Are you supposed to polish Navajo Pearls?

Hi Paula,

I was looking at the stamped Navajo pearl necklaces and began to wonder – How do you polish these necklaces or are you supposed to polish these necklaces?

Thanks   Pamela

Stamped Navajo Pearls by Larry Pinto

Stamped Navajo Pearls by Larry Pinto

Hi Pamela,
It is a matter of personal preference. If you like patina, no polishing necessary.That’s why we leave the beads in our pawn shop as is – so the buyer can decide.
A lot of people prefer patina………and to satisfy those customers, Navajo bead makers also put an “instant patina” on their beads by adding a satin finish and antiquing on some of their beads such as this gorgeous necklace by Navajo Virginia Tso.
Antiqued Navajo Pearls by Virginia Tso
If you like shiny, you can use a soft silver polishing cloth. Leaving a little patina in the stamped portions just makes the stamping stand out more dramatically. Very pretty.
You can also keep them in an anti tarnish pouch if you want them to stay shiny.

Bell Trading Post History and Hallmarks

Bell Trading Post was founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1932 by Jack Michelson and his wife Mildred. They sold southwest style jewelry at various tourist locations in the United States.


Bell Trading Post got its name from Jack’s wife, whose maiden name was Bell.

The types of jewelry sold by Bell Trading Post included sterling silver, nickel silver, gold, and copper.

To see a selection of  Bell Trading Post jewelry, visit our Copper Shop.   Here are some examples:

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Their main competitor was The Maisel Company until Maisel’s closed in 1968.

In 1969, Sunbell Corporation was formed and included these merchandise lines: Bell Jewelry (which now carried the Sunbell hallmark), Gregorian Copper Ware, and Oglala Lakota moccasins from Pine Ridge South Dakota. Sunbell also purchased Maisel’s inventory.

Sunbell Corporation

Sunbell Corporation catalog

Gregorian Copper Ware

Gregorian Copper Ware catalog


Pine Ridge moccasins

catalog page showing the Pine Ridge moccasins

Sunbell continued to offer jewelry items, now with the Sunbell hallmark,  as well as giftware and moccasins until the late 1980s. 

Over the years numerous hallmarks were used on items sold by Bell Trading Post and Sunbell. The hallmarks typically included the image of a bell or that of an arrow sign post with a bell sign hanging from it. Shown here are just a few of Bell Trading Post’s hallmarks.

According to a reader who researched the trademark records, the mark “Bell Jewelry”  was first used in 1935.

The “Arrow post hanging bell sign” was first used in 1961.

Bell Trading Company hallmark   Bell Trading Company hallmark   Bell Trading Company hallmark  Bell Trading Company hallmark

Bell Trading Company hallmark     Bell Trading Company hallmark   Bell Trading Company hallmark

When the name changed to Sunbell, this is the hallmark often used.

sunbell cropped

February 2019

I originally wrote this article in 2011 but just updated it after receiving a note from Jacquelyn Michelson: “As the Daughter of Jack and Mildred Michelson you are incorrect in your facts about the Bell Trading Post. It was never called Bell Trading Company and Bell never merged with The Maisel Company in 1935. They remained fierce competitors until the 70’s when Sunbell Corporation bought the Maisel Company. Please correct your facts. Thank you”.

So I thanked Jacquelyn for taking the time to write and I have corrected the errors in my article and added more information and photos courtesy of Jacquelyn. I’m so glad she wrote, how else would I have known !!

I now want to share with you some references that I had used originally and that I dug out again today as I rewrote this article. I am including them all so you can review the information and draw your own conclusions. As is often the case, things aren’t always black and white.

An article online entitled Bell Trading Post, Albuquerque, NM (1932 -1969)

Although that article seems to provide some good information, Jacquelyn Michelson did point out there are a few errors, in particular this sentence:

“Then in 1957 Jack Michelson pasted away4 leaving the company to his two sons, Jack and Douglas.”

Well not only should that have said passed away, not pasted away, it should have said:

Then in 1957 Jack Michelson passed, leaving the company to his two sons, Jack and Douglas and his daughter Jacquelyn who was a proud and active part of the business. It was Jacquelyn who came up with the name Sunbell and the logo when Sunbell became a corporation.



An excellent book Reassessing Hallmarks of Native Southwest Jewelry by Pat and Kim Messier.  I’m showing one excerpt here but there are other discussions on this topic and much more !


Mssier excerpt

In the book Fred Harvey Jewelry, there is a timeline that states Maisel’s and Bell merged in 1935 which Jacquelyn Michelson says did not happen.

The author of the above book referenced the following book as the source for the merger information. Here is the book cover and the page referenced.

Finally, this is another reference with much about Bell Trading Post, Maisel’s and more.



How do I clean my Navajo sterling silver and turquoise jewelry?

Hi Paula,

How do you clean the silver and turquoise Navajo bracelets and earrings?  I had been using a commercial jewelry cleaner and brushing it on, not soaking it.  I noticed one earring changed color?  Thanks, Judy

Hi Judy,

In a word – carefully !

First of all, the cardinal rule is to never allow any cleaner to come in contact with the stones or their settings (the sterling silver bezel that holds the stone in) as the stones may change color (as you’ve experienced) or the settings may loosen.

Really the very best way to keep sterling silver shiny is with regular maintenance. Buff with a silver polishing cloth after each use and before you put the jewelry on. Store in anti-tarnish boxes and/or bags. I have a number of articles on this topic here on my blog.

In the right hand column, if you choose the Category  “Care” you will get a list of all the articles on this blog related to care and storage which describe what causes tarnish in the first place and all types of solutions from simple (zip lock bag) to elaborate (anti-tarnish cloth lined boxes and drawers.)


Native American Bracelet and Cuff Watch Storage Ideas

This is my last (for a while) installment on the sterling silver storage theme.  And it will be short and sweet.

This system consists of a 17″ x 17″ x 5″ drawer lined with anti-tarnish cloth.

Leave a large flap of extra anti-tarnish cloth attached to the front of the drawer that can be folded over to use like a blankie to tuck the bracelets in.

The storage bars are moveable, they are not fixed. The are 3″ tall and 1 1/8 wide and 15″ long. If your bracelets have a 1″ gap, you will want to make the bars 7/8″ or 1″ wide or the bracelets won’t slip onto the bars.

The bracelet bars are covered in the anti-tarnish cloth. To keep the bars from rolling over, a foot is attached to the end of each bar and I put that end in the back of the drawer. The foot is made from 1 1/2″ lathe approximately 3″ long.


Native American Sterling Silver Jewelry Display Ideas from Tallbear

This from Blog Reader Tallbear who originally asked me about storage and display.

Hey Paula,
I am sending the two pics showing the display cases.

The Squash and Buckles I had purchased some anti-tarnish cloth and took it to the craft shop that was going to frame it for me.  I had the shop cover the inside back with that then mount the items on it using stick pins and frame them.  It is quite a large wall mounted display.

The two watch cuffs and the bracelet, I found a display case for baseballs at a craft store, got one for three baseballs.  cut two pieces of Styrofoam (swim noodle) and covered them with the anti-tarnish cloth and put the watch cuffs around them and the bracelet in the middle.

Hopefully the anti- tarnish cloth will keep them polished. Any way, hope this will give others some ideas.


Hi Tallbear,

Thanks so much for the ideas. Please let us know if either or both methods prevent tarnish.

This ties in nicely to the last part of my series on storage to prevent tarnish which will come by the weekend. So stay tuned.


More Sterling Silver Native American Jewelry Storage Ideas

This is a continuation to Tall Bear’s request for ideas on storage of Native American sterling silver jewelry to protect it and prevent it from tarnishing.

I previously showed you the Navajo Pearl tequila chests that hubby made.

Here is another idea. There are commercially available jewelry boxes that are lined with anti-tarnish cloth. They come in all sizes from simple ring boxes like the one I show below to full sized chests. Some have see-through lids so you can also use them as display boxes. Part of owning Native American wearable art is to be able to see it even when we aren’t wearing it !

Note that I own mostly pawn rings with patina so my photo example does not show shiny rings. However if you have new rings or want to keep rings shiny, you will have a much easier time if you use one of these boxes.

Another method that we use here in the jewelry store it to place strips of 3M anti-tarnish paper inside the bags we use to store our inventory. So you could use the strips in a variety of ways during storage to help prevent tarnish.

Anti-Tarnish Strips help keep silver tarnish-free by preventing oxidation because they absorb hydrogen sulfides from the air.

They last from a few weeks (if exposed to air) up to a year (if used in a sealed container). We used them with well-sealed zip lock bags.

For storing large pieces of jewelry, you can purchase anti-tarnish cloth by the yard and bundle up the items like you do with your silver table ware.

Watch for more of my jewelry storage tips coming soon to finish up this topic.


What is the best way to store Native American jewerly to keep it from tarnishing?


What is the best way to store and or display sterling silver jewelry in order to keep it from getting tarnished?  Don’t want to have to keep polishing.



Hi Tallbear,

This is such a long overdue answer – I’m working my way through all the great questions. Have you read the article I have written on Care of Sterling Silver Native American Jewelry ?

I’ve taken some photos of the ways I store my own personal jewelry and will share some of these ideas with you – but these are just to get you started. I hope this will get you started into thinking of things you can do that suit your collection and needs.

For Valentines Days a couple of years ago I gave hubby a nice decanter of Corazon tequila that came in a cool wooden box with a neat brass hasp.

Well leave it to him to come up with a nifty storage cabinet for my silver beads.

Storage box for Navajo Pearls

He lined the box with anti-tarnish cloth, the type that lines your silverware storage box.  Then he mounted four pieces of tubing for hanging the beads and finished each off with a cool marble which not only looks great but keeps the beads from sliding off the end.

To allow the box to open without it dragging on the top of the vanity, he attached wooden discs on the bottom – these happen to be wooden wheels from model cars – available at hobby shops.

Some of my beads are vintage and have great old patina which I don’t remove but the newer beads stay very shiny in my little vault.

In fact, it worked so well, I bought him another bottle of that tequila and voila ! #2 has Indian Head pennies on the end of the rods instead of marble. How cool is this?

Watch for more articles featuring my personal jewelry storage solutions…….but I’m going to answer other questions in between…………enjoy !


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