Dragonfly and the Isleta Cross

About the Isleta Cross

Also called the Pueblo Cross, the Isleta Cross is a very old Pueblo design associated with the Isleta Pueblo. The double-bar cross design is said to have originated with the Moors and Spaniards.

To the Pueblo Indians the double-bar cross was very similar to the dragonfly symbol of their culture, so many Puebloans incorporated the Isleta cross in their jewelry. By the early twentieth century, Pueblo artisans made elegant necklaces with a large central cross as a pendant and smaller crosses along the sides interspersed with beads.

Many crosses of Spanish and Mexican origin as well as Isleta crosses have a heart or a partial heart at the bottom. This is sometime referred to as the “bleeding heart”. In the Catholic Church, the Sacred Heart (the pierced and bleeding heart) alludes to the manner of Jesus’ death and represents Christ’s goodness and charity through his wounds and ultimate sacrifice. However it has been said that the reason the Puebloans put a heart on the bottom of their crosses was for other reasons. They felt it represented the big generous heart of the dragonfly who loved the people. Also, the Pueblo women were said to like the crosses with the hearts on the bottom better, so it could have simply been a case of fashion preference.

The Isleta Pueblo is located in central New Mexico, on the east bank of the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque. It is on the same site as when it was discovered in 1540. It was the seat of the Franciscan mission of San Antonio de Isleta from approximately 1621 until the Pueblo revolt of 1680. The Spaniards captured the pueblo in 1681. In the late 1700’s, when Isleta was repopulated with native peoples, it became the mission of San Agustín de Isleta. Tiwa, a Tanoan language, is the tongue of the Isleta Pueblo.

Read more about Pueblo here What does Pueblo mean?

About the Dragonfly

The dragonfly is associated with many Native American tribes but most notably those of the southwest beginning with early HOHOKAM and MIMBRES depictions on pottery. Early Puebloans and many contemporary southwest artists have continued the tradition.

from Heart of the Dragonfly by Allison Bird

Mimbres reproduction Dragonfly AD 1250 Site Mimbres Valley New Mexico

 

Dragonfly represents rain and its life-giving force, a source of renewal for the land, plants, animals and thus allows human life.

from Landscape of the Spirits: Hohokam Rock Art at South Mountain Park By Todd W. Bostwick, Peter Krocek

1000 year old dragonfly-petroglyph photo by bryan-pfeiffer – click photo to learn more……………

 

From Rock Art Symbols by Alex Patterson

The dragonfly inspires spiritually and creatively and helps us on the path of discovery and enlightenment.

It spiritually embodies the stripping away all negativity that holds us back, helping us to achieve our dreams and goals.

Dragonfly is the keeper of dreams, the energy within that sees all of our true potential and ability. Dragonfly reminds us that anything is possible.

If you have ever seen a dragonfly’s wings glisten in the sunlight you can see why they have inspired jewelers. And how their intricately colored bodies would lead to works of stone inlay.

It is no wonder that contemporary Zuni, Hopi, Navajo and other southwest silversmiths create many beautiful dragonfly pieces.

Paula

 

Beautiful Beadwork by Navajo artist Alyce Johnson

Alyce Johnson makes some wonderful beaded bracelets.

Alyce’s stitch work is very fine – this ensures your bracelet will hold together for years.

The leather backing is comfortable and the interior of the bracelet is copper, which is sturdy to hold the shape yet flexible to make the bracelet adjustable

Available from large adult to baby, what more could you ask for !  Alyce is the wife of Navajo silversmith extraordinaire Peterson Johnson.

Paula

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

NPP485-sunface-unkestine-1

On a collar

NPN753-AB-bee-yazzie-A

Anywhere on a jacket or coat

NPN781-knifewing-woody-1

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

PN440-WB-stamped-repousse-multi-AP-1

To keep a blouse or shirt buttoned

PN441-petit-turq-350w

 

On a clutch purse

PN436-WB-sandcast-turq-1

On the strap of a purse or backpack

NPN768-AB-kokopelli-perry-A-1

Anywhere on denim, pockets, lapels, anything goes

NPC702-AB-PP-spiny-brown-A

On the strap of a tank top

NPP452-lizard-turq-ration-1

To draw attention to or away from an area

NPN714-cluster-wilson-1

With a hair scrunchie or headband

P190-OS-PP-turq-hannaweekea-1

On a hat

P326-AB-WB-circle-multi-A

On shoes or boots

PN438-WB-sandcast-bow-turq-1

On a turtleneck

PN411-coral-abalone-1

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

NPP436-bowcluster-coral-skeets-1

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

CON4H-850w

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DAMAGED LESTER ORTIZ BRACELET

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

AFTER

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

REPAIRED AND REVIVED BRACELET

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

NP556-turq-birdseye-kingman-atencio-1

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.

NBT461-turq-lg-jake-1

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.

NS361-kingman-birdseye-ration-A1

Natural Kingman Birdseye Turquoise Bracelet by Navajo artist Bennie Ration

Paula