Zuni Artist Don Dewa

Zuni artist Don Dewa has been actively making his spectacular inlay jewelry since the 1970s.

He has used several hallmarks:
DON DEWA CUSTOM MADE JEWELRY ZUNI NM STERLING with a sunface (see example below)


When he he collaborates with his wife, Velma E. Dewa, they sign D & V DEWA

He is noted for his beautiful inlay and most notably his spinner bracelets. A spinner, in this case, is a rotating sunface that has different inlay on each side.  See the photos.

Don Dewa spinner pendant

Don Dewa spinner bracelet

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Click to see a spinner bracelet by Don Dewa


From American Indian Jewelry by Gregory Schaaf


Native American Pin Vest

In days gone by, small to medium pins were commonly worn on blazer lapels, sweaters, coats, jackets, scarves. clutch purses and hats…………pins were a fashion staple.

See the slide show below for samples of classic Navajo pins.

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A brooch is a large decorative piece of jewelry pinned to a sweater or dress to complete and outfit and make a bold statement. Large grandmother pins can be thought of as a brooch.


Native American artists have made many styles of pins over the years and continue to do so today.  They range in size from tie tacks and hat pins all the way up to large petit point pins and employ all types of animals, symbols and designs.

See the slide show below for samples of Zuni, Hopi and Navajo symbols.

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Although I have written about ways to use pins in previous blog posts, truth be told, I rarely use pins unless it is as a pendant, using a pin-to-pendant converter.

See these articles:

Pins Make a Comeback

Native American Pins 

Native American Pins Beautify Handbags

Like many Native American jewelry aficionados, I have accumulated quite a few pins and rather than just look at them in a drawer or box, I decided to use a denim vest to display some of them.

See the slide show below for examples of animal pins.

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Butterfly pins are popular by both Zuni and Navajo artists.

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Cluster and grandmother pins are made by both Zuni and Navajo artists.

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Zia Pueblo – Zia Sun Symbol – New Mexico State Flag Borrows Symbol

The Zia Pueblo north of Albuquerque, New Mexico is part of the larger Pueblo community of southwest Native Americans. The Zia Pueblo has been occupied continuously since 1250 AD. The Zias are noted for their pottery and their use of the sacred sun symbol.

Traditionally a circle with rays pointing in the four directions, the Zia symbol is painted on pottery and drawn in the ground for various ceremonial purposes.


Four is sacred to the Zia and represents a variety of natural forces:

The four directions

The four seasons

The four phases of the day – sunrise, noon, evening and midnight

The four phases of life – childhood, youth, adulthood and old age

The four sacred obligations – to develop a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit and a devotion to the well being of ones people.

The Zia Pueblo has its own flag


The Zia symbol is also used on the New Mexico state flag, highway markers, and as design elements in state buildings. You might have seen the symbol as a design on a tee shirt or a coffee cup or a pendant and thought “Oh, yeah, the state symbol of New Mexico”. Well, I’m not sure New Mexico ever got permission to use the ancient Zia Pueblo symbol, but that’s another story. I do want you to know that the symbol originated long before there was a state of New Mexico and its flag.

newmexicoflagpicture1You’ll also see the Zia symbol used by southwest Native American artists in all types of jewelry, with and without a sunface at the center. Here is a key ring with an inlaid Zia sunface symbol.


Wide Sterling Silver Navajo or Hopi Overlay Cuff with T Hallmark

Hi Paula

I’m curious about the mark in a 2″ widest, cuff bracelet that appears to be overlay work.  Inside, the mark looks like a capital “T” with the word sterling printed under the mark.  The top center design is sunface and there are two bear claw designs, one on each side.  It measures 6 1/2″ around, from edge to edge.

I was not able to photograph the mark on the inside as it is not in the middle but near one end of the bracelet — it is a capital “T” with the word “sterling” underneath.  I believe it was bought in either Santa Fe or Taos about 25 years ago. Thanks for any info you can give me.

Thank you,  Penny

Hi Penny,

Your nice heavy overlay bracelet has a sunface and what the artists we talk to usually call badger paws although they say that the buying public would rather think of them as bear paws, so that’s OK with them too ! We’ve heard the stylized depiction such as on your bracelet referred to both ways.

According to Hallmarks of the Southwest by Barton Wright, the hallmark T has been attributed to Navajo artist Tommy Singer. Early on he used the T, TS and and variations of a T often accompanied by a quarter moon or bird form.

His more recent hallmarks are

T. Singer


Hallmark T. Singer

Since you said this was originally purchased 25 years ago, it is possible it is some of Tommy Singer’s earlier work, however without seeing the piece in person or seeing the hallmark it is hard to say positively.

Tommy Singer is more noted for chip inlay and storyteller pieces such as the examples that I have used here. I personally have not seen simple overlay like this by him, although I have seen such bracelets by a number of both Navajo and Hopi artists.

It is possible that this could be a Hopi bracelet or a Hopi style bracelet made by a Navajo artist that used the T hallmark. If you can send me a photo of the hallmark, maybe I can see something distinctive about the hallmark. Also a closeup of one of the paws, would allow me to see the black oxidation background better to see if it is textured or a flat wash. When I zoom in on the photos you sent, the dark background appears to be a flat wash, more typical of Navajo made Hopi style overlay.

Below, for example is a Hopi style overlay bracelet made by a Navajo artist. It had simple, clean lines, no decorative stamping or embellishments. The black background was a wash, not texturized. It was sent to us as a Hopi bracelet and from the photos sent to us, it could have been, but as soon as it arrived it was clearly Navajo made and by an artist we were familiar with. So making positive determinations strictly from photos is difficult. If you click on this bracelet photo you can see more specs about it in terms of size and weight. We received and sold this bracelet a few years ago in our pawn shop.

So the jury is still out, but here is some more info on Tommy Singer and Overlay.

Who is Tommy Singer?

Known world wide for his silver work, chip inlay and necklaces, Tommy Singer pieces are highly collectible and sought after. The Tommy Singer family has been involved in silversmithing, stone and beadwork for a very long time, handing the art down from one generation to another. Tommy Singer grew up on in the community of Dilcon on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and has been attributed as the first Native American artist to use chip inlay. This is where a silver piece is decorated with turquoise or coral chips.

What is Overlay?

Overlay pieces are made of two layers. The bottom layer is a solid sterling silver piece. The top layer has a cutout design. The cutout is placed over the bottom layer and the two pieces are “sweated” together, that is heated so that they become one. The bottom layer (background to the cutout) is usually accented. The Navajo silversmiths oxidize the bottom layer which darkens it. Hopi silversmiths typically oxidize and etch the background (texturize it) with hashmarks.

Native American Terms – Fetish, Totem, Amulet, Talisman

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

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:


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.


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).


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.


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.


Native American Hopi Overlay Symbols – Thanksgiving

Many Hopi symbols relate to nature. They depict plants, animals, feathers, land and rock formations, and weather…….including whirlwinds and especially clouds and rain which are so precious to the southwest cultures.

In addition, many Hopi designs are abstract. The beautiful Hopi necklace below shows a mixture of discernible symbols and abstract designs. What do you see? I’ll suggest what I see below.

Hopi Overlay Necklace

In the center of the above necklace is a large sunface which is a symbol of warmth and growth. When a sunface looks mask-like such as the one in this necklace, it is a sunface kachina – see the sunface kachina (shown below).

The head and headress of a Hopi Sunface Kachina

The next recognizable symbols on the two discs above the sunface are a corn plant in the middle, a hogan on the top, and a turkey across from one side to the other with his head on one side and his spread out fan tail on the other.

Turkey, also called Earth Eagle, is an important food source to the Pueblos and is mentioned in several Tewa Pueblo stories. Its feathers have many ritual uses. There is a Turkey Clan in one of the Hopi Phratries.

From Ancestral Art: In addition to hunting wild game, the Hopi raised domesticated turkeys. Given the number of turkey remains discovered, they must have been a food staple.

Turkey remains were found at Kokopnyama, an old Hopi ruin. Read more about the excavations here.

There are eleven bird kachinas for the chicken, duck, eagle, hummingbird, kit, mockingbird, owl, red-tailed hawk, roadrunner, snipe, and turkey. The turkey kachina uses turkey feathers to form a fan-shaped crest representing the spread tail of the male turkey.

In the six medallions above the turkey medallions, I think all or most are either landscape formations, stylized weather or abstract art. What do you think?

I’ve done some research on this piece found one like it on page 19 of “Indian Jewelry on the Market” Peter N. Schiffer, 1996 that says “A magnificent Hopi necklace with nine medallions. Klines Gallery $1200


The sterling silver medallions are beautiful and tell a unique story and are strung on a double set of sterling silver beads. Let me know what you see in this piece.

I can’t wait for Thanksgiving because I LOVE TURKEY (…and dressing) !!