What is a Shadowbox?

Recently a customer ordered a shadowbox item from our store and when she received it, she was shocked saying “but it is hollow, it is not solid !!” We used the term shadowbox in the description and showed all kinds of views revealing the construction but perhaps if  a person has never seen a shadowbox, he or she might not know what they are looking at and what to expect.

Shadowbox Belt Buckle - Wilbur Musket, Navajo

Shadowbox Belt Buckle – Wilbur Musket, Navajo

A common jewelry technique used by Navajo and other Native American silversmiths to add interest and layering to a piece is a shadowbox.

The shadowbox technique consists of a cutout top layer that is usually domed and that is soldered to a solid bottom layer.

Vintage Shadowbox Ring

Vintage Shadowbox Ring

The cutout design on the top can vary from paw prints to kokopelli to blanket designs – limited only by the designer’s imagination.

Shadowbox Bolo Tie with Paw Prints

Shadowbox Bolo Tie with Paw Print Cutouts

The bottom layer might be left bright silver or oxidized to give a dark contrast to the cutout design.

Shadowbox Bracelet by Pauline Benally, Navajo

Shadowbox Bracelet by Pauline Benally, Navajo —-the underlayer has a darkened (oxidized) background for a contrasting accent.

Stones are often set into the shadowbox – some artists let the stones protrude somewhat out of the top of the shadowbox and others use stones that when set are flush with the cutout layer.

Shadowbox ring showing one flush (turquoise) and one protruding (coral) piece

Shadowbox ring showing one flush (turquoise) and one protruding (coral) piece

Paula

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The Origin of the Bolo Tie

Origin of the Bolo Tie

Silversmith Victor Cedarstaff of Wickenburg, Arizona, claims to have invented the bolo tie in 1948.

According to an article in Sunset magazine:

Victor Cedarstaff was riding his horse one day when his hat blew off. Wary of losing the silver-trimmed hatband, he slipped it around his neck. His companion joked, “That’s a nice-looking tie you’re wearing, Vic.” An idea incubated, and Cedarstaff soon fashioned the first bola tie (the name is derived from boleadora, an Argentine lariat).

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Boleadoras or bolas (from Spanish bola, “ball”) are throwing weapons made of weights attached to the end of cords.

However, it is also said that the bolo tie is a North American pioneer creation that dates back to between 1866 and 1886. There is a bolo tie on display at a trading post in Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, said to date back that far.

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A recent exhibit at The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona entitled Native American Bolo Ties: Vintage and Contemporary generated renewed interest in bolos.

This is from the Heard Museum:

The distinctive tie originated in the Southwest, and its popularity quickly spread throughout the West and in many other parts of the country. The necktie has been made even more distinguished by contemporary American Indian artists in Arizona, who make bolo ties that are exquisite expressions of individuality and ingenuity.

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Bolo ties, representing the casual nature and somewhat rugged milieu of the West, emerged as a form of men’s neckwear in the 1940s. They directly countered business suits as well as the formality suits represented, and instead marked a different style and a different way of life. In particular, American Indian jewelers and silversmiths brought individuality and creativity to this art form, offering a broad range of unique and artistic options.

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Western wear, including the bolo tie, was popularized through 1950s television shows and movies. Some TV and movie personalities who brought scarf slides and bolo ties into the everyday vernacular include the Cisco Kid, Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers. Bolo ties have been created by American Indian jewelers since the late 1940s and they continue to create them today.

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The bolo tie’s road to acquiring the status of Arizona’s official neckwear took place over several years. KOOL Channel 10’s anchor Bill Close and five other bolo tie enthusiasts met in 1966 at the Westward Ho Hotel in downtown Phoenix. From the beginning, their intent was to make the bolo tie a state emblem. Perhaps to help the cause, Arizona Highways Magazine devoted several pages of its October 1966 issue to Southwestern jewelry, including bolo ties. Help arrived when Governor Jack Williams proclaimed the first week of March 1969 as “Bolo Tie Week.” After several unsuccessful attempts, a bill making the bolo tie the official state neckwear was finally passed on April 22, 1971. The bolo tie is also the official neckwear of New Mexico and Texas, although Arizona was the first state to designate it as such.

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NOS – New Old Stock

We are often contacted by stores and trading posts that are closing and want to sell us their NOS – New Old Stock.

The items range from contemporary to vintage Native American items but still on the stores cards or packages.

Often they are of designs that aren’t currently available anymore and most of the time they are made of heavier sterling silver and with stones we don’t see as often any more…….so they are cool !

Even though they are not used, we put the NOS items in our pawn shop since we didn’t buy them from the artist directly and they usually are not contemporary items. So they seem to fit best in our pawn shop.

We’ve purchased some interesting inventories and collections over the last few years and I am finally listing some of it on the website.

Here are some examples of the NOS we have recently acquired:

The Snake Symbol in Native American Culture

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.

The White Buffalo Collection – Vintage but Unused Bolo Ties

So far I’ve just skimmed the surface of this wonderful collection with the listing of the rugs previously noted and now some awesome vintage but unused bolo ties.

 

White Buffalo Navajo Pawn Collection White Buffalo Collection

We recently purchased a large collection of vintage but unused Native American artifacts including jewelry, rugs and pottery. It was part of the estate of a Navajo woman who was a missionary that worked with Native Americans in Four Corners – the area of the American southwest where four states meet- New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. As a single parent, she raised 5 daughters and a son while also providing food, shelter, and clothing to less fortunate people that needed assistance. Often she was thanked for her help by gifts of Native American items.

Most of the items in this collection are from the 1970s to the 1990s. We offer these items to you with great respect and with the information we received from the family plus our research.

We named the collection after one of the pieces in the group, a hand carved Navajo fetish necklace honoring the Sacred White Buffalo.

Bolo Tie – What is this pendant on a string?

Paula,

I inherited some jewelry and there is a pendant on a leather string. I have no idea what it is and how it is worn. Can you help me so I can know how to describe it to sell on eBay?

Chrissy

Hi Chrissy,

The photo you sent wasn’t in sharp enough focus for me to post but I was able to see you had a very nice vintage bolo tie. I’ll use one from our pawn shop to illustrate my description.  By the way, I encourage you to take the time to take sharp, in-focus photos of your bolo as it is likely to bring a nice price if people can see the details, stones, and workmanship.

A bolo tie, also called a “shoestring necklace” or simply a bola, can be thought of as a Western necktie. A bolo tie can range from an inexpensive “string tie”  to an elaborate sterling silver and leather affair. Maybe your younger brother had one of those string ties that he wore with his cowboy hat and cap guns ??!!

A bolo has three parts.

Sterling Silver, Turquoise and Coral Navajo Bolo Tie showing the three parts: Lariat, Tips and Slide

The cord that goes around the neck is called the lariat. It is traditionally braided from leather, and most commonly black leather. The lariat can also be made from woven cord, thus the term “string tie”.

The ends of the lariat are finished off with tips. The tips can be made of sterling silver, copper or other metals. They can be machine made tips or hand made tips.

And finally we get to the Pièce de résistance  which means the focal point, the best part or feature, the artistic creation for which the other portions exist !  The slide.

The slide is a decorative feature that, as its name indicates, slides up and down on the lariat. The slide can be worn up at the neck in the same position as a necktie knot (formal) or down lower for a more casual effect.

Slides can vary as widely as the artist’s imagination and can utilize many materials. Here are some examples of Native American bolo tie slides.

A lovely Navajo bolo slide made from sterling silver, coral and turquoise with leaves, flowers, rope work and other design elements.

A unique western spur bolo slide made by Navajo artist TK Emerson from sterling silver and beautiful turquoise stones.

A Zuni inlay bolo slide by Simplicio. The horse head is made from mother of pearl and jet. Two turquoise nuggets add a color accent.


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