Paula, Can you help identify this brass bracelet?

Hello Paula,
We have recently come across a Native American cuff bracelet that we
would like to see if you or any of your blog followers could help with
identifying it.It is brass inlayed with turquoise and red coral. The
inside is marked with HB and with the second leg of the H and the
upright of the B being shared. Also above the HB are two symbols that
look very much like a pair of human eyelashes. :) The design of the
inlay looks like water or waves. We do have pics available if you
would like to see them. Thanks so much.
Kim and Joe

BrassCuffBraceletFrontRC BrassCuffBraceletMark lightenedHi Kim and Joe,

This copper cuff bracelet is decorated with chip inlay.

Copper is a pure elemental metal that has been and is being used by Native American artists. Read all about copper here. 

Brass is an alloy made of copper and zinc. I have never seen Native American Jewelry made from Brass.

What is Chip Inlay?

Chip inlay is a method where cavities in jewelry are filled with a mixture of crushed stone, typically turquoise and coral, and epoxy resin. The piece is then polished smooth after the resin has hardened.

The cojoined initials HB have been used by several artists, Hispanic and Navajo. One celebrated (deceased) Navajo artist used a cojoined HB but verified versions of his hallmark look different than the hallmark on your bracelet so I hesitate to suggest his name lest it be associated wrongly. I do see many items on eBay with all variations of HB and other hallmarks being attributed to this noted artists yet none of the hallmarks are the same !

As far as the eyelashes – they are made with a common stamping tool that is used to decorate metal pieces, perhaps to represent rays of the sun (or possibly rain) such as is on the front of your bracelet and on this barrette.

BAR807-ABC--silver-C crop

The rays could be a shop mark in addition to the artist’s mark.

Or they could be an intentional part of the artist’s personal hallmark. One artist put fringe-like-rays around his initials, but usually it was an entire box, not just a topper.

However, I don’t recognize these particular lashes/rays nor do they appear in any of my hallmark references.

Therefore at this point, all I can say is probably Navajo copper bracelet with chip inlay.

Paula

What do the designs on the INSIDE of my cuff bracelet mean?

Hi Paula

Do you know what the symbolism is, if any, of the design on the inside of the Bruce Morgan cuff I just purchased?

NBS320-lg-gold-morgan-2 NBS320-lg-gold-morgan-4

I see that it is quite similar to the designs on the inside of the Mary and Ken Bill and the Mary Bill cuffs.  Jeff

NBS327-lg-gold-bill-1 NBS327-lg-gold-bill-4

Hi Jeff,
The artists that use the designs on the inside of the cuffs……..when I’ve commented on the designs, the reply is something like “just to show we care” or “to add something extra”. It is something like when I asked people in the Midwest who decorate the front of their houses with a kind of storybook trim…… when I asked “why?”, they said “for nice” !!
So not so much a symbolism as just an indication of craftsmanship. When the artists stamp the front, which requires quite a bit of force on a bracelet as thick as yours, the inside is against a heavy mandrel. By placing a design stamp there, they are just showing they can pull off two procedures at the same time and all looks nice.
Some Native American designs symbolize things while others are just an artist’s design, not meant to represent anything.
That’s all that I know…………if anyone else has something to add, please submit a comment.
Paula

Navajo Silversmiths 1880s

This is a fascinating read from a Smithsonian writer about very early Navajo Silversmiths.

Navajo Silversmiths 1880-1881

Hand Stamped Native American Cross Wanted

Hi Paula,

The cross in the attached photo was bought in New Mexico somewhere between Zuni & Navajo reservations – It was about 2.25 -2.5” in length – my husband lost his over the summer and we are trying to find another just like it – Can you help?

Thank you!  Denise

Hi Denise,

I have one very similar made by Francis Begay – it has a clear turquoise cabochon in the center. It is 2 1/2″ long including the fixed bail.

Hope this helps as I know how it is to lose a favorite piece of jewelry – often it is difficult to impossible to replace exactly  – especially when the piece was hand made.

We have found that one year we might purchase a certain pendant from an artist and when we want more the next year, he or she has moved onto different things and isn’t “set up” to make those any more. Navajo artists, especially, are quite inventive and always changing the items they make to suit themselves, the availability of materials and the market.

Best of luck,

 

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Vintage Native American Thunderbird Pin Wanted

Dear Paula,
Is it possible to get another thunderbird like the vintage P133?  the new thunderbirds do not look like this one.  Thank you very much.
Navajo
Sterling Silver Vintage Thunderbird Pendant #P133

John

Dear John,

Thanks for writing. The items in our pawn shop are older items and we get them in, usually in a lot such as from somebody’s collection or an estate lot, so there would be no way of predicting when we might get something similar to that Thunderbird pendant in. It looks a little more Pacific Northwest to me rather than Southwest.

You could keep an eye on our NEW page which is where we list something new each day – and that means pawn items as well as new contemporary.
I’ve just listed a few new Thunderbirds which I think you might like……….

These wonderful old style pins are made from heavy gauge sterling silver plate; hand cut, deeply hand-stamped, smoothed and polished leaving some areas intentionally oxidized or darkened. A polished turquoise stone is set in a handcut smooth bezel. A twisted sterling silver rope encircles the bezel. Albert Cleveland typically uses King Manassas turquoise, known for its brilliant greens with gold or brown matrix. They have a locking pin finding. Very retro.

Albert Cleveland is of the Dashchanii clan and was born on the Navajo reservation near Mt. Taylor. He and his wife live near Gallup, New Mexico. His brother is Bobby Cleveland and his parents Etta and Philip Cleveland. Cleveland signs his pieces AC if he works on them alone or AJC when his wife Jacqualine works with him. Albert Cleveland works in a retro style, reminiscent of the 1940′s curio shop work which featured Native American symbols such as Eagles, Thunderbirds, Bears, Waterbirds and other animals.


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Native American Symbol – Peyote (Water) Bird Colors

What do the coral and turquoise inlay represent in the peyote (or water) bird?  I have heard they refer to fire & ice, but I would like a better explanation if you happen to know.  [Or if you know of a place to refer me to]  I want to put a peyote bird on my fire place mantle in cut stone and emulate it, but would like to know why first..??  Why the two colors?  Thank you for your time, your website has been most helpful!

Lisa

Hi Lisa,

To expand or clarify on my previous postings on this subject, the peyote bird is associated with the Plains Indians and the Native American Church and the water bird is associated with the Hohokam culture. And yet many people consider these symbols to be very similar or the same.

The Hohokam were the early inhabitants of south central Arizona.

Evidence of their life there dates between 100 B. C. and A. D. 1500. Today’s Pima Indians and Tohono O’odham (formerly Papago) are said to be Hohokam descendants. The first known turquoise jewelry of the southwest was found in this location.

Archeological Remains of the Hohokam Culture in the Southwest United States

The peyote bird, AKA snake bird and water turkey, is associated with the Native American Church and the ritual use of peyote there by the church members. The expansion of the Native American Church to many regions has also brought about the widespread of the use of the peyote bird as a symbol by many Native American artists regardless of their tribal affiliation or geographical location.

Native American Church Symbol - Peyote Bird

The shape of portions of the peyote bird correspond to portions of the Native American Church ceremonies:

the head shaped like the rattle used in the ceremonies

the wings outspread like the ceremonial altar

the fan-like lower body like the tipi where the services are held.

Hand carved and hand painted Peyote Bird Necklace by Lonny Cloud

Chip inlay is one of the most popular ways to depict the peyote bird. Chip inlay utilizes small pieces of stone chips left over from use in other projects. Therefore, since the most common stones used in Southwestern Native American jewelry are turquoise and coral, those are the traditional colors used in almost all chip inlay.

Navajo Sterling Silver and Chip Inlay Peyote Bird Pin Pendant

I am not familiar with any symbolism of the colors specifically but just that turquoise and coral were available, made a good contrast to each other (like fire and ice), so have been used that way for a long time.

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Horace Iule and his Zuni Cross Legacy

Horace Iule (1901-1978) was a Zuni artist who made a wide variety of sterling silver and stone pieces, most notably traditional Zuni crosses.

Horace worked with his wife Lupe Iule, who was from San Felipe Pueblo. They were married in 1933, and had six children: Ruby, Lupe, Cecilia, Robert, Barney, and Phillip. Cecilia continues in her fathers tradition with the crosses.

Cecilia creates her crosses from tiny to huge and uses coral, turquoise, and other gem stones.

Vintage Malachite and Opal Cross by Cecilia Iule, Zuni

Horace Iule was taught silversmithing by his father. He made sand-cast items and then embellished them with hammering and die stamping. His children use some of his original casting equipment to continue the Iule cross legacy.


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Native American Jewelry Methods – Sterling Silver Stamped Bracelet

One of the first types of bracelets made by Navajo silversmiths was a Die Stamped Bracelet.

Stamped Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet by Navajo Silversmith Mary Bill

Stamped Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet by Navajo Silversmith Mary Bill

Worn by both men and women, the die stamp bracelet is a simple design that requires few tools to make.

First the silversmith cuts a strip of 16 gauge sterling silver to fit the intended wrist size. Since cuff bracelets often have a 1” gap give or take a ½” or so, when making bracelets for a 7” wrist, the smith would start with a 6” long strip of sterling silver and as wide as desired.

Sterling Silver Stamped Wide Cuff by Navajo Silversmith Ken Bill

Sterling Silver Stamped Wide Cuff by Navajo Silversmith Ken Bill

The strip is either left a uniform width (see wide cuff above)

OR is shaped so that the front of the bracelet (the center of the strip) is the widest portion and the bracelet tapers to narrower ends

©  2010 Horsekeeping © Copyright Information

OR the ends are widened to form fish-tail ends, for comfort, such as on the large, heavy bracelet below by Mary and Kenneth Bill.

Then the edges might be further shaped into scallops or other edge contours (cut and filed). Then while stamping close to the edge, the stamp design and edging are blended harmoniously.

Navajo Sterling Silver Stamped Bracelet with Detailed Edging by Wilbert Benally

Navajo Sterling Silver Stamped Bracelet with Detailed Edging by Wilbert Benally

Next the design is chosen. Then the appropriate dies (hardened steel tools with design stamps on one end and a striking surface on the other) are used to create the figures and patterns on the silver blank. When the die is held in one hand and a hammer (with a steel head) is held in the other, it is referred to as hand stamping.

Detailed Stamped Sterling Silver Cuff by Navajo Silversmith Vincent Platero

Detailed Hand Stamped Sterling Silver Cuff by Navajo Silversmith Vincent Platero

Some modern artists use a machine to apply stamped designs.

If a hallmark is going to be stamped on the inside, it is done so now, along with any metal designation such as Sterling or 14K. We intentionally don’t show photos of the hallmarks of Native American artists because counterfeiters often copy the hallmarks onto the fake jewelry they make. Out of respect to the artists whose work we represent, we try never to reveal the hallmarks.

Finally the bracelet is formed over a mandrel using a rawhide, wooden or leather mallet.. A mandrel is a hardened steel “arm” that tapers from a small size to a large size. The mandrel might be part of an anvil or a separate piece clamped onto a work bench. Where and how the bracelet is shaped on the mandrel will determine its finished overall shape and gap dimension.

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