I have purchased 2 native american watch cuff’s.  I would have had  to  have the batteries  replaced in them every year .  Is there a kit  that I can buy to replace the batteries in thesewatch  cuff’s my self.   The jewelry stores in my area , now they do not want to replace the batteries in these watches.
Debra

WM-176-turq-moore-714-6

Tommy Moore Cuff Watch showing the decorative wings that must be opened. Underneath the wings are tabs that secure the watch in place. They must also be opened so that the timepiece can be removed.

Hi Debra,

Just for sake of completeness in this answer, I want to point out that it is easy to replace the battery in a link or expansion band watch because the back of the watch is exposed so it is easy to access. Many people do it themselves or an ordinary jeweler can do it for you.

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An expansion band watch showing how there is easy access of the back of the timepiece.

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Similarly, there is easy access to the back of the timepiece in a link watch.

However, I know you are asking about cuff watches………..they are trickier because the watch face must be removed completely from the cuff bracelet so the back of the timepiece can be accessed. To do that the fans and anchor tabs must be opened and unless you do have the correct tools and know-how you could damage or break the fans or tabs.

My husband and I have both tried to replace the batteries in my watch cuffs. I have also taken them to local jewelers – all with varying degrees of success.

Now I mail all my cuffs to an experienced Native American jeweler when I need a battery replaced. (see the end of this article for contact information).

To extend the life of the battery, I always pull the watch stem out when I am not
wearing my watch cuffs. This stops the watch and the battery lasts longer.

Alternatively you could use a watch that doesn’t require a battery change such as a good old fashioned wind up watch, a kinetic watch (one that self winds in response to your normal everyday arm movements, sometimes referred to as a self-wind or mechanical watch), a solar watch (also called eco drive watch), or a Quartz watch (one that runs on a quartz crystal).

Native American jeweler that we use – contact

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

Paula

To view our full list of article 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

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Bear Claw Cuff watch by Navajo Elaine Sam

Native American Jewelry – Putting on a Cuff Bracelet

Hi Paula,
I have a question about the bracelets…
When putting a cuff bracelet on and off it has to be big enough to fit over your hand or the gap wide enough to fit on the narrowest/smallest part of your wrist.   That being said, how could a person wear a cuff bracelet above the wrist bone when it will naturally fall towards the hand when your arm is down and flop around when you move …  unless, you squeeze it tight (bend it) once on, and bend it open again to take it off.. ?  Is a cuff bracelet suppose to fit like a bangle bracelet and be loose (fall to the hand) or is it suppose to stay still (fitted) when you wear it?
I have a couple bracelets (western style) that I received as gifts.  I’ve been bending them to get them on and off so they don’t flop around so much but never bend them to a point where the gap is closed and it is fitted (stays between my hand and wrist bone)….  My wrist is 6 1/4″, bracelets are 6 3/4″ including gap.
Appreciate your reply.
Kindest regards,
Carolyn
Good questions Carolyn,
I’ll answer your queries specifically, but in the meantime, please read these two articles……..
After you’ve read them, let me know if some of your questions have been answered and if not, what the new ones are !
Paula

Hi again Carolyn,
First of all, a cuff bracelet is never put over the hand. If it would fit over the hand, it would be too big. Cuff bracelets are put on by utilizing the gap as described in the above referenced article.

How one wears a bracelet is entirely a matter of personal preference and taste. When I wear a group of bangle bracelets, I want them to be very loose and move up and down my wrist and lower arm as I move my arm and hands. Bangles are for days when metal clinking is not only good, but desired !
 

Sterling Silver Navajo Silverdust Bangle Bracelets


I also like to wear my link bracelets and link watches loose, that is so that they slide up and down my wrist.
 

Sterling Silver and 12K Gold Navajo Link Bracelet by Alonzo Mariano


As far as cuff bracelets, if they are narrow bracelets, I prefer to wear them low on my wrist – below the prominent wrist bone. If they are wider, then I like them over the top of the prominent wrist bone.
 

Example of Narrow Cuff - Sterling Silver and 14K Gold Continuous Water Bracelet by Bruce Morgan

Example of a Wide Cuff - Sterling Silver Sandcast and Kingman Turquoise Bracelet by Harrison Bitsui


There is a “sweet spot” in terms of bracelet size, gap and the person’s wrist size as to where a bracelet will “work”. If a bracelet is the right size, you can wear a cuff above your wrist and it will stay there. If it is too big, then, as you say, it will slip down.

From the dimensions you mention in your e-mail, it would seem almost impossible to keep that bracelet up above your wrist UNLESS you open it up to put it on, then squeeze the gap closed (eek!) once you get it on your wrist. Squeezing not only makes the bracelet misshapen but it can pop out inlay stones or loosen other stone settings. The bracelet below is made up of many small pieces of turquoise with sterling silver channel in between. If the bracelet below was spread open, then squeezed shut, the stone at the point of the bend would be lifted right out of their settings and popped out.

Zuni Turquoise Inlay Bracelet by Sheldon Lalio

So 6 3/4″ is too big for a 6 1/4″ wrist. You should be looking for a bracelet that is about 6 1/4″ total inside circumference which would be about 5 1/4″ from end to end inside and with a 1″ gap. That way you can put the bracelet on and off easily without opening and closing the gap.
Let me know if I can help further.

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The Origin of Storyteller Scenes on Native American Jewelry

Storytelling is an important part of many cultures. Traditions, rituals, and historic events are passed on orally.

Navajo Sterling Silver Storyteller Link Bracelet by Tillie Jon

In the first half of the 1900’s Helen Cordero of the Cochiti Pueblo used a storyteller motif in her ceramic pieces. Usually her storytellers would be a Pueblo woman telling stories to a group of children who were gathered around.

In this way the language and culture are kept alive.

Since the 1960’s a new type of storyteller art emerged, partly in response to the desire of non-Native Americans to have some sort of Indian folk art to display or wear. Storyteller jewelry pieces are generally overlay (see explanation of overlay at the end of this article). Each figure is cut out then placed onto a contrasting background and finished in place. A very painstaking and delicate process.

Navajo Storyteller Bracelet by Francis Tabaha

The idea was embraced by Navajo silversmiths and made popular by such artists as (click on the artist to see a sample of his or her work).

Clarence Lee

Tommy Singer

Tillie Jon

Lloyd and Floyd Bicenti

Francis Tabaha

Richard Singer

Tom and Sue Kee

Marie Bahe, and others.

Here are some examples of a few of those artists’ works.

Tommy Singer

Tom and Sue Kee

Marie Bahe

Richard Singer

Tommy Singer

Richard SInger

Traditional scenes include

The Hogan

Home Life

Weaving

Drumming

Traveling by wagon

The Horse

Sheep

Cooking

The Campfire

Southwest Scenery

A Day in the Life of a Man, Woman, Horse, Bear and so on……..

What is Overlay?

Overlay pieces are made of two layers. The bottom layer is a solid sterling silver piece. The top layer has a cutout design. The cutout is placed over the bottom layer and the two pieces are “sweated” together, that is heated so that they become one.

The bottom layer (background to the cutout) is usually accented. The Navajo silversmiths oxidize the bottom layer which darkens it. Hopi silversmiths oxidize and etch the background (texturize it) with hashmarks.

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Native American Jewerly Materials – Opal

Hi Paula,

I think the opals used on bracelets are mostly (very pretty) Gilson opals. Am I right? I have a Thomas Francisco designed bracelet, and although nothing says synthetic, I think they must be, they really look like the Gilson opal pictures.

Susan

Opal Inlay Bracelet by Thomas Francisco, Navajo

Hi Susan,

Great question and a good topic. First of all, we’ve never seen Native American pieces that use natural or precious opal. As you will read below, part of the reason is the scarcity and availability of precious opal.

But the other factor is that when used in inlays or other settings, natural opal has a higher tendency to crack than lab or imitation opal. So when we purchase items with opal in them and ask the artists about the materials, about the opal, they reply “lab opal” but most opal used in Native American jewelry is actually imitation opal.

Opal

Opal has a latticework of spheres and spaces that play with light as it passes through  – something like a prism.

Light passes through the arrangement, speeding up and slowing down as the size of the spheres and spaces between them changes and as the the angle of view changes.

The longer light waves produce RED-PINK color hues.

Imitation Pink Opal

Imitation Pink Opal

The shorter waves produce the BLUE-GREEN color hues.

Imitation Blue Opal Bracelet by Thomas Francisco, Navajo

Imitation Blue Opal Bracelet by Thomas Francisco, Navajo

So when you wear your opal jewelry indoors under various types of lights and outdoors under different light settings, you will see a change in the stones. Photographing opal to show its great variety is indeed a challenge !

Natural opal (also known as precious opal) contains between 3-10% water but can be as high as 20%

For technical information about natural opal.

More about Australian Opals.

Lab opal is considered a true synthetic or created opal – produced in controlled laboratory conditions and with the same chemical composition as natural opal but with a very low moisture content.

opa butterfly

Zuni Imitation Opal Butterfly Pin Pendant by Earline Edaackie

Some lab opals are more expensive to produce than the natural stone would cost. Lab opal is very resistant to breaking due to the fact it does not contain as much water as natural opal.

Multi-Color Opal Corn Row Watch by Thomas Francisco, Navajo

Multi-Color Imitation Opal Corn Row Watch by Thomas Francisco, Navajo

Gilson opal is the premier lab opal, the choice of many Native American artists.

Gilson opal production began in 1974 by Pierre Gilson when he discovered the ordered sphere structure that gives precious opal its light reflecting abilities. Laboratory production of opal is a highly complex process that can take over a year to complete. The colors are natural without color enhancement.

Imitation opal AKA artificial or simulated opal is different chemically from natural or lab opal. It is made up of 80% silica and 20% resin and is an economical option to both precious and lab opal.

Even when opal is not used as the main stone, but as an accent such as in this link bracelet, it brings a whole new dazzle to the piece.

Rhodochrosite, Opal and Mother of Pearl Inlay Braclet by Shirley Tso, Navajo

Rhodochrosite, Imitation Opal and Mother of Pearl Inlay Braclet by Shirley Tso, Navajo


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Navajo Pearl Bracelets

Looking for a Navajo pearl bead (antiqued)  stretch bracelet 7.5” -8”. Can you help?  -Joel

Hi Joel,

I’ve never seen anything like you describe but we do have several choices in Navajo Pearl bracelets.

((By the way the term Navajo Pearls refers to hand made sterling silver beads, plain or stamped.))

They come in round, stamped beads (both in 9mm and 12mm) such as these by Marie Yazzie which match sterling silver bead necklaces.

Sterling Silver Stamped Navajo Pearl Bracelet by Navajo Marie Yazzie

Sterling Silver Stamped Navajo Pearl Bracelet by Navajo Marie Yazzie

They come in stamped barrel beads such as these by Shirley Yazzie Johnson.

And they come in half beads, both with and without turquoise stones, also by Marie Yazzie.

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