Southwest Native American Rings

A few years back a woman wrote me saying:

“I am looking for one of those turquoise indian rings.”

I thought, “Gee……..where do I start”……….?? So I asked her to describe the one she was looking for and she said “like a wedding band”. I immediately thought of the Zuni inlay rings that have been popular for many years and sold all over the southwest. I sent her this photo and she said – “Exactly”.

Phew, that was an easy one.

Shortly after that a man wrote asking for a ring like he saw in Thunderheart (the movie)

Now there I had a better idea of what he was looking for since I have watched that movie a dozen times and even got my husband a ring like the big turquoise oval one in the movie.

1 3/8″ turquoise ring by the late M. NARANJO, Tewa

However, there were at least 4 different types of rings in the movie, so I devoted a blog article to answer his question in detail – to see examples of the 4 rings in the movie, click the link below.

I want to get a ring like I saw in the movie Thunderheart

Over the years I have helped a number of people find the ring of their dreams. But I thought one way to further help would be to categorize, describe and show photos of some of the more commonly made types of Native American rings, thus creating a vocabulary of sorts to allow a dialogue to get started.

MATERIALS

In most cases, Native American rings are made from sterling silver – you can read about silver by clicking the link below to my blog post:

Jewelry Silver – Not All Silver is Created Equal

Some rings are solely made of sterling. But the vast majority also feature stones, shells and other materials.

Here is a list of commonly used materials in Native American rings: (I have written articles about some of the materials, so you can click on those that are hyperlinks to learn more). To read about other materials, look in the right hand column of the home page of this blog and you’ll see an outline of article topics – scroll to Materials – there are plenty more materials listed there.

Acoma Jet
Bear Claws and other claws
Coral
Gaspeite
Jasper
Lapis Lazuli
Mother of Pearl
Onyx
Opal (natural and imitation)
Malachite
Petrified Wood
Spiny Oyster (orange and purple)
Tiger Eye
Turquoise
White Buffalo Stone

TRIBAL STYLES

Generally southwest Native American rings are made by Navajo, Zuni or Hopi jewelers.

In VERY general terms, I’ll first describe the types of rings associated with each tribe but I’ll provide much more detail throughout this article.

Navajo rings are typically a sterling silver band, often heavy and/or elaborate. The band can be silver only or have stones that are set with various types of bezels.  For more information on bezels, read my article  Types of Bezels  If a Navajo ring is inlaid, the inlay pieces are usually separated by silver channels.

Zuni rings are usually either stone-on-stone inlays (no silver channels in between the pieces), snake rings, snake eyepetit point or needlepoint. 

Hopi rings are most often sterling silver overlays with contrasting (oxidized) and textured backgrounds.

NAVAJO RINGS

There are a number of ring styles that are associated with Navajo silversmiths. I’ll mention some of the most common and popular.

Storyteller

One traditional style of Navajo silver ring is a storyteller. Individual scenes depicting daily life are cut out of a sheet of silver and layed over an oxidized background.

Storyteller bracelets show Navajo life. The home (hogan) and the activities around the home such as cooking, weaving, tending livestock, driving a wagon to town. The scenery of the area such as buttes, trees and shrubs and sometimes clouds are also depicted.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Silver

There is nothing better for everyday wear than a well-made silver Navajo ring. Below is a slide show depicting some popular silver Navajo ring styles including stamped, repousse, overlay and more. Click here to see more silver rings.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sandcast

Sand cast and tufa cast items are made using a mold into which molten silver is poured. Click to read more about Cast Jewelry, To see more cast rings, click here

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Single Stone Turquoise

Possibly the most iconic Navajo ring is the single turquoise stone. Put one on and you feel like a million dollars. Below is a wonderful array of single stone turquoise rings, both polished cabochons and nuggets. To see more turquoise rings, click here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Single Stone Other

When you need a Jet or Mother of Pearl or Lapis ring to go with your outfit, you will likely be able to find a beautiful Navajo single stone ring to fit the bill. To see more single stone rings, click here

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Cluster

Cluster refers to a group of stones usually set in a circular or oval pattern. While often associated with Zuni artists, there are a number of Navajo smiths that have made cluster rings over the years. To see the cluster rings we have for sale, click here 

Turquoise and Coral

A very popular color combination is coral and turquoise together. Turquoise is a happy stone by itself – add a dash of coral and you’ll just be giddy ! Very classic and classy. To see the turquoise and coral rings we have to offer, click here

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

MOP and Other Shell

Mother of Pearl, Pink Shell, Abalone, Paua Shell and other shells add a bit of gleam and glitter to a ring. To see more examples, click here.  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Claw

Claw rings are a popular design, especially with men, The claws can be real or faux claws and traditionally are bear but can also be from smaller animals like coyotes. To see more examples of bear claw rings, click here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Silver Channel Inlay

Navajo inlay usually features silver channels between pieces of stone. Click here to see more.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Inlay

Although pictorial inlay is more commonly associated with Zuni artists, there are a number of Navajo that make beautiful and unique inlay rings. Click here to see vintage Navajo rings. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Corn Row, Cobblestone and Mosaic Inlay

Three types of inlay that are somewhat similar are Mosaic Inlay (click the link to go to a separate article), Corn Row and Cobblestone inlay. They are a more 3 dimensional type of inlay than the flat inlay of Zuni artists.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Shadowbox

The shadowbox technique consists of a cutout top layer that is usually (but not always) domed and that is soldered to a solid bottom layer with or without a dark contrasting background. The shadowbox might be all silver or incorporate stones.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leaf and Feather

A very popular design style for Navajo rings, especially those made for the tourist trade, is the incorporation of a leaf or feather along with the other silver work or stones. The leaves and feather might be hand made or the could be ready-made cast pieces that the silversmith purchases from a trading post and adds onto the ring. Some wrap around rings are made of a single feather. To see many examples of leaf and feather rings, click here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Cigar Band

Cigar band style refers to a wide band with stamping. To read more about this style, click on my post- What is a Cigar Band Ring? 

Here is an example of a cigar band ring using White Buffalo Stone. It was made by Tony Garcia. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

ZUNI RINGS

Zuni rings are usually one of 4 types: Inlay, Petit Point, Needlepoint and Snake Eye.

Inlay

Zuni inlay is usually stone-on-stone inlay, that is, the stone or shell pieces touch each other, there is no silver channel work in between. However, just as I say that, you will see below some examples of Zuni inlay that does incorporate silver channels. There are no hard and fast rules – just generalizations.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Petit Point

Petit Point is comprised of long, narrow teardrop-shaped stones and possibly round dots.

Needlepoint 

Needlepoint is comprised of straight, long, narrow stones that are pointed on both ends. Here are examples of needlepoint rings:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Snake Eye

Snake Eye rings are comprised of many tiny spherical cabochons of turquoise (usually). You can read more about Snake Eye in my article

Here is a 100 stone snake eye ring by April and Peter Halloo, Zuni

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here are more examples of snake eye rings:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Snake Rings

Some Zuni families, most notably that of Effie Calavaza, make snake motif rings.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

HOPI RINGS

Hopi rings are traditionally overlay with contrasting (oxidized) and texturized backgrounds. Sometimes the designs are easily recognizable animal and other natural elements, other times they are abstracts.

Here is an example of a Hopi overlay ring by Raymond Kyasyousie.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

More hopi ring examples:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To read more about rings, here is an interesting book that I reviewed here on this blog:

Book Look: Southwestern Indian Rings by Paula A. Baxter

 

Paula

What is a sweater bracelet?

Early on in my collecting of Native American bracelets, I was handed a contemporary Zuni needlepoint bracelet by the maker and was told “this is a sweater bracelet”.

Zuni needlepoint sweater bracelet by Jenny Eustace

I had never heard that term before and am a firm believer in “if you don’t know, ask”, so I asked and was told it is a style of bracelet where a design element has a “drop” – that is, it drops down so it lays on the back of the wearer’s hand and can peek out of the lower edge of a long-sleeved sweater cuff. Well that made perfect sense so I have used the term ever since.

A more subtle sweater bracelet by Jenny Eustace

Here is another example of a sweater bracelet by a Navajo artist.

Petit Point sweater bracelet by Navajo Betty Etisitty

Some sweater bracelets can be quite dramatic in how much silver and stone is “dropped” onto the back of the hand.

Unmarked NOS (New Old Stock) sweater bracelet

Unmarked vintage sterling silver and turquoise sweater bracelet

Here is a versatile sweater bracelet – you can decide which color you want to peek out.

Unmarked vintage petit point sweater bracelet in turquoise and coral

Some bracelets made a gentle downward sweep at the cuff.

Tommy Jackson, Navajo

Silver sweater bracelets often come to a point as they drop.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Paula

Book Look: Who’s Who in Zuni Jewelry by Gordon Levy

This 1980 hard bound book is full color, 64 pages and 11 3/4″ x 8 3/4″

My copy of this book had no author on the binding, no title page, no copyright page, nothing to indicate who wrote this book and when it was published. But with a little digging, I found it was written by Gordon Levy and published in 1980 by Western Arts Publishing Co.

It doesn’t have an ISBN but it does have an ASIN –  B001LQQM8Q

There are ample quantities available new and used if you search by the title.

Now to the book itself. Here is the the copyright page that was not in my book but I found on line.

Copyright page from “Who’s Who in Zuni Jewelry”

On the copyright page (above) and in the Introduction (below), there is mention of future volumes but I am only aware of this one volume. If anyone knows of subsequent volumes, please leave a comment at the end of the article.

Introduction from “Who’s Who in Zuni Jewelry”

The front matter contains:

ZUNI JEWELRY THE ART AND THE ARTISAN

  • Jewelry Designs
  • Jewelry Pricing
  • The Stamping or Signing of a Piece of Jewelry
  • Availability
  • The Meaning Behind the Making of Zuni Jewelry

CULTURAL BACKGROUND

  • Sociocultural
  • Political System
  • Economic Base
  • The Art and Craft of Silversmithing
  • Tribal Heritage and Goals

GLOSSARY

TURQUOISE FACTS

  • Natural Turquoise and How to Care for It
  • Stabilized Turquoise
  • Reconstitute Turquoise

Following the front matter are full color pages about the artists. Here are the artists that are covered in this book.

Following are some sample pages

Sample interior pages

Sample interior page

Paula

What does “snake eye” refer to in Native American jewelry?

I love snake eye jewelry and when I use the term I have found that even long-time Native American jewelry enthusiasts don’t know what I mean.

Snake eye is a technique of setting very small spherical pieces of turquoise. It is somewhat related to petit point and needle point but different in shape and much smaller.

Although these techniques began with Zuni artists around 1930-1940, today they are associated with both Zuni and Navajo jewelers.

All 3 techniques use cabochons, which are small stones that have been rounded on top (not faceted) and polished. It is the shape that differs.

Here is where a picture is worth a thousand words. Some examples……..first of PETIT POINT – teardrop shaped – round on one end, pointed on the  other.

Petit Point stick barrette by Navajo Zeita Begay, contemporary

Petit Point set by Phillip and Virginia Byjoe – Navajo, Vintage

Petit Point Cuff by Johnny Mike Begay, Navajo, Vintage

NOW ON TO NEEDLEPOINT – long and narrow, pointed on both ends.

Needle Point Zuni Bracelet and Ring by EVA L WYACO, contemporary

Needle Point barrette by Nathaniel Nez – Navajo, contemporary

And finally to SNAKE EYE – the reason for this post in the first place. Spherical.  These can range from small to tiny. Here are several examples of snake eye jewelry in various sizes.

Large Snake Eye – Ring by Elanda Wyaco – Zuni, vintage

Medium Snake Eye – Bolo by Bernall Natewa, Zuni, vintage

Tiny Snake Eye – Link bracelet by Stephen Haloo, Zuni, contemporary

So now that you are an expert, what would you call the ones in the photos below?

Paula

 

Libert Peyketewa – Zuni Needlepoint

Needlepoint Set by Libert Peyketewa

Needlepoint Set by Libert Peyketewa

I had a wonderful chat with Libert Peyketewa’s son, Clybert Peyketewa, and here is what he told me, which is somewhat at odds with what is stated in the hallmark books:

Clybert’s father, the late Libert Peyketewa, was taught needlepoint and silverwork by his father and mother, LaVern Peyketewa and Victoria Amasoila. When Libert married, he taught his wife Carol the stone work while he continued to do the silverwork. After Libert passed away, his wife never remarried and and discontinued the jewelry making. Clybert figures this set was made in the late 1980s.

Libert Peyketewa's hallmark

Libert Peyketewa’s hallmark

Most Libert Peyketewa sets we’ve seen have only two or maybe three pieces. This is a rare set that has four pieces. Color of necklace, bracelet and earrings matches very well, the ring is a bit more green.

S441-needle-turq-peyketewa-necklace-2 S441-needle-turq-peyketewa-necklace-7 S441-needle-turq-peyketewa-necklace-8

S441-needle-turq-peyketewa-bracelet-1 S441-needle-turq-peyketewa-bracelet-3 S441-needle-turq-peyketewa-earrings-1

From page 39 Who's Who in Zuni Jewelry

From page 39 Who’s Who in Zuni Jewelry

Paula

Save

Save

Save

Are Nathaniel and Rosemary Nez Zuni or Navajo?

Hi Paula
Could you tell me if Nathaniel and Rosemary Nez, are of the Zuni  tribes ~~  I see they do a lot of petite point and needle point in their work.  My friend say’s they are Navajo, she has a needle point bracelet etched N & R  Nez, which makes me think are they Navajo, but do Zuni style work.  I know this sounds stupid to you, but would really love to know, who told her they were Navajo.
Sincerely Patricia
HI Patricia,
Good question and you are not the first to ask.
Nathaniel and Rosemary Nez are Navajo artists who do petite point and needle point in Zuni style.
BAR740-stick-needlepoint-turq-nez-3

Navajo Needlepoint

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.htmIf 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

WL-343-AB-turq-needle-waatsa-B2-400h

Zuni Needlepoint

A Glimpse into the Zuni Needlepoint Workshop

All those tiny little pieces……how does it all get done……here is a peek inside the workshop of Zuni artist Bryant Waatsa, Sr.

scan0006 scan0007

WL-343-AB-turq-needle-waatsa-B2-400h WL-343-AB-turq-needle-waatsa-tip-175wExcerpts from Silver & Stone by Mark Bahti

scan0005