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.

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From page 39 Who's Who in Zuni Jewelry

From page 39 Who’s Who in Zuni Jewelry

Paula

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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.
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Navajo Needlepoint

Paula

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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.

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

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