Native American Pin Vest

In days gone by, small to medium pins were commonly worn on blazer lapels, sweaters, coats, jackets, scarves. clutch purses and hats…………pins were a fashion staple.

See the slide show below for samples of classic Navajo pins.

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A brooch is a large decorative piece of jewelry pinned to a sweater or dress to complete and outfit and make a bold statement. Large grandmother pins can be thought of as a brooch.


Native American artists have made many styles of pins over the years and continue to do so today.  They range in size from tie tacks and hat pins all the way up to large petit point pins and employ all types of animals, symbols and designs.

See the slide show below for samples of Zuni, Hopi and Navajo symbols.

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Although I have written about ways to use pins in previous blog posts, truth be told, I rarely use pins unless it is as a pendant, using a pin-to-pendant converter.

See these articles:

Pins Make a Comeback

Native American Pins 

Native American Pins Beautify Handbags

Like many Native American jewelry aficionados, I have accumulated quite a few pins and rather than just look at them in a drawer or box, I decided to use a denim vest to display some of them.

See the slide show below for examples of animal pins.

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Butterfly pins are popular by both Zuni and Navajo artists.

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Cluster and grandmother pins are made by both Zuni and Navajo artists.

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Many Men Thank Mary Bill on Mother’s Day

Mary Bill, along with her husband Ken Bill, is known for crafting heavy Sterling bracelets with and without gold.

Customarily, she uses at least 10 gauge sheet silver (and often 8 gauge) making her bracelets thick, durable and with great appeal to men.

Often she finishes the ends with a widened fishtail for comfort.

Sometimes she uses a lighter gauge silver and then use a combination of stamping, oxidation, and lightly brushing to give a satin finish.

She also makes substantial link bracelets

She has used and uses a number of hallmarks usually with STERLING and often with NAVAJO

Here are some of them:
Mary and Ken Bill
Mary (often along with KENNETH BILL)
Mary Bill

Thank you Mary Bill and Happy Mother’s Day !


Wesley Craig AKA Wes Craig, Navajo Jeweler

Navajo artist Wesley Craig, born 1959 in Gallup, New Mexico, has been actively making jewelry since 1974. Son of Robert Etsitty Craig Jr. and Marie Craig, he was taught his craft by his mother Marie.

His hallmark is usually Wes Craig in script inside a feather but he also has used WC. Often he adds IHMSS – Indian Hand Made Sterling Silver.

Sometimes the Running Bear shop mark (RB inside a bear) is also included which would indicate he made the item at Running Bear Trading Co in Gallup, New Mexico.

His brother, Hyson Craig, is also a notable Navajo jeweler.


What is the gold and black on my Sterling Silver Singer cross?


I just received the beautiful Tom Singer cross. But I do have a question
about the cross. It is stated to be sterling but the front surface is copper
colored. Can you explain the process used to make it that way?


NPC602-AB-rsinger-B-1Hi Len,

The cross is solid sterling silver and Tommy Singer (and his son Richard whose crosses I am using to illustrate this article) oxidizes part of it (the black areas) for accent and puts a layer of 12 K gold on other parts of the design. This is called gold filled.

You can read about Gold Filled here

Beautiful cross !!!


“Jeweler’s Gold” – What is it?

As you know from reading this blog, German Silver has no silver in it. (If you missed that post, read more about it in Not All Silver is Created Equal.)

Navajo Sterling Silver Repousse Wide Cuff Bracelet

Navajo Sterling Silver Repousse Wide Cuff Bracelet

Similarly, depending on who is using the term,  “Jeweler’s Gold” might have a lot of gold in it or no gold at all !!

According to professional metallurgists and Webster’s Dictionary:

“Jeweler’s Gold” is a gold alloy made of 3 parts Gold + 1 part Copper.

I recently saw a large “Jeweler’s Gold Native American Concho Belt” for sale on the internet for less than $180. What??!! Impossible !!! At $1325.00 per ounce for gold, there would be no way there was that much gold in this big heavy belt !!!

Australian Gold Nugget

Australian Gold Nugget

So when someone borrows the term “Jeweler’s Gold” to loosely describe a gold colored alloy that has NO gold in it at all, as far as I am concerned that’s a big NO NO. It just misleads and confuses buyers. Some people say “in jeweler’s circles” it is OK. But it is not OK when a buyer thinks they are getting gold and in reality, they are getting an alloy that contains NO gold.

Such an alloy, wrongly called Jeweler’s Gold, would be more correctly called Red Brass or Jeweler’s Brass or by one of the commercial names such as NuGold.

Nu Gold (Red Brass)

Nu Gold (Red Brass)

NUGOLD sells for less than $30 for a 12″ x 12″ sheet or 200 feet of wire. The same material in gold would cost upwards of $2000.

It is not uncommon for a merchant to advertise an item of jewelry as

“Jewelers Gold (Red Brass)”

as if they were the same. They ARE NOT.

That would be akin to advertising a pair of boots like this

“Leather (vinyl)”

or a GoldTone chain and pendant as Gold.

See what I mean?

Venezuelan Gold Nugget

Venezuelan Gold Nugget

Jeweler’s Gold and Red Brass are not the same, they are not synonymous…….using the two terms together is confusing at the least and misleading or downright dishonest. Red Brass is NOT Jewelers Gold – far from it.

Now I’m not saying that Red Brass or NuGold don’t have a place in jewelry making, Native American or otherwise. But one should call a spade a spade.

Is it Jeweler’s Gold Or Red Brass?

As previously state, Jeweler’s Gold is 3 parts gold to one part copper.

The recipes for Red Brass or NuGold vary but here are three.

NuGold is 85% copper and 15% zinc.

Nu Gold (Red Brass)

Nu Gold (Red Brass)

Red Brass = 3 parts Copper + one part Zinc + one part Block Tin.

IT IS SAID………that if these metals are pure and melted per the prescribed method, the best jeweler could not tell the difference between it and pure gold without doing an analysis.

Red Brass

Red Brass

Another recipe for Red Brass is similar but contains some lead as well.

85% Copper + 5% Tin + 5% Lead + 5% Zinc.

Now some of you might want to stay away from alloys that contain lead, zinc or tin…..if so you would like to know if what you are buying is really Jewelers Gold or if it is the gold colored alloy Red Brass, wouldn’t you?

Since Jeweler’s Gold costs many time that of Red Brass, from a value standpoint, you would want to know if you are indeed buying a gold alloy or a golden colored alloy.

The moral of the story? If you want to know what you are buying and you are not sure, ask.

So I did just that.

I wrote a number of eBay sellers who were advertising their Native American items items as made of Jewelers Gold. (It was obvious from the photos and pricing that they were all made from Red Brass.)

One listed it as “Jewelers Gold”.

Another listed it as “Jewelers Gold (Red Brass).”

Yet another listed it as “Jewelers Gold – 3 parts gold, 1 part copper.”


I also wrote several webstores that advertise their Native American items as made of Jewelers Gold.

One said

“…..all hand made from Jeweler’s Gold, it is also known as Red Brass.”

The others just list the items as made of Jeweler’s Gold.

I got a variety of replies to my standard query:

“Is this item Jeweler’s Gold or Red Brass? As far as I know, Jeweler’s Gold is 3 parts gold to 1 part copper. Would you let me know what metals this contains?”

Here are some of the replies:

“Jeweler’s Gold and Red Brass are the same.” (no change in the listing)

“In jeweler’s circles, Jeweler’s Gold is used for Red Brass.” (no change in the listing)

“Oh my god, I’ll have to check and make changes !” (a change was made in the listing from “Jeweler’s Gold – 3 parts gold and 1 part copper” to “Jeweler’s Gold (aka Red Brass) )”

“There is a thin layer of gold on it.” (no change in listing)

As far as I am concerned, none of the sellers stepped up to the plate and told it like it is.

Be aware. Ask.


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.

Navajo Tommy Singer Bamboo Coral and Treasure Necklaces

Hi Paula,

I am interested in some of Tommy Singer’s work which is displayed on your website.

Items NHS828, NH878, NH827, and the multi-strand bamboo coral.

Tommy Singer 3 Strand Gemstone Necklace
Tommy Singer Turquoise Gemstone Necklace
Tommy Singer Purple Spiny Oyster Gemstone Necklace
Tommy Singer 7 Strand Bamboo Coral Gemstone Necklace

I am wondering what percentage of the beads he uses are actually handmade/handformed by him or his family. My wife and I are building a collection, trying to stick to sole-authorship pieces.

Any information you can give me on these pieces, or any others you might have by Tommy and others would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks and best regards,


Hi Charlie,

Thanks for your inquiry.

The 12K gold filled barrel beads that are decorated, gold, black silver are made by Tommy Singer. Also the solid sterling silver barrel beads are made by him. They are on most of his necklaces. They are his signature treasure necklace beads.

The purple and orange spiny oyster and turquoise heishi style disc beads are made by him. Also the other gemstone beads that are disc style.

The long narrow bamboo coral – I am not sure but I think not made by him.

The little sterling silver decorative spacers – I think not made by him.

The sterling silver cone ends are not made by him.

So a high percentage of what goes into his necklace is hand made by Tommy Singer or his family.

Doris and James Coriz make all the component of their necklaces, for example

Spirit Necklace made by Doris and James Coriz, Santo Domingo
Olive Shell Fish Necklace by James and Doris Coriz, Santo Domingo
Close up of fish

These artists also make ALL of the heishi right on the “string” so to speak.

10 Strand Heishi Necklace by Janice Tenorio, Santo Domingo
Close up of Tenorio heishi

Enjoy browsing and let me know if I can help further.


Necklace Chain Primer – Names and Characteristics of Common Chains

I’ve received several questions from customers recently about the confusion related to the names of various chains, so I thought I’d give some basic information and examples of some of the most common chains out there. Like many things, there are lots of variations out there as to what certain groups of people might call certain chains, but this primer will get you started.

The Chain Name Game

©  2011 Horsekeeping   © Copyright Information

Chains have all kinds of names and some of the names morph, overlap and become hybrids.

Knowing a few main chain names can help you select the perfect chain for your pendant.

A Herringbone chain kind of looks like that herringbone tweed wool jacket you have – you know, sort of like two rows of parallel lines that meet each other at a point.

Here’s the wool.

Here’s the chain.

Herringbone Chain


Omega chains are similar to herringbone chains in that they are thick and appear woven.

The segments of an Omega are parallel to each other and run across the width of the necklace. There are round Omegas which are complete circles, dome Omegas which are half circles and flat Omegas which basically a dome Omega that has been flattened. All 3 types look basically the same from the top. Wide Omegas are nice to wear alone as well as with a pendant. All Omega chains hold their shape as a circle or oval, they do not drape like a chain.

Thin Round Omega

Wide Omega

A snake chain is something like a round omega but because of how the segments are put together, a snake chain drapes and moves like a chain….or a snake if you’d rather think of it like that – they are slinky.


Snake Chain

A curb chain is what I think of when I think “chain” – it is a series of interconnected links that are twisted so they lay flat. Curb chains range from very fine and elongated to thick and condensed. If you know horse tack and know what a “curb chain” is on a bridle, you are one step closer to having a mental image of what a curb chain is.

Curb Chain on bit for horse's bridle

Heavy Curb Chain Necklace

A fine curb chain with long links is similar to a cable chain – in fact, in some cases, so similar as to be indistinguishable from each other.

Fine, long Curb Chain, also called Cable Chain

A box chain is pretty much what it says. It is shaped like a box. It has four distinct sides making it look almost “mechanical” in style – like something I’ve seen on a piece of farm equipment. A medium to heavy box chain would be a nice choice for a man.

Box Chain

A Rollo chain consists of circular rings that are connected with the next ring at the perpendicular – there are no connecting links between the rings.

Rollo Chain

A Figaro consists of long, oval or teardrop shaped rings that alternate with 3 shorter curb chain links.

Figaro Chain

A Rope chain is made from two strands twisted together in a spiral fashion. Each strand is a series of oval links The thicker the metal used for the links, the more solid and rope-like the chain looks.

Rope Chain

So there you have it. A primer on necklace chains. Remember, any of these chains can be very much thicker or thinner than the examples I’ve used but the basic construction will be the same. Let me know if you have heard some of these chains called by other names.


Native American Materials – Gold

Gold is the most malleable of precious metals and is prized for jewelry because it does not corrode, tarnish or rust. It can be found nearly everywhere, in rivers, mountains and oceans, but it is very difficult and expensive to mine and refine.

The karat is a unit of measurement for the proportion of gold an item contains.

14K Gold and Sterling Silver Bracelet by Navajo Bruce Morgan
14K Gold and Sterling Silver Bracelet by Navajo Bruce Morgan
  • 24 karat (24K) gold is pure gold. Pure gold is very soft and it is usually alloyed (combined) with other metals for increased hardness and durability. Metals typically used in gold alloys are copper, silver, nickel, zinc, tin, palladium, and/or manganese. The metal used will affect the color of the gold: yellow, rose, green or white. (People with nickel allergies should be aware that white gold contains nickel.)
  • 18 karat (18K) gold contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metal, making it 75% gold.
  • 14 karat (14K) gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metal, making it 58.3% gold.
  • 12 karat (12K) gold contains 12 parts gold and 12 parts other metal, making it 50% gold.
  • 10 karat (10K) gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metal, making it 41.7% gold. 10k gold is the minimum karat designation that can still be called gold in the USA.
  • ©  2010 Horsekeeping   © Copyright Information
14K Gold and Sterling Silver Bracelet by Apache Marc Antia

14K Gold and Sterling Silver Bracelet by Apache Marc Antia

(Carat spelled with a “c” refers to the weight of a gemstone and equals 200mg.)

Gold and Sterling Silver Navajo Money Clips and Key Rings
Gold and Sterling Silver Navajo Money Clips and Key Rings

To be called gold-filled, the FTC (U.S. Federal Trade Commission) requires that gold makes up at least 1/20th (5%) by weight of the total product. Legal markings are 14K, 12K, or 10K Gold-filled and the karat measurement of gold content MUST be part of the marking or designation.

Jewelry labeled 14/20GF denotes 1/20 14K gold-filled; 12/10 denotes 1/10 12K gold-filled.

12K Gold Filled Storyteller Link Bracelet by Navajo Alonzo Mariano
12K Gold Filled Storyteller Link Bracelet by Navajo Alonzo Mariano

Rolled Gold Plate (RGP) is made the same way as gold-filled material, but with a lower gold content. The minimum standard states that 1/40th the total weight of the item must be gold of the karat the item is marked. Thus a product marked 14K RGP is 1/40th (2.5%) 14K gold by weight.

Gold Electroplate is a process in which a very thin layer of gold is deposited onto a conductive metal item. Utilizing an electrical current, positively charged metal “ions” travel through a liquid solution known as an “electrolyte”, and are deposited onto the negatively charged metal object. Metals most commonly electroplated are silver, copper, bronze, and aluminum.

14K Gold and Sterling Silver Eternal Life Ring by Navajo Scott Skeets

14K Gold and Sterling Silver Eternal Life Ring by Navajo Scott Skeets