I have a Hopi belt buckle I purchased around 1986 at a gallery / art center on 2nd Mesa….I believe the hallmark is an R & A combined , where the bottom of the R has a horozontial line to look like an A ..Any idea who that might be.?
Thank you , Elaine
What a GREAT buckle !!
According to Hopi Silver by Margaret Nickelson Wright, that hallmark is attributed to Ramon (Albert Jr.) Dalangyawma who began silver work in 1978. He learned silversmithing at Hopicrafts which was a private enterprise from 1961-1983.
Ramon (Albert Jr.) Dalangyawma has a Navajo mother and Hopi father.
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hello, i have found this belt buckle it seems to be silver with turquoise chip inlay of a peyote bird. it has a makers mark on the back of what seems to be a face and i believe the letters rfi beside it. if you could help me identify the hallmard that would be great. I can send pictures if you need thank you again
I am not familiar with that hallmark but have posted it here in case someone else does.
Nice vintage peyote bird chip inlay belt buckle though !
The term “First Phase” is a historical term that refers to the early experimentation and development in jewelry by the southwestern Native American Indians.
It is generally though to be a period from approximately 1860-1900.
First Phase jewelery was made for personal use or for family or friends – it was not driven by commercial influences.
Sometimes First Phase is used to refer to the design styles from that era, so a bracelet made to look like a First Phase bracelet would be “First Phase Style” but not First Phase itself. This is an important distinction that should be used when describing items.
Between 1900-1930, tourism grew and Native American jewelry began being influenced by commercialism – what would sell. This is sometimes referred to as the Transitional Period.
To see more views of the items pictured and learn more about their estimated age, click on the photos.
This is the first in a series of repair articles that I am writing in conjunction with Diane Radeke who is my go-to gal when it comes to repairs. (See her contact information at the end of this article.) We appreciate Diane’s help with this series.
Is it possible to repair or restore Native American jewelry?
Yes, we have Native American Silversmiths working for us here on premises, who are accomplished artisans and expert repair people. We service repairs for customers and jewelers all over the United States.
How can we find out what you can do and how much it will cost?
You can photograph or scan your jewelry and email the picture to us. We can usually give you an idea of the repair needed and a ballpark estimate from your photo. If you decide to proceed, you then mail your jewelry to us. Once we receive the item and have a chance to thoroughly inspect it we call you with a firm price for the repairs.
Can you outline the procedure for this inlay buckle repair?
Inlay buckle showing missing pieces.
From the customer’s picture, we saw that 7 pieces of coral and shell were missing. An estimate for this repair was $85.00 plus $15 to return ship and insure. However, once we received the buckle, we found that the back of the buckle had serious cracks forming in the silver at two edges. It looked like the buckle had flexed back at that point, causing the tearing to begin. All of the missing stones were right on top of the bend – that’s no doubt why they popped out.
Back of buckle showing stress cracks from bending.
What do you do at that point?
Simply replacing the missing stones was still an option. However, once metal has bent, it “wants” to bend in that very same spot again, causing further damage to the piece. We suggested to the owner that our silversmith could solder a thicker sheet of silver to the back of the buckle, making it much stronger and resistant to any further flexing.
How is that done?
Our silversmith removes all of the stones from the front, as well as all of the pieces from the back (the buckle bar, pin, and Massie’s signature plate). He hot solders a piece of sterling silver, cut exactly to size, to the back of the buckle to add stability, and then reattaches everything the way it was. The end result is that the buckle looks exactly the same as it did, just a little heftier in weight.
Was there an additional charge for that?
Yes. The charge for restoring the buckle in this fashion was $200, instead of $85. The customer decided to have us restore his buckle, as he was looking forward to wearing it frequently.
I wonder if you know anything about this old buckle. Tony
It is chip inlay.
Chip inlay is a method where cavities in jewelry are filled with a mixture of crushed stone, typically turquoise and coral, and epoxy resin. The piece is then polished smooth after the resin has hardened. Navajo Tommy Singer is credited for first using chip inlay in Native American jewelry.
The snake in some Native American cultures represents speed and swiftness, the same properties as lightning or the lightning arrow and they often have a similar visual form. The snake does not symbolize anything negative or treacherous. Rather, the snake represents abundant rainfall, fertility and healing. Snake symbols are rarely seen in Navajo jewelry and art but are often used by Zuni.
We here in northern Colorado live with snakes on a seasonal basis – they are part of the landscape and ecosystem. Since our climate is semi-arid, we welcome the abundant rainfall the snake might bring.