Closing the Gap on a Native American Inlay Cuff Bracelet

When this beautiful inlay bracelet by Merle House Jr. came into our store,

Inlay Bracelet by Navajo artist Merle House, Jr.

Inlay Bracelet by Navajo artist Merle House, Jr.

I just had to have it…………it matched a pendant and ring I have by him which I love to wear.

BUT the bracelet was gallons too big. Made to fit a 7 1/2″ wrist, I didn’t know if it could be closed up enough to fit my 6 3/4″ wrist.

BEFORE – The 1 3/4″ gap was so large that the bracelet would roll and fall off my wrist.

The silver measured 5 3/4″ end to end. It was the gap that was the bad boy – at 1 3/4″ it would allow the bracelet to roll and fall off my wrist. If it could be closed at least 1/2″, down to a 1 1/4″ gap maximum, I think that could work for me – still enough of a gap to get on and off but it would stay on. It would likely be a little lose but for these big heavy ones, I kind of like them moving a bit.

I asked my go-to repair gal Diane Radeke if Henry could possibly do that and she said “NO PROBLEM!”

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AFTER – Here it is after resizing – With the gap closed to 1 1/8″, the bracelet now goes on and off very easily and stays put on my wrist !

I asked Diane what is involved in resizing an inlay bracelet and here is what she said:

“It’s a commonly held belief that inlaid bracelets cannot be sized because of the risk of stones popping out or breaking.  It can, however, be done by a skilled silversmith with the right tools, materials and experience.

 
The simplest style to resize have stones inlaid on less than half of the length of the bracelet (like Paula’s). 
Inlay confined to just the front of the bracelet - that's good news in terms of my hopes of getting this resized downward.

The inlay is confined to just the front of the bracelet – that was good news for getting this resized downward.

Special tools and a lot of patience will allow the silversmith to bend only the sections of bracelet that have no stones.  The inlaid portion will not change its shape, and the stones will remain secure.
 

If more than half of the length is covered with stones, the silversmith can lift the stones out of the bracelet, reshape the bracelet, and then carefully set the stones back in place.  There are a few adjustments to be made, however, as the “bed” for the stones will now be a different size.  If the bracelet is being made smaller, the curved bed will become longer – then tiny slivers of stone will be added to fill the gaps.  More difficult is if the bracelet is being made larger – the curved bed becomes shorter so some of the stones will be filed ever so slightly to fit correctly without binding.

 

Resizing a favorite inlaid bracelet can be time consuming, but may be well worth the investment for the enjoyment of wearing it! “

 

So here it is back to me and WOW, my dream came true.

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Many thanks to Diane and Henry for yet another successful jewelry modification/repair !
Paula

We recommend contacting Diane Radeke for Native American jewelry repairs. They do all of the repairs for our store and we are thoroughly satisfied with their work.  Paula

Contact:

Diane Radeke
602-354-5028
P. O. Box 55935
Phoenix, AZ  85078

Large Mosaic Shell Pendant – Let’s Look

Here is another one of those mystery pieces that came in a 100+ piece estate lot. Most of the items in this gentleman’s collection (he collected for over 60 years) have strong provenance and/or hallmarks.

So I am going to give this a good examination. First I will post photos of the item I am examining, then I’ll follow with the reference material I dug up on these large mosaic shell pendants.

The specs:

The entire necklace weights 252 grams

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The necklace is 24 inches long and made of very nice turquoise nuggets that are strung on a metal wire. I am of the opinion that this is a married piece, that is, the more contemporary necklace was added or substituted later. Perhaps if this shell pendant originally came with a traditional heishi necklace and the pendant was attached to it with fiber or thread (as was done and you will see below in the reference section), the necklace or attachment might have broken and this was what the owner did to make it work.

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The shell pendant is is 5 1/2″ wide and 5″ tall. The shell is relatively flat.

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It is attached to the necklace by sterling silver wire. This might be a more recent evolution of the necklace ( see my comment above about married piece.) You can see where there were several attempts to drill a hole on the left to find one where the pendant balanced correctly.  Remember this when we later look at one of the research pieces.

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The inside of the shell is mostly white with faint hints of peach. It is of the shape and size of a large spiny oyster shell.

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Here are some closeups of the inlay. Note the black material between the turquoise pieces. The white mosaic pieces appear to be Mother of Pearl but I am not sure if the black is Acoma Jet, old phonograph records or other substitute material. The reddish brown tiles are pipestone, a material that was noted to be used in the Santo Domingo pueblo (Baxter Encyclopedia page 156).

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southwest design border669

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NOW I AM SHIFTING GEARS TO THE RESEARCH MATERIAL………..HERE’S WHAT I FOUND

Shell pendants are some of the earliest jewelry found in archaeological sites in Arizona. The Hohokam, Salado, and Sinagua peoples obtained the shells by trade or travel. The shells are native to the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Coast.

Prehistoric people used lac or pine pitch to adhere the mosaic to the shell.

lac  – a resinous substance secreted as a protective covering by the lac insect, used to make varnish, shellac, sealing wax, dyes, etc.

Pine resin is a clear sticky substance secreted by damaged limbs or roots of pine trees. The resin can be used as is or made into a more useful pine pitch or pine tar which is black.

This tradition of mosaic inlay on shells is associated with Santo Domingo (Kewa) Pueblo of New Mexico.

From the Encyclopedia of Native American Jewelry (Paula Baxter) “Between 1920 and 1950, not all Santo Domingo jewelry making was of good quality and pieces from this period betray inventive uses of substitute materials – especially when the traditional materials were not available (such as using pieces of phonograph records or automotive battery cases in place of jet or onyx).”

The contemporary revival of the art form is mainly due to Angie Reano Owen. Santo Domingo artists Mary Coriz Lovato and Jolene Bird also makes mosaic inlay on large shells.

Today the main difference is that black epoxy glue is now used instead of pine pitch.

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from North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment – Dubin

 

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North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment – Dubin

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A Contemporary Santo Domingo Necklace shown in Southwest Art Defined page 141 Caption should say “Angie Reano Owen”

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Southwest Silver Jewelry – Baxter

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Note that this pendant is suspended from the heishi necklace by a fiber tie. There are several holes drilled in the shell to allow this. This necklace is said to be from the 1920s.

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Fine Indian Jewelry of the Southwest: The Millicent Rogers Museum Collection

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Fine Indian Jewelry of the Southwest: The Millicent Rogers Museum Collection

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EVALUATION SUMMARY:

This is a married piece.

The necklace is more contemporary and was added later, attaching the pendant to the necklace with sterling silver wire.

The shell pendant shows the following positive signs for it being a vintage Native American made piece:

It is based on the proper size and shape shell.

The adhesive between the turquoise is black which is traditional, whether pitch or glue.

Pipestone and Mother of Pearl are associated with Santo Domingo work. It is possible the color of the base spiny oyster shell was faded or off color, so the artist decided to add the pipestone mosaic to brighten up the piece.

The black material is unidentified at this point – it could be jet or an old record or car battery.

What do you think? Please leave comments and additional reference information below.

Paula

 

V/L Hallmark on Zuni Longhorn Kachina Inlay Belt Buckle

I’ve replied to hundreds of your queries on hallmarks and now its my turn !! HELP !!

I wonder if any of you have seen this V/L hallmark before. See the photos for the hallmark and the buckle itself.

BU128-BG-inlay-kachina-VL-1BU128-BG-inlay-kachina-VL-4

The buckle is from a collection we purchased from a gentleman who bought buckles over the last 10-40 years and kept them in a display case so they are NOS (New Old Stock).  The prong on this buckle was shaky so we had the prong replaced – that is the only new part on it.

It is a Zuni inlay of Longhorn Kachina also known by and associated with other kachina names including Saiyatash, Sai-astasana, Zuni Rain Priest of the North, and Hututu. Some say that Longhorn Kachina is usually accompanied by his “Deputy” Hututu. They look quite similar.

Longhorn Kachina has a single long horn sticking off to the right side of his mask and is always seen with his distinctive black and white (striped or checkered) neck ruff.

He has a long left eye which is said to bring a long life to good people. In addition, he is called a hunter/warrior and the Rain Priest of the North who has the ability to control the weather.

I’ve researched the hallmark in all of my references and online and so far this is what I came up – it is NOT the same as either of these other VL hallmarks.   Any ideas?

Vera Luna Virgil LeekyaBU128-BG-inlay-kachina-VL-3Paula

Since artists do change their hallmarks over the years and since one reader showed me a piece by Vera Luna that seems to be a match to this buckle, I will surmise, this buckle was made by Vera Luna. Here is the bolo. Except for the fact that the kachina on the buckle has one extra black feather, these are twins !

vera luna full piece

Zuni artist Charlotte Dishta makes beautiful blanket pattern inlay

Charlotte Dishta has been making jewelry since the 1980s and is known for her mosaic rug pattern inlays.

Here is a beautiful example of a rug pattern on a vintage NOS (New Old Stock) belt buckle.

She uses the traditional four color materials of Acoma Jet, Turquoise, Mother of Pearl and Coral.

BU126-BG-inlay-dishta-1 BU126-BG-inlay-dishta-5Paula

Benjamin Becenti Inlay Storyteller Concho Belt shows Navajo life

Born about 1950, Benjamin Becenti is the son of Robert Becenti, Sr and the
brother of Robert Becenti Jr. He is from Crownpoint, New Mexico. He has been
active in inlay work since the 1970s.

He is well known for his wonderful inlay storyteller belts. Each panel shows a different scene from Navajo life.

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CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-7 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-8 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-9 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-10 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-11 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-12 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-13 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-14 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-15 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-16

He uses turquoise, mother of pearl, acoma jet, red coral and orange spiny oyster for his inlay work.

This belt is NOS, New Old Stock,  vintage but never used.

CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-2Paula

Can I wear this inlay ring to do dishes and shower without worry?

Hi Paula,

Can I wear this ring to do dishes and shower with out worry
Thanks Daniel

NR448-AB-inlay-masonic-concho-A3-400w NR448-AB-inlay-masonic-concho-B3-400w

Dear Daniel,

What??????

PR708-WB-owl-kallestewa-1No, you would have to worry big time. Inlay items are made of many small pieces of stone and shell that are affixed to a backing and to each other. Getting inlay wet such as in a dishpan or shower would allow water to get under the inlay and loosen it. It is NOT a good idea.

Inlay, properly cared for, will last decades as shown by the many wonderful pawn and estate lot pieces we receive. But any inlay, old or new, should be treated with respect and common sense.

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

NR367-75-inlay-house-1

Enormous Butterfly Necklace – Is it Ceremonial?

Hello Paula,

I bought this enormous butterfly necklace through a friend of mine in Arizona over twenty five years ago.  I paid three hundred dollars for it at the time.  I can not find any Hallmarks nor can I find anything comparable on the internet.  I was told it was a ceremonial type necklace for the Butterfly Clan.  I think the workmanship is a poor quality and may be old pawn jewelry.  Can you help me identify and value this piece?

I think I bought this necklace from an indian artist I used to know many years ago.  He often introduced me to other artists and I usually would purchase some wonderful art work.  This butterfly necklace was something dear to my heart and I enjoyed it for many years but in the last fifteen years or so it just sat in a box.  I would like to know more about it if that’s possible.  I couldn’t find any marks or signatures.  I tried to keep it clean many years ago but haven’t done much in over ten years.  It has gotten quite dark.  Is it better that I not try to clean it? How do you recommend I store it so it won’t get any blacker?
I hope these pics are okay.  I have some more if you like.

I appreciate all your effort and wisdom.  I don’t think such a beautiful pendant should just sit in a box for decades.  Someone should actually enjoy it.
On the other hand if the value is not much I will hang on to it a bit longer.
I did show it to a Native American artist and dealer in jewelry.  He said it was made around 1960 and the stones are from a mine that has been closed for a long time, the Morenci mine. Even thought the stones looked mixed, he said they were all from the same mine. He also said the silver was a lower grad which contained nickel.   He did appreciate the artistry and thought it may be Tau or Navaho.

Val

butterfly_necklace resizedstonesbutterfly_necklace_back resized

Hi Val,

You have a unique piece with beautiful stones. You have a number of questions:

Tribal affiliation

Legend, use, significance

Materials

Value

Care

I’ll start with the quick ones to answer.

Value. We don’t appraise from photos. If interested in selling, here is article on that

Do We Buy Used Native American Jewelry? Updated 2014

Materials. It would seem that it would be made from nickel silver or coin silver. You can read all about silver here.

Jewelry Silver – Not All Silver is Created Equal

It seems to be hinged, has a hand made chain and lovely set turquoise stones in smooth bezels and I would agree that it looks like it is from 1960-70.

Turquoise – Identifying turquoise from photos is difficult at best. First there is the type of lighting where the photo is taken, the setting on the camera, the camera itself. Then there are the computer monitor settings that vary widely. Morenci turquoise is a blue turquoise with iron pyrite (fool’s gold) in it. Here are a couple of examples of Morenci turquoise:

Morenci turquoise

Morenci turquoise

Morenci turquoise

Morenci turquoise

The Morenci mine is a copper mine that is still fully operational but the turquoise portion had been closed (and buried under rock) for a number of years.

Southwest US Turquoise Mines

Southwest US Turquoise Mines

Care – It looks great for a vintage piece. I’d keep on doing what you are doing as far as storage. If it is tarnishing, you could wrap it in anti-tarnish cloth which you can purchase by the yard on the internet or at a sewing store.

Tribal affiliation. You mention Butterfly Clan but I doubt this is Hopi. I’m not familiar with Tau. I would guess Navajo made. Here are some examples of typical butterfly motifs and their tribal affiliations.

Hopi Butterfly pendant by Kevin Takala. Note the textuized background and silver overlay, typical of Hopi jewelry.7

Hopi Butterfly pendant by Kevin Takala. Note the textured background and silver overlay, typical of Hopi jewelry.

Zuni Inlay Butterfly Pendant by Allison Dishta

Zuni Inlay Butterfly Pendant by Allison Dishta

Navajo Pin Pendant by Thomas Yazzie

Navajo Pin Pendant by Thomas Yazzie

As far as significance or ceremonial use, that is always best obtained from the person who made it or it was purchased from. Each Native American tribe ascribes their own legends and stories to the butterfly. Butterfly attributes can range everywhere from beauty and transformation to vanity to untrustworthy trickster.

Here is an example of the butterfly hairdo on an unmarried Hopi woman.

butterfly hair HopiTo read some of the legends, I suggest a google search something like “Navajo Butterfly Legend” and a similar one for Hopi and Zuni.

Paula

Zuni Opal Inlay Pin Pendant by Earline Edaakie

Zuni Opal Inlay Pin Pendant by Earline Edaakie

Could this possibly be a Zuni Bracelet?

In 1971 my cousin who lived in LA gave me a bracelet.  Only recently was it noted to me that it was a Zuni design.  Upon close inspection an inscription was found on the inside.  The letters S P Boone with Zuni below.  Was there a Zuni artist with this hallmark?  I am hoping you can assist me in this search to see if there is value in the bracelet.  Thanks in advance for any assistance you can give.
Living blessed,
Janice
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More from Janice…………In 1971 I was gifted by my cousin in LA this bracelet.  The only reference as to its origin is I remember his saying it was one of some items he had picked up while on a trip to Arizona or New Mexico.  I had admired it and a couple of other pieces.  He gave all the pieces to me.  He passed away 6 years ago, so I cannot get any background info from him.  The bracelet spent most of the last 42 years tucked into my jewelry box.
Recently I wore the bracelet for a special occasion and a friend noted it looked to be a Zuni bracelet.  I had no clue what that meant so she told me it was a quality piece of work by the Zuni tribe.  She looked at the bracelet and the inside had the initials S P Boone, with the ‘ne’ portion being linked together.  Below is zuni.
Age:  42 years +
Hallmark:  S P Boone Zuni
Weight:  .35g.
Dimensions:  2.5″ x .75″ that tapers down to an opening, 1.24″
Condition:  no cracks of missing stones
I know nothing other than what little I have researched online.  The bracelet displays a design I see on many of the inlaid Zuni pieces.
Is anyone familiar with the artist, S P Boone?
Hi Janice,
Although I have no information or knowledge about an SP Boone, the name Boone is a common Zuni name. We have a number of fetish carvings from the Boone family such as this jet horse by Emery Boone.
Jet horse with inlay by Zuni carver Emery Boone
And as you have discovered, that style of inlay is distinctively Zuni such as this bracelet by Zuni artist Quinton Bowannie
Zuni inlay bracelet by Quinton Bowannie
Paula

Repair of my Beloved Chester Mahooty Inlay Bracelet

I received a beautiful old bracelet years ago and sadly one day a piece of inlay disappeared.  I was nervous about shipping the bracelet to someone to fix………that is until I met Diane Radeke (see contact info at the end of the article.)

Here is my personal repair story with a happy happy ending.

Hi Diane,

I have a special inlay bracelet that is missing one piece of inlay which I think might be ivory – cream colored, not white. What do you think? What would it cost to repair this one? Paula

Chester Mahooty bracelet with missing inlay piece.

Hi Paula,

You’re bracelet is so unusual – I just love it! We usually charge about $20 to replace 1 missing stone. But there are many factors that affect that price:

size  – a big stone costs more

type – rare stones like red coral or Bisbee turquoise cost more

number of stones being replaced – 10 needlepoint stones in the same piece might cost only $15 per stone

whether the customer still has the original stone – that might only be $10 for resetting

whether or not any additional work needs to be done in order to repair the setting.

That’s why we always like to examine a piece before giving a firm quote. Of course there is also the shipping charges back and forth that a customer needs to pay.

For your piece, we don’t have ivory, and I’m not sure we could get it. There are, however, some shells that have a creamy appearance and might work nicely in this instance. I believe we also have a white coral that has that creamier appearance, without going into the orange tones. If you can get a piece of ivory, we can cut it and set it. I can see that your center coral has a little issue, too. If it’s not uneven on the surface, it might not be a problem, but if you’d want us to replace that, it would be $25 (red coral is expensive, but we do use the real thing – not dyed).

Hi again Diane,

The bracelet is a 1960s or early 1970s Zuni inlay cuff by the late Chester Mahooty.

On the bracelet, the only thing I want done is to have the one cream piece of missing inlay replaced. Maybe it was ivory (I think ivory was still available at the time he made this as was the tortoise shell that is also in the piece). Since ivory isn’t an option, you suggested using a similar ivory colored shell to match the piece on the opposite side? You’ll see he used cream and white inlay but it is the cream piece that is missing.

I do not want the chipped red coral circle at the top of his tail repaired– just leave it as is. And please don’t buff or polish the piece. I want to keep the patina as is. (See my recent post about cleaning vintage jewelry.)

Hi Paula,

Your bracelet arrived here safe and sound.

First, I feel very clear on what you want for your bracelet, which is a beauty! I love the stamped sides. We will do our best to match with something. The guys are willing to look through their personal stashes to see what they can come up with. Henry will do the inlay a little differently to avoid any errant polishing. They usually would grind the surface of the stone after setting it into the bracelet, but he will cut and finish the stone completely out of the setting, then glue it in. The stone will be a little thinner (depth-wise, but you won’t see it) than doing it the regular way, but this will ensure that the bracelet never gets near the grinder. I do need to mention that there is a crack in the bird’s head, kind of through his eye and cheek, another crack in the turquoise chest, the chip previously mentioned in the coral belly, and a couple of other teeny tiny chips and cracks. Nothing unusual nor in need of repair – I just like to mention these things before it goes back into the shop so you’re aware. I’ll have the guys alert me if they see any weak settings, but I don’t believe they will. The rest of the settings look very good to me.

Fitting the stone

Hi Diane !!!

I received my bracelet and I am so happy. Thank you so much for your good care and Henry’s excellent work !  I have more items to send you. Paula

Here is the contact for the silversmith that did the work on my bracelet and who we use for all the repairs in our store:
Diane Radeke
602-354-5028
P. O. Box 55935
Phoenix, AZ  85078

 

Native American Jewelry Repair – Vintage Inlay Belt Buckle

This is the first in a series of repair articles that I am writing in conjunction with Diane Radeke who is my go-to gal when it comes to repairs. (See her contact information at the end of this article.) We appreciate Diane’s help with this series.

Read the introductory article “Repair and Restoration of Native American Jewelry”

 

Question:

Is it possible to repair or restore Native American jewelry?

 

Answer:

Yes, we have Native American Silversmiths working for us here on premises, who are accomplished artisans and expert repair people.  We service repairs for customers and jewelers all over the United States.

Question:

How can we find out what you can do and how much it will cost?

Answer:

You can photograph or scan your jewelry and email the picture to us.  We can usually give you an idea of the repair needed and a ballpark estimate from your photo.  If you decide to proceed, you then mail your jewelry to us.  Once we receive the item and have a chance to thoroughly inspect it we call you with a firm price for the repairs.

Question:

Can you outline the procedure for this inlay buckle repair?

Inlay buckle showing missing pieces.

 

Answer:

From the customer’s picture, we saw that 7 pieces of coral and shell were missing.  An estimate for this repair was $85.00 plus $15 to return ship and insure.  However, once we received the buckle, we found that the back of the buckle had serious cracks forming in the silver at two edges.  It looked like the buckle had flexed back at that point, causing the tearing to begin.  All of the missing stones were right on top of the bend – that’s no doubt why they popped out.

 

Back of buckle showing stress cracks from bending.

Question:

What do you do at that point?

 

Answer:

Simply replacing the missing stones was still an option.  However, once metal has bent, it “wants” to bend in that very same spot again, causing further damage to the piece.  We suggested to the owner that our silversmith could solder a thicker sheet of silver to the back of the buckle, making it much stronger and resistant to any further flexing. 

 

Question:

How is that done?

 

Answer:

Our silversmith removes all of the stones from the front, as well as all of the pieces from the back (the buckle bar, pin, and Massie’s signature plate).  He hot solders a piece of sterling silver, cut exactly to size, to the back of the buckle to add stability, and then reattaches everything the way it was.  The end result is that the buckle looks exactly the same as it did, just a little heftier in weight.

 

Question:

Was there an additional charge for that?

 

Answer:

Yes.  The charge for restoring the buckle in this fashion was $200, instead of $85.  The customer decided to have us restore his buckle, as he was looking forward to wearing it frequently.

Repaired buckle back

Repaired buckle front.

 

Diane Radeke
602-354-5028
P. O. Box 55935
Phoenix, AZ  85078