Robert and Bernice Leekya – Nugget Jewelry since 1953

Zuni husband and wife Robert and Bernice Leekya are known for their bold turquoise (usually Kingman) nugget jewelry. They have been making it since 1953.

Here I will showcase some examples of their work……….

Zuni Cluster bracelet by Robert and Bernice Leekya

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Born in 1934, Robert was taught by his father, a master Zuni jeweler Leekya Deyuse.  Here are some examples of Leekya Deyuse’s work – he is often just referred to as Leekya. Born in 1889, he remained active in his craft until his passing in 1966.

Leekya Deyuse 1 Leekya Deyuse 2Bernice Leekya, born in the 1930s, was formerly a maker of cluster work.

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After her marriage to Robert, she worked with him on the nugget jewelry also. WL-398-turq-leekya-4

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Robert shares the RLB stamp with his wife Bernice Leekya. The larger L extends below the B.

Paula

What is Birdseye Turquoise?

Birdseye Turquoise is a term that describes turquoise that is somewhat similar to spiderweb turquoise in that it is made of an aggregate of many small nuggets but instead of a dark matrix like spiderweb, Birdseye Turquoise is light blue turquoise with a darker blue turquoise matrix.

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Natural Kingman Birdseye Turquoise Pendant by Navajo silversmith Cecil Atencio

 

The result when the stones are polished or cross cut and polished is that there are many small areas of lighter blue stone encircled by darker blue matrix like a bird’s eye, thus birdseye turquoise. Sometimes it is referred to as “water web” turquoise.

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Natural Kingman Birdseye Turquoise bracelet by Navajo artist, Albert Jake

 

Although the term refers to turquoise from any mine that looks like this, there are only a handful of mines that produce birdseye turquoise – namely Turquoise Mountain, Kingman, and Morenci. Turquoise Mountain (closed in the late 1980s) is loacated near the Kingman mine in northwestern Arizona.

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Natural Kingman Birdseye Turquoise Bracelet by Navajo artist Bennie Ration

Paula

What is Spiderweb Turquoise?

Spiderweb Turquoise is a term used to describe turquoise that looks like a spiderweb. It is not associated with any one mine, but many mines, some of the most notable being Kingman, Number 8, Lander Blue, Lone Mountain, Candelaria and others.

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Natural Kingman Spiderweb Turquoise pendant by Navajo silversmith Phillip Sanchez

 

As described below from the book “Turquoise The Gem of the Centuries” by Oscar R. Branson, spiderweb turquoise can be thought of as small pieces of turquoise cemented together with the mother rock (matrix). It is when these pieces are polished or cross cut that the spider web design emerges.

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When other materials appear within turquoise, those materials which often look like veins, are referred to as matrix or part of the “mother rock”. Matrix can range in color from honey gold (rhyolite, a volcanic rock) or brown (iron oxide) to jet black (iron pyrite aka iron sulfide) and many other color variations.

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The matrix can be in large random blotches or it can appear as uniform lines around evenly spaced cubicles, almost pattern-like, which brings to mind a net or a spiderweb, thus the name.

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Natural Kingman Spiderweb Turquoise pendant by Navajo artist Bennie Ration

 

In some parts of the world, turquoise stones with matrix are considered imperfect and clear turquoise stones are most desired but in the US, spiderweb turquoise has much more appeal and value.

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Spiderweb Turquoise bracelet by Navajo artist Peterson Johnson

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Spiderweb Turquoise bracelet by Navajo artist Peterson Johnson

Paula

Can you tell me anything about my $25 estate sale find?

Hi Paula,

I recently acquired a pendant that looks to be Native American in design. It has two stunning blue turquoise rocks each with a black matrix. I’ve tried to figure out what kind of turquoise those are and the closest match I can make is to Lander Blue, which seems too good to be true, so I would like some identification help with that. My other question for you is about the hallmark on the back of the piece. Above the word “sterling” are what look to be two letters, a C and a backwards E. However, I haven’t been able to find whose hallmark that would belong to.
Here are some photos of my pendant. I’m not looking to sell, just want some help identifying the turquoise type and hallmark. I bought it a few days ago at an estate sale in Houston, TX and paid $25 for it. That’s all the info I have; sorry I can’t add more!
Any help would be appreciated. I love your blog!
Best,
Jana
pendant 1 pendant 3 pendant5Hi Jana,
From what I can tell from these photos, these turquoise stones look a lot like some of my Kingman pieces.
When I look at the hallmark I see a WF kind of how I would write a round cloud-like W and a simple F, both of them are more like cursive which is how many artists sign when they use an engraver (AKA electric pencil).
But as far as whose hallmark that is, I do not know.
Perhaps another reader does.
Visit our pawn shop for your research and shopping http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn/pawnshop-vin.htm
Paula