Meet Monty Claw and his Unique Jewelry

Monty Claw

We are so happy to have met Monty Claw and feature some of his unique jewelry in our webstore.

Navajo artist Monty Claw is largely self-taught although he did study at The Institute of American Indian Arts.

He has worked in many mediums including leather and beadwork, making feather fans, painting and silversmithing.       

See two of Monty’s fans below in this slide show   – for more details, see Fans on our website. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Monty Claw and his work have been featured in a number of publications including The Smithsonian Magazine and Native Peoples Magazine.

Monty’s pieces appear in museum quality collections such as Nelson Atkins, The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Denver Art Museum, The Sam Noble Museum, and Musée Du Quai Branly in Paris, France. Watch the slide show below to see some of his museum quality pieces. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Although he has only been a full time jeweler since 2011 he has already started accumulating awards: SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, The Heard Museum Indian Market, and Cherokee Art Market in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Today Monty focuses mainly on jewelry and metalsmithing and specializes in tufa cast pieces. He creates amazing works of silver and gold occasionally set with precious gems like turquoise, coral, and diamonds. But truth be told, he really prefers to work in all metal.

He enjoys creating sculptural pieces that look like they are going to walk or fly off a ring or bracelet and come to life.

His pieces are unique, with singularly creative details. His ideas range from traditional to beyond modern, from beautiful to edgy, from simple classics to groundbreaking creations. He creates many pieces related to animal and spiritual beings. Click on the photos below to see more views and dimensions.

First People

Yei Bi Chei

Apache Crown Dancer

Raven Spirit

Dragonfly Spirit

Wolf Spirit

 

His work is highly sought after by major collectors, museum board members, major curators and Native American jewelry enthusiasts who just love to wear his pieces.

Monty Claw tells us stories with his jewelry as he continues on his creative path.

Paula – I’m closing with a photo of the first of my many Monty Claw pieces – a treasured buffalo inlay buckle………..

Paula’s inlay buffalo belt buckle by Monty Claw

The Three Stone Navajo Bracelet

One very traditional Navajo bracelet layout is the three stone bracelet.

#8 Turquoise 3 Stone Shadowbox bracelet by Navajo Wilbur Muskett

This layout is usually used when there are wonderful stones to showcase.

Vintage 3 Stone Bracelet with chisel mark E

The Three Stone layout works best if the stones match.

Vintage unsigned Royston Turquoise 3 Stone bracelet

Often the central stone is larger and the two sides stones are smaller.

Vintage unsigned 3 Stone bracelet

Sometimes the central stone is smaller and the two side stones are larger.

Vintage unsigned 3 stone bracelet

 

It is equally suitable to use the layout on a wire bracelet or a cuff.

Read about wire bracelets here – Wire Bracelets

Vintage unsigned 3 stone Bisbee turquoise bracelet on heavy 3 wire frame

 

Three stone White Buffalo Stone cuff bracelet by Joe Piaso

Read about White Buffalo Stone.

 

Vintage 3 stone bracelet with partial hallmark of P. This is a cross between a wire and a cuff bracelet. There is a heavy 4 wire framework and a solid sterling faceplate under the stones.Paula

Devil Dancer Set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

This rare, museum quality 3 dimensional inlay set was part of a private collection. It was made by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley.

The 7 piece set includes:

a concho belt comprised of a buckle and 8 conchos

a man’s bracelet

a man’s ring

a woman’s bracelet

a woman’s pendant

2 women’s rings

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Excerpt from page 252 in American Indian Jewelry III M-Z by Gregory Schaaf.

Sterling Silver – Rare, One of a Kind
Museum Quality Apache Devil Dancer Set
by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley 

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Rare, One of a Kind, Museum Quality Apache Devil Dancer Set
by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

This 7-piece three dimensional figural overlay/inlay set includes:
– 
one concho belt
– 2-piece man’s set: bracelet and ring
– 
4-piece woman’s set: bracelet, pendant, and two rings
– certificates of authenticity
– materials include Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, mother of pearl, jet, coral, and sterling silver

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Post card titled
“Devil Dance of the Apache Indians from the 1930’s”

Concho Belt

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Conchos are currently on a double leather belt that is 1 5/8″ wide and 38″ long from buckle to end of leather. Holes are punched at 34″ to 36″.   526 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Buckle is 3″ x 2 5/8″.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Notice the 3-dimensional quality of the stone inlay and overlay on all pieces.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Each concho has a copper belt loop.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Holes are punched at 34″ to 36′

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Certificate of Authenticity for concho belt.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Eight conchos are 2″ x 2 1/4″.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

4-Piece Woman’s Set
b
racelet, pendant, and two rings

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet, pendant and two rings.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet is 6 1/4″ total inside circumference, this includes the 1″ gap.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet 3 1/8″ tall at front, 11/16″ at ends.
105 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

This four-wire bracelet design is traditional Navajo and Zuni bracelet form that is open and airy allowing for ventilation and making the bracelet more comfortable to wear in hot and humid weather. Read more . . .

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Certificates for woman’s bracelet, pendant and two rings.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Pendant 2 3/4″ x 2″, 32 grams.
Fixed stamped bail with 1/8″ opening,

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Ring size 9.  2 1/2″ tall x 2″ wide.  36 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Ring size 6,  2 1/8″ tall x 1 3/4″ wide.
25 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

2-Piece Man’s Set
b
racelet, pendant, and two rings

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Man’s bracelet and ring.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet size 8 1/4″.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet is 3″ tall at the front to 11/16″ at ends.
117 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

 

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Heavy man’s ring size 12 1/4 .

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Ring is 1 3/8″ tall x 1″ wide.  47 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

This four-wire bracelet design is traditional Navajo and Zuni bracelet form that is open and airy allowing for ventilation and making the bracelet more comfortable to wear in hot and humid weather. Read more . . .

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise comes from one of the largest turquoise mines in North America located in Gila County, Arizona near the town of Globe. This turquoise is prized for its uniform blue color with little or no matrix that allows the stones to be easily matched and cut. It is the favorite stone of Zuni Pueblo silversmiths for use in petit point, needlepoint and inlay jewelry. Only 4% of the turquoise taken from the mine is left natural. Most is is enhanced or stabilized and sold to large distributors in the USA and Europe. 

If you want to see more information, view the webpage devoted to this set.

Paula

 

Native American Concho Belts

Before buying a concho belt, it is a good idea to know a little bit about them. I hope this helps you with your purchasing decision and will add to your wearing enjoyment. This is Part One of a two part series. Part Two will cover The Art and Science of Wearing a Concho Belt.

History

The word concho comes from the Spanish “concha” which actually means “conch” or “seashell” but has come to mean round or oval disks (occasionally rectangles) of silver used to decorate saddles, bridles, clothing, used as jewelry such as for pendants and bolo ties and for adorning or making belts.

Concho belts are a long-time Navajo tradition yet it is generally accepted that the Navajo learned about the concept of concho belts from the Plains tribes. They then obtained the skills and designs to make silver conchos from Mexican silversmiths (plateros) that used conchos on horse tack. 

The earliest conchos were silver dollars that were hammered, stamped and edged, then slotted and strung together on a piece of leather.

A slotted concho

Later in the evolution of concho belts, the slots were no longer used. Instead, copper loops were added to the back of the conchos so they could be slipped onto a leather belt.

Copper belt loops

When the slots disappeared, they were replaced by a central design element which continues to be used today.

The slot has been replaced by a central stamped design

 Silver concho belts evolved to include overlay, storyteller, sandcast and more.

Delgarito storyteller

Overlay

Vintage Sandcast

Stones were added later as a central stone, a cluster, with other design elements or as inlay. Some conchos are made entirely of a single turquoise stone. 

Vintage unmarked concho belt with central stone in a shadowbox

Vintage unmarked concho with central stone – classic

Cluster belt by Navajo Irene Chiquito

Concho with other design elements including leaves, raindrops, turquoise nuggets, coral and a bear claw. By Elaine Sam, Navajo

Inlay concho belt by Navajo Benjamin Becenti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Chip Inlay

Large Turquoise Stones made up to be the conchos on this belt

Concho Belt Features

Concho belts can be a continuous row of conchos or could have spacers in between the conchos.

Vintage Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild belt with continuous row of sandcast conchos

Margartet Platero Boulder Turquoise link belt with a continuous row of conchos

Sterling Silver link concho belt

Leather concho belt with butterfly spacers

Link concho belt with butterfly spacers

The spacers can of various shapes but traditionally are butterflies and it is easy to see why they are called that when you look at the shape of them.

The conchos and the butterflies are sometimes backed by leather which highlights the silver work and also protects the edges of the silver from bumping, wear or bending.

Leather backed, slotted conchos

How Many Conchos?

The number of conchos on a belt will depend on the length (size) of the belt, the dimensions of the conchos, whether butterfly spacers are used and so on. But some common configurations might be:

  • 6 conchos + 7 butterflies + a buckle
  • 10 to 14 conchos + a buckle
  • Link concho belts might have from 12 to 18 conchos connected by rings.

See Part Two of this series to see how the number of conchos plays out when you want to wear your belt with jeans.

Link or Leather

Generally there are two types of concho belts: link and leather. 

Link concho belts are conchos that are connected by rings with a hook fastener at one end. Link belts are used primarily over a blouse but many can also fit through the belt loops of jeans. Link belts generally cost less than leather belts.

Link belt used over a blouse

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leather concho belts are basically a leather belt with conchos slipped onto the belt and a buckle attached to the end

Leather concho belt

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Today there are many types of Concho Belts sold, some are authentic Native American Made, but many are not. Here is how they stack up.

Museum Quality
The fine, highly worked museum-quality Navajo or Zuni Hand Made Sterling Silver Concho Belts are truly works of art and are highly collectible, seldom sold, and worn for ceremonial purposes only. They are made by very talented, traditional Native American artists out of the finest stones and Sterling Silver. Sometimes a dozen artists will get together and each will make one concho for a special belt. Some artists might make only one or two concho belts in a year….or a lifetime. Prices are commonly $20,000 and more.

Museum quality belt by Dan Jackson

Traditional Leather “Using” Belts
Traditional Sterling Silver Leather Concho Belts made by Native American silversmiths and marketed for “using” can be somewhat less complex and less expensive that the museum pieces but they are wonderful pieces of wearable art ! They are equally suitable to wear over a blouse or shirt or with jeans. These are for sale in the $1000-$9000 range.

A “using” concho belt by Calvin Martinez

Not Native American

There are all kinds of non-Native American made concho belts for sale. They are often made in a southwestern style from machined steel conchos that are chrome plated. These might sell for as low as $10.

A link concho belt that is machine made, not Native American, not sterling silver.

METALS AND MATERIALS

Sterling Silver 

Conchos can be of shiny or matte sterling silver, antiqued or highly polished. 

Coin Silver – Some older concho belts are made from coin silver. You can read more about coin silver in my previous post on the subject.

Nickel
“Nickel Silver” or “German Silver” Concho Belts have no silver in them at all. They do have a silver color to them but they do not contain any silver. They are made of an alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel. This is very confusing for customers because they are often fooled into thinking they have purchased a silver item because they are called Nickel Silver or German Silver. When comparing Sterling Silver (which contains 92.5% of the precious metal Silver) with Nickel Silver, you are comparing apples to oranges – that’s why the prices will vary so much. Nickel silver is hard and brittle, so is usually machined rather than hand worked. Nickel Silver concha belts are generally not hand made. They are commonly machine struck or stamped so although the design might be based on a Native American design, they are seldom Native American hand made. Nickel silver does not tarnish. It is more durable and of a much lower cost and value than Sterling Silver. Know what you are buying. Read Not All Silver is Created Equal
Plated
Plated Concho Belts might consist of a layer of silver or chrome over steel. “Pot metal” (inexpensive cast metal mixtures) and other metal alloys can also be plated. These kinds of belts are the tourist grade or costume jewelry style belts, a totally different item than Native American Made Concho Belts.

To get some ideas on how to get your concho belt ready to wear, read Part Two of this Series – The Art and Science of Wearing a Concho Belt.

Paula

Book Look: Southwestern Indian Rings by Paula A. Baxter

Like Paula Baxter states in her Dedication, I never feel “fully dressed without wearing at least one Navajo or Pueblo ring.”

In my case, sometimes I just have to wear more !  Being a Native American ring aficionado, I found this book an interesting reference.

In over 350 color photographs (taken by her husband Barry Katzen), Paula shows historic and contemporary rings made by Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Santo Domingo artists and more.  The photos here in my article are not from Paula Baxter’s book – they are photos of my personal rings and some from the store where I work.

Unmarked vintage turquoise – likely Navajo

 

 

 

 

Coral by Rose Castillo Draper, Navajo

 

 

Larry Pooyouma, Hopi

Sidney Sekakuku Jr. – Hopi

Richard and Geneva Terrazas, Zuni

Morris and Sadie Laahte, Zuni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contents of the Book

The Design and Appeal of Southwestern Indian Rings

Materials and Methods of Ring Construction

Historical Rings: Pre-Contact to 1930

Vintage Rings, 1930-1979: The Age of Experimentation

Master Innovator

Artistic Adornment: 1980 to Present

It is in the Master Innovator section that she shows and discusses work by Dan Simplicio, Fred Peshlakai, Lee Yazzie, Charles Loloma, Jesse Monongya, Kenneth Begay and others.

Contemporary artists include Sonwai and Arland Ben to mention just a few.

Besides displaying rings in the customary silver and turquoise, there are a number of rings showing other materials including variscite, pink coral, sugilite, petrified wood, ironwood, fossilized ivory, opal, jade, azurite, fire agate as well as many other agates, jasper, tortoise shell and more.

Jasper

White Buffalo Stone by Freddy Charley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother of Pearl by Rose Castillo Draper, Navajo

Lapis by Navajo Bennie Ration

 

Natural Royston Turquoise by Navajo Walter Vandever

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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:
K & M BILL
Mary and Ken Bill
Mary (often along with KENNETH BILL)
Mary Bill

Thank you Mary Bill and Happy Mother’s Day !

Paula