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,

Charlie

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.

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Native American Chiclet (Chicklet) Necklaces

Santo Domingo Chiclet Necklace

In 1899, US gum manufacturers formed a conglomerate, The American Chicle Company.

In 1906 Frank Fleer (does his name ring a bell, bubble gum lovers?) began making a hard-shelled, candy-coated white peppermint gum called Chiclets.

Chicle is the English version of the word tzikiti (“sticky stuff”), the Nahuatl word for the resin that makes chewing gum. Oddly enough though, Chiclets are made from a different gum base!

By 1920, Chiclets were available in bright colors: yellow, green, orange, red, white, and pink. The small shiny rectangles each had a different flavor – mostly fruits; the white was still peppermint.

Chiclets Gum

Native Americans, most specifically Santo Domingo artists, began calling their colorful, multi-stone necklaces “Chiclet Necklaces” and it is easy to see why.

Santo Domingo Chiclet Necklace

Some Santo Domingo artists add small treasures among the chiclets and call the necklaces Treasure Necklaces.

Santo Domingo Treasure Necklace with Fetish Bear

Santo Domingo Treasure Necklace with Pipestone Hummingbird Fetish


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 Jewerly Materials – Opal

Hi Paula,

I think the opals used on bracelets are mostly (very pretty) Gilson opals. Am I right? I have a Thomas Francisco designed bracelet, and although nothing says synthetic, I think they must be, they really look like the Gilson opal pictures.

Susan

Opal Inlay Bracelet by Thomas Francisco, Navajo

Hi Susan,

Great question and a good topic. First of all, we’ve never seen Native American pieces that use natural or precious opal. As you will read below, part of the reason is the scarcity and availability of precious opal.

But the other factor is that when used in inlays or other settings, natural opal has a higher tendency to crack than lab or imitation opal. So when we purchase items with opal in them and ask the artists about the materials, about the opal, they reply “lab opal”.

Opal

Opal has a latticework of spheres and spaces that play with light as it passes through  – something like a prism.

Light passes through the arrangement, speeding up and slowing down as the size of the spheres and spaces between them changes and as the the angle of view changes.

The longer light waves produce RED-PINK color hues.

Pink Opal

The shorter waves produce the BLUE-GREEN color hues.

Blue Opal Bracelet by Thomas Francisco, Navajo

So when you wear your opal jewelry indoors under various types of lights and outdoors under different light settings, you will see a change in the stones. Photographing opal to show its great variety is indeed a challenge !

Natural opal (also known as precious opal) contains between 3-10% water but can be as high as 20%

For technical information about natural opal.

More about Australian Opals.

Lab opal is considered a true synthetic or created opal – produced in controlled laboratory conditions and with the same chemical composition as natural opal but with a very low moisture content.

Zuni Opal Butterfly Pin Pendant by Earline Edaackie

Some lab opals are more expensive to produce than the natural stone would cost. Lab opal is very resistant to breaking due to the fact it does not contain as much water as natural opal.

Multi-Color Opal Corn Row Watch by Thomas Francisco, Navajo

Gilson opal is the premier lab opal, the choice of many Native American artists.

Gilson opal production began in 1974 by Pierre Gilson when he discovered the ordered sphere structure that gives precious opal its light reflecting abilities. Laboratory production of opal is a highly complex process that can take over a year to complete. The colors are natural without color enhancement.

Imitation opal AKA artificial or simulated opal is different chemically from natural or lab opal. It is made up of 80% silica and 20% resin and is an economical option to both precious and lab opal.

Even when opal is not used as the main stone, but as an accent such as in this link bracelet, it brings a whole new dazzle to the piece.

Rhodochrosite, Opal and Mother of Pearl Inlay Braclet by Shirley Tso, Navajo


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