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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Mid-1950s Squash Blossom Necklace – LAVOI hallmark

Dear Paula –

Thank you for your helpful tips on photographing and presenting the photos for your inspection.  Hope the attached photos are good for viewing and downloading.

 Zuni Squash Blossom Necklace Background

Bought by my dad at J.B. Hudson Jewelers, a high-end store, in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. My mom remembers receiving it “before kids” in the mid-late 1950’s. She thinks there is a photo of her wearing it from that time. She reports that broke it cleaning it, and had it restrung by the same dealer. Looks like a strong “tigertail” cord with silver findings to match.

she does not remember what it orginally was strung on. All the same beads were used in the restringing repair.

Appears to be Sterling Silver, but no stamp indicating that.

Pendant: 5.5 cm in diameter at widest (2 1/4″). Heavy sterling silver for sure. Feels heavy.

Stone: Slightly Irregular Ovoid, Bezel setting, probably Natural Turquoise, mine unknown. Matrix is dark brown/black (pyrite?) with coppery shine in certain light. Some small white flecks throughout.  Size 1.5 cm wide x 1.8 cm long

Each single side of necklace is 28 cm long, not inluding hook and jump ring. Made up of elongated beachs and round beads (melon, seamed?)

 Some signs of wear. Mom didn’t wear it that often.

 Designer hallmark on back – Can’t find a similar one in my research. 

Unknown. Hope you can make it out!

 Though simple and less ornate than others I’ve seen, it it quite striking to me. Like a sculpture in miniature.

 Thank you for your time and expertise.

Sincerely, Martha

Hi Martha ,

Nice job on the photos and very nice necklace !

I have no information on a LAVOI or anything close to that.

I’d say this is a Navajo piece, not Zuni.

The beads appear to be bench-made round and melon beads.

The Naja looks very shiny for 60+ years old – perhaps it has been polished?  Sometimes when someone is preparing a piece like this for sale, the seller is tempted to polish the item but that actually decreases the value. The patina adds to its appeal. To me is seems like the naja pendant now looks quite a different color than the beads. Is that how they look in person?

Usually its best to leave the patina on a vintage item when you are selling and let the new owner decide if they want to leave it as is or polish it.

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Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace – What is its history and meaning?

Many queries from you relate to a squash blossom necklace. Just search that term in the right hand column of this blog and you’ll see the number of posts related to SBNs !!  One reader asked ” What makes it a squash blossom necklace and why are there so many of them?”

Squash, corn and beans are important foods for the Native American people of the US southwest. They are often used in a symbolic way in jewelry and ceremonies.

Some say the Navajo squash blossom necklace has a connection to southwestern agriculture, other say the the spread petal design is just that, a design, and that is was only after white man asked, “what is this, what does it mean” did the name squash blossom come to be. Yet others say the Navajo copied a similar Spanish design of the pomegranate – look at the end of the pomegranate below and compare it to the “squash blossom” bead.

The Navajo word for the “squash blossom” bead means “bead that spreads out” so it would seem to me that the original intent was design not squash. But what do I know, I wasn’t around in 1880 when spread beads first appeared.

Whichever is the true account, it seems that originally Navajo silversmiths used simple silver bead necklaces to suspend their naja pendants.

In about 1880, the tri-petal form that we know as a squash blossom bead appeared.  At first,  tri-petal silver beads were simply interspersed with plain beads in a naja necklace. Then stones began to be added to the blossom beads partly to please the maker but mostly to satisfy customer demand.

While usually associated with Navajo silversmiths, squash blossom necklaces are also made and worn by Pueblo and Zuni people.  Zuni necklaces usually feature needlepoint designs.

Although there can be any number of squash blossoms on each side of a necklace, there are often six on each side, making twelve squash blossoms and one central naja.

Full size squash blossom necklaces are often quite large and heavy and most suitable for occasional ceremonial wear.  Smaller, lighter versions are made to be worn as everyday jewelry.

Miniature Squash Blossom Necklace by Lorena Peina, Zuni

Why are there so many squash blossom necklaces around? Demand. During the Native American jewelry boom of the 1970s, the artists made them as fast as they sold.  They were one of the most popular Native American jewelry purchases of that time.

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Native American Terms – Fetish, Totem, Amulet, Talisman

Paula,
I wondered why in your web store you describe some Indian animal carvings and jewelry pieces as fetishes and others amulets or totems. Are they all the same thing? – Stuart

Stuart,
The terms fetish, amulet, totem and talisman are often used interchangeably to describe an object that provides good fortune and protects from evil. The exact meaning of any of these terms depend on the culture and location in which it is used. Briefly, here is how I see them:

Talisman

Alaskan Thunderbird Talisman by David Audette from Sitka, Alaska

A talisman is an object that is considered to possess supernatural or magical powers and is used especially to avert evils, disease, or death. A talisman is typically engraved or cut with figures or characters, constellations, planets, or other heavenly signs. It is often worn as an amulet or charm. From the Greek word “telein”, which means “to initiate into the mysteries”. The word talisman is often used synonymous with amulet.

Amulet

Turquoise and Sterling Silver Lucky Horseshoe Amulet by Navajo artist Wilbur Muskett Jr.

An amulet is a protecting charm – any object worn to bring good luck and to ward off evil, illness, and harm from supernatural powers and from other people. Amulets are typically carvings, stones (especially with naturally occurring holes), plants (such as sage, 4-leaf clover, shamrock), coins, and jewelry (crosses, horseshoes, gemstones).

Totem

Horse Totem on Horse Spirit Medicine Bag by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

A totem is an object that symbolizes a person’s or a tribe’s animal guide. This could be a totem pole, an emblem or a small figurine or carving. Native American tradition holds that different animal guides come in and out of a person’s life depending on the direction that person is headed and the challenges he faces. A totem animal is the one animal that acts as the main guardian spirit and is with a person for life, both in the physical and spiritual world. Traditionally, it is the totem animal, such as an eagle, wolf, bear, horse or dragonfly, that finds the person, not the other way around.

Fetish

Bear Fetish by Zuni artist Emery Eriacho

A fetish is a sacred object used in religious ceremonies, for spiritual awakening and to communicate with and direct supernatural powers. A fetish can provide protection, promote healing and ensure success in ventures such as hunting or farming. A Native American fetish is most often a carving, usually of an animal, that has some sort of power, and is sometimes decorated with stones, shells, and feathers. A carving without power is merely a carving. A person’s own beliefs determine the difference between a fetish and a carving.

So, whether an object is a talisman, totem, amulet or fetish is up to you. Just as the beauty of an object is in the eye of the beholder, so the power of an object is in the belief of the seer or wearer.

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Navajo Sandcast Squash Blossom Necklace

Hi Paula,

This is one piece of Native American jewelry my parents purchased from a dealer friend in Tampa back in the early 70s. I’ve been searching for days online and can’t find one just like this. I did find out that the marking on the back N.TSO indicates it was made by Nellie Tso, but can’t find out anything about her.

I think it was made for a woman, but could be unisex. It’s 25″ in length (including the traditional clasp). The naja is 2-1/2″ wide and 2-10/16″ long. The blossoms, which I think may be sunflowers and are the unusual part of the necklace, are 1-1/2″ long and are attached to double bead strands. The weight is about 320g.

If you have seen one like this or know anything about the artist. Thanks for any help. Marta C.

Vintage Sandcast Squash Blossom Necklace

Hi Marta,

That is a unique and heavy sandcast……… squash blossom necklace ! I like it – it has a very pretty and unique design. It is hard for me to tell definitely from the photo but it seems to me that those are meant to be squash blossom flowers – if you have ever had a garden, you know what I mean – they are round and look like that.

Here is an example from our pawn shop of that type of squash blossom flower. But note, the example I am providing below is not sandcast like your necklace is – but the flowers are very similar, aren’t they?

Vintage Navajo Squash Blossom Flower on Necklace

Again, a guess from the photo – perhaps the pieces that project from the flowers are intended to be corn plants with corn leaves on each side. It looks like there is some texturing like kernels of corn. Is that so?

Corn, squash and beans are the traditional mainstays of the southwestern diet, culture and symbolism are are used in many ways in art and ceremony.

Corn, Beans and Squash : Pueblo Diet

Nellie Tso, a Navajo, was a silversmith for the Atkinson Trading Company around 1980. She specialized in sand cast watchbands. The hallmark you describe is one of four ways she has used to sign her work.

I hope this has been helpful. Enjoy your beautiful necklace !

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Native American Materials – Spiny Oyster

Spiny Oyster and Turquoise Naja with 3 Strand Necklace

Spiny Oyster and Turquoise Naja with 3 Strand Necklace

Sometimes people describe a Native American piece as having spiny oyster stones – similar to saying erroneously that a piece has “coral stones”.

About Coral

Coral History

Although spiny oyster is is durable, it is not a stone. It is a shell.

Navajo Spiny Oyster Pendant

Navajo Spiny Oyster Pendant

Spiny oyster, not surprisingly, is a shell (spondylus) that is covered with spines. It is found along the Pacific coast of Baja California and Baja Mexico.

Spondylus_princeps

It varies from vibrant red shading into oranges and purples, with definite striations and variation of the colors. Red spiny oyster has been used as a substitute for coral.

 

Santo Domingo Spiny Oyster Necklace

Santo Domingo Spiny Oyster Necklace

 

Santo Domingo Rouge Spiny Oyster Necklace

Santo Domingo Rouge Spiny Oyster Necklace

Right now the orange spiny oyster beads and inlays are hot, hot, hot, so I thought you’d enjoy seeing some of the many variations of this beautiful natural material.

 

Sterling Silver Navajo Spiny Oyster Cross

Sterling Silver Navajo Spiny Oyster Cross

Inlay with spiny oyster can be smooth and sleek or chunky cobblestone. Here is one example of each.

Navajo Sterling Silver Inlay Horse Head

Navajo Sterling Silver Inlay Horse Head

Spiny Oyster Cobblestone Inlay Navajo Bear

Spiny Oyster Cobblestone Inlay Navajo Bear

As if the orange wasn’t beautiful enough, spiny oyster comes in all shades or reds and purples – something for everyone’s taste! Here are a few examples.

Purple Spiny Oyster Treasure Necklace by Navajo Tommy Singer

Purple Spiny Oyster Treasure Necklace by Navajo Tommy Singer

Santo Domingo Red Spiny Oyster Necklace

Santo Domingo Red Spiny Oyster Necklace

Watch our new page where you will see some other beautiful spiny oyster items added later this week.

Native American Symbols – The Naja

Native American Symbol - The Naja

Native American Symbol - The Naja

The Naja has its origin with the Moors in Spain. It is a good luck charm to ward off the evil eye. It was often used on the browband of Moorish Horses. It is thought that it was handed down from the Spanish Moors to Mexico and then to the Navajo Indians. The sterling silver naja pendant shown at above was made by Navajo artist Francis Begay.

The naja is the base of many ornate squash blossom necklaces.