Navajo Silversmith Roland Dixson

Navajo silversmith and artist Roland Dixson produces traditional sterling silver pieces with excellent stampwork.

Roland Dixson Naja Pendant

Roland Dixson Naja Pendant

Characteristics of his style include scalloped edges with deeply domed centers.

Roland Dixson belt buckle with scalloped edges

Roland Dixson belt buckle with scalloped edges

The stamping is deep, intricate and not repetitive from piece to piece. He also incorporates repousse as evidenced in the photo showing the back of the buckle.

Roland Dixson buckle back showing evidence of repousse

Roland Dixson buckle back showing evidence of repousse

Repousse is a technique whereby metal is hammered into relief from the reverse side.

From the pieces that have come through our store, it appears that Roland Dixson uses only natural, untreated turquoise. Here is his hallmark.

Roland Dixson hallmark

Roland Dixson hallmark

I don’t know much about this artist so if anyone has any biographical information, I’d love to hear it.

Paula

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Where did Navajo silversmiths learn their craft?

“The Navajo were the first Southwest American Indians to work silver……A man named Astidi Sani (Old Smith) is credited by historians as being the fist Navajo silversmith. His Spanish name was Herrero Delgadito (Little Ironworker). Reportedly he acquired a basic knowledge of ironworking in 1853 from a Mexican blacksmith/silversmith.”

From Indian Jewelry, Fact & Fantasy by Marsha Land

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Early Navajo metalwork was limited to iron and was for utilitarian purposes (knife blades, bits), not adornment.

Mexican Silversmiths (plateros), on the other hand, were typically adorned with silver as a display of their wealth and, for some, their metal-working skills – silver concha belts, buckles, buttons on shirts and down the sides of pants, hat bands, silver embellished saddles and headstalls and much more.

This side view of a pair of vintage Mexican charro pants (circa 1890) give you an idea of the lavish silver embellishments. 473425273_fullsizeAn example of an ornate vintage Mexican silver saddle.

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John Lawrence Hubbell opened his first trading post at Ganado, Arizona in 1873.  When the well-dressed nomadic plateros came to the Ganado area, the Navajo took notice. Soon they began to trade horses and livestock to the plateros in exchange for learning metal-working skills.

Early Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet

Early Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet

Hubbell saw the potential in of Navajo silverwork for his trading post so he brought in two Mexican silversmiths (Thick Lips and Benedito) to teach their skills to the Navajo he had working for him.

From Navajo Silver, a brief history of Navajo Silversmithing

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The dictionary mentioned in the following quote was published in 1910.

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Early Sterling Silver Sandcast Concha Belt

Early Sterling Silver Sandcast Concha Belt

For a much more detailed account of Atsidi Sani AKA Herrero, as well as how Navajo smiths learned silver casting methods from plateros and much more………. read John Adair’s book:

scan0226Metal-working skills were passed from the Spaniards to the Mexicans and then to the Navajo. Interestingly, early Navajo silversmiths chose to use leather stamping tools for their designs, thus distinguishing Navajo pieces from Mexican silver work early on.

toolOf course, that was just the beginning and soon Navajo silversmiths, and other Native American craftsmen, began to develop unique designs and styles which continue to evolve today.

Carinated Cuff Bracelet

Carinated Cuff Bracelet

Watch for more on this topic in a future post.

Paula

Vintage Native American Brooches and Pins Make a Comeback

A brooch is usually a large decorative piece of jewelry pinned to a sweater or dress to complete and outfit and make a bold statement.

A pin is a smaller, simpler item that can be used in a variety of more subtle ways.

Depending on the design, colors, materials and subject matter, a brooch or pin can define an ensemble and the person wearing it !

For a while, it seemed like brooches got a bad rap – maybe due to the gaudy and clunky costume jewelry brooch that often comes to mind.

But recently both brooches and pins have made a strong comeback in the fashion world. So it is a perfect time to get out your vintage and new Native American pins and use them in all kinds of ways. Here are some ideas from classic to unique and a pin that I think would work for each specific use:

At the center of a neckline

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On a collar

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Anywhere on a jacket or coat

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On a scarf to adorn and/or hold it in place

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To keep a blouse or shirt buttoned

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On a clutch purse

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On the strap of a purse or backpack

NPN768-AB-kokopelli-perry-A-1

Anywhere on denim, pockets, lapels, anything goes

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On the strap of a tank top

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To draw attention to or away from an area

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With a hair scrunchie or headband

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On a hat

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On shoes or boots

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On a turtleneck

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As a pendant – for this you can use the pin itself to hang onto a necklace or between the beads of a necklace.

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Or you can you can use a pin to pendant converter to help.

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What are some other ways to use a pin or brooch?

Paula

New Life for a Cracked Turquoise Stone Bracelet

The estate lots we purchase commonly contain at least a couple of damaged vintage pieces. We have the choice of selling them AS-IS, with extensive tarnish or soil, silver damage, a missing stone, a loose stone, a cracked stone……OR we can have the item repaired so the piece can be used again ! When I see a beautifully crafted necklace, ring or bracelet that would otherwise be tossed in a box to be forgotten, I do whatever I can to help revive the piece.

This beautiful bracelet hallmarked LESTER ORTIZ  and STERLING

weighs 89 grams and is 2 3/8″ tall at the front.

The gorgeous green turquoise stone (I’ll let you ponder the mine – please put your guesses in the comments below) was too good to toss.

I sent this bracelet to Diane at Old Town (see contact information below) who coordinates the work for the Navajo silversmiths there. Henry waved his magic wand over this one and turned it from trash to treasure !  Thank you Henry !!!!

BEFORE

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DAMAGED LESTER ORTIZ BRACELET

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AFTER

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REPAIRED AND REVIVED BRACELET

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The repair service we use:

Diane Radeke
Old Town Trading Co. / Jewels of the West / Old Town Jewels
4009 N. Brown Ave.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
602-350-4009
info@oldtownjewels.com

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

Squash Blossom Necklace with Hearts

Hi Paula,

I have a squash blossom necklace made with hearts. I have searched your blog and the internet and have not found this shape. Can you help me determine if this is in fact a rare-type shape? Also, can you help me determine the type of turquoise? And, my clasp is broken, do regular jewelers repair the clasps, and the way they repair, does it make a difference or lessen the value? Like soldering vs. wiring vs.gluing?

Thank you,
Catherine
20140709_143636 20140709_143651Hi Catherine,
I would interpret the design element as clouds rather than hearts.
Possibly this could be King’s Manassa turquoise but it is hard to say for certain.
As far as repairs, I would recommend that you have any repairs done by an experienced, knowledgeable jeweler that as worked on vintage Native American jewelry so that the repair would be consistent with the original piece.
We don’t do repairs here but we recommend this business for Native American jewelry repairs. They do all of the repairs for our store and we are thoroughly satisfied with their work.
Repair Contact:
Diane Radeke
Old Town Trading Co. / Jewels of the West
4009 N. Brown Ave.
Scottsdale, AZ  85251
602-350-4009
Paula
To view our full list of article or to ask a jewelry question, follow the instructions here
If you are selling your jewelry, read this
Visit our pawn shop for your research and shopping
N156-SD-squashblossom-turq-1

Vintage Navajo – Sterling Silver and Turquoise Squash Blossom Necklace

Tips on Choosing Mens Watch Tips Please !

Good afternoon Paula.  I’ve been looking for a nice set of tips for my Invicta watch (which is a bit glunky, but not obnoxious like some of the new watches out today):

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The case is 1 ½ inches wide at its widest point, and the band size is 18mm.

Until I saw these turquoise tips, I had my heart set on solid silver with a nice pattern.

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Arlene Yazzie – Navajo Sterling Silver and Turquoise Inlay Mens Watch Tips

2 questions…

1) those tips are so clean and bright, I think they would look “wrong” against the stainless case…thoughts?

2)  is the bandwidth/lug distance important for fit and “look”?

John

Hi John,

Thanks for your interest in our Native American watch tips.

Whether you choose all sterling silver tips or tips with turquoise or other stones is up to you. We do not advise on fashion.

That said, a brushed or satin sterling silver would more closely match the finish of your stainless steel watch, like these by Calvin Peterson:

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Calvin Peterson Navajo Sterling Silver Mens Bear Paw Watch

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Calvin Peterson Navajo Sterling Silver Mens Kokopelli Watch

The spacing between the lugs should be at least 1mm more that the width of the tips where they attach to the watch. That makes for a neat fit without a lot of sliding around and still leaves enough room to remove the pins should you want to.

The watch tips mentioned above and the turquoise ones you like all measure 17mm at the attachment, so they should work fine with your watch (this is a fairly standard size for men’s watch tips).

Paula

To view our full list of article or to ask a jewelry question, follow the instructions here

http://www.horsekeeping.com/native-american-jewelry-artifacts.htm

If you are selling your jewelry, read this

http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn-buying.htm

Visit our pawn shop for your research and shopping

http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn/pawnshop-vin.htm

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Elaine Sam – Navajo Sterling Silver Bear Claw Turquoise Watch Tips