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.

Navajo Turquoise and Sterling Silver Belt Buckle Hallmarked EM

Hi Paula

I have attached some images of the belt buckle.  I would like to know who made the buckle – it has a marking of “EM” on the back.  Also, I would like to know an estimate of its age.  Thanks for your help!

Ryan

Hi Ryan,

Using the penny in your other photo as scale, it looks like this buckle is about 4″ x 4″, so what a nice chunk of beautiful turquoise that is !

Judging from the style and nice stone and the hallmark, I’d guess this is a 1970s Navajo made belt buckle.

I don’t know who EM is but we have had once piece with that hallmark in our pawn shop. I was unable to identify EM at that time and still don’t know !

Perhaps one of the readers of this blog might know.

Good treasure Ryan.

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Is this Native American Concha Belt bought in 1976 from an Arizona Pawn Shop an Early Tommy Singer piece?

Hello Paula,

I just found your site & it is fascinating. I’ve been trying to do some research for my mother-in-law on a belt she has. In 1976, she purchased a concha belt from a pawn shop in Arizona. They had had the belt in their safe for about three years, the person who pawned it never came back for it. At the time she was told that it was a Tommy Singer piece. I have been in touch with a gallery that does business with Tommy Singer and he says that he doesn’t recognize the belt. I sent them photos. I have had little to no luck in finding out who the artist is going by the hallmark on the back of the buckle, a deeply stamped capitol “T”. There is also a fainter capitol “A” a little ways away. It is a beautiful piece, swooping birds (swallows, or maybe water birds?) on the buckle and each concha, inlaid with
turquoise and red coral chips. We were just wondering how else to discover who the artist is, since it is not who she was told it is, so that she has some knowledge about it when/if she decides to sell it. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks, Karyn

Hi Karyn,

The chip inlay figures on the belt are peyote birds or water birds. Some call it one – some the other. Here is an article on that figure. Peyote Bird, Water Bird

From what I can see in your photo of the back of the belt buckle, as you say the prominent hallmark is a T and there is a faint A that seems to be separate. Also engraved on the back with what the Navajo artists call an “electric pencil” is what looks like “T 28306 Colo”.  There might possibly be one more number after the 6 but nevertheless, I don’t know what that number stands for as it doesn’t seem like it could be a date. Colo certainly could indicate Colorado yet I’m not sure what that would indicate.

Tommy Singer has used several hallmarks over the years, the earlier one being variations on a T. Sometimes the variation is a peaked figure that looks something like an A. If I could see that portion more clearly on your buckle, that might help.

Tommy Singer’s contemporary hallmarks are gothic caps:

THOMAS SINGER

T. SINGER

There is a TA hallmark attributed to Thomas Atsitty first used as chisel cut in 1974, later as gothic letter as on your buckle. I’m not saying this is by Thomas Atsitty, because the two letters are so far apart on your belt buckle……..yet that is the only other lead I have at this point.

It is too bad that Tommy Singer told the gallery you contacted that he doesn’t recognize the piece as his because as soon as I saw it, I thought it very well could have been a Tommy Singer piece.

I’m posting this in case other readers might shed some light on this.

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Unique Native American Belt Buckle – MT hallmark

Hi Paula,

I was given a very unique turquoise, coral and – not sure what the large center stone is (have been told different things including petrified wood) belt buckle years ago.  The shape and silver work are highly unusual.  The hallmark on the back is MT with something after the T that looks like a small crescent.  Can I send a photo of front and back?  Would love to identify artist!

Thanks,  Annie

Hi Annie,

That is a very unique buckle ! If it is stone, I’m thinking a jasper, perhaps picture jasper, but that’s just a guess.

I know of several MT hallmarks, and two have a rocker UNDER the MT but I don’t know of any with a crescent or rocker off to the side.

I thought I’d post this in case another reader might have some ideas.

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Native American Hallmark Query – Belt Buckle – Wero?

Dear Paula,

I have several pieces of Native American southwest Santa Fe, New Mexico sterling & gold turquoise  jewelry by the same artist. Purchased over 20 years ago and I have been searching for a name to go with the jewelry. It is just gorgeous and very detailed, BUT to no avail.

Would like to send photos of the artistic logo. Do you think this could be an early piece by F. Wero?

Thanks for your help ahead of time.  Elyn

I am not familiar with the hallmarks or the artist you suggest.

I’m posting this so that if anyone else can help you, they can add a comment to the end of this post. And Elyn, if you find out any information, I’d appreciate it if you would add it as a comment at the end of the post also.

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Native American Belt Buckles – Fitting Width of Belt

Dear Friends

Could you please let me know if you have buckles to fit a 2 inch wide belt?

Many Thanks

Karl from London, UK

Hi Karl,

That’s a good question and there are several points that will help you find the perfect fit for your belt and adapt if you have a belt or buckle you absolutely love but there’s a width issue.

First of all, most Native American artists purchase standard buckle back and peg kits. While the buckles themselves are usually made of Sterling Silver, the buckle back kits are made from nickel silver. “Nickel Silver” or “German Silver” has no silver in it at all. It does have a silver color to it but no silver. It is made of an alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel.

Buckle backs are available in 1/2″ increments from 1/2″ to 2″ BUT a 2″ buckle back really only will accommodate a 1 3/4″ belt because of the room that is taken up by the hinges.

Buckle Back and Peg Kits

So unless a particular artist hand makes buckle backs, the vast majority of Native American made buckles would fit belts up to 1 3/4″. It is not uncommon for a belt to be listed as “fits 2″ belt”  because the seller measures the buckle back on the outside or even the inside up at the top. But when you measure between the hinges you will come up with a smaller dimension. Several years ago we tested the buckles on our own belts and saw that a 1 3/4″ buckle back measures closer to 1 1/2″  between the hinges, so really only will accept a 1 1/2″ belt.

That’s why we report the actual width between the hinges.

But there can be a similar discrepancy with belts too. For example, we custom ordered belts last year for ourselves asking for 1 3/4″ and the belts came in at 1 5/8″ and we were told that was pretty normal. So we started measuring belts and found that the actual width is often 1/16″ to 1/4″ narrower than the described width.

With that said, let’s say you bought a big buckle like this one

LARGE belt buckle

It is a whopping 4″ x 2 3/4″. But let’s say the seller didn’t specify what size belt it would fit. When you received it, you found that it only accommodated a 1 1/4″ belt !! Yikes !!

SMALL buckle back

You were expecting to be able to use it with your 2″ wide belt.

Well here are some adaptations you can consider. You can taper (or have a leathersmith do this for you) the end of your belt where it attaches to the buckle from 2″ to 1 1/2″ so it will fit the narrower buckle back. That takes care of one end of the belt.

To adapt the other end, you can change the way you buckle your belt. The normal way is to pass the tail of the belt through the buckle back.

Normal way of buckling - passing the tail of the belt through the buckle back.

Normally buckled belt

Instead, pass the tail end behind the rest of the belt – that is, closer to the waistband of your jeans. That way, the tail of the belt can be wider than the buckle back because it does not pass through it.

 

Passing the tail end of the belt BEHIND the rest of the belt.

 

Alternative way to buckle

Because buckle backs are hinged, when you use this alternative method, you can fold the hinge down which will lower the profile of the buckle and help to lock the belt in its fastened position.

I hope this has helped. Whenever purchasing a belt, it is good to double check on the width of both your belt and the width between the hinges of the belt back.  Best of luck.


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Belt Buckle Wanted – Native American

Hi Paula,
Can you folks create this buckle for me without the stones?
It is 3 5/8 X 3 inch with 1 inch belt center. Let me know of the cost please.
Here is the shape. Thanks, Terry
Wanted: Custom Made Belt Buckle

Wanted: Custom Made Belt Buckle

Hi Terry,

We don’t make any of the items here. We sell items made by Native American artists and they don’t take special orders. Here are a couple of other posts that talk about why special orders aren’t an option with us.

Bear Paw – Bear Claw Special Order Necklace?

Heishi and Stone Necklaces

The style of buckle you have there is one of the styles that is made for use to finish off a concho belt.. a buckle with a tongue.

Native American Sterling Silver Tongue Buckle

Native American Sterling Silver Tongue Buckle

The other, more common type, is a plate style belt buckle with a post on the back. Here is an example of that type on a concho belt.

Navajo Sterling Silver Concho Belt by Eric Delgarito

Navajo Sterling Silver Storyteller Concho Belt by Eric Delgarito

Here is the closest thing we have to the style and size of buckle you are looking for:

Navajo Sterling Silver and Turquoise Buckle by Wilbert Benally

Navajo Sterling Silver and Turquoise Buckle by Wilbert Benally

As far as where to send you to get that buckle made, I just don’t have a single suggestion. But I am posting this on my blog so if someone does happen to see it and sends me a referral, I’ll be sure to pass it along to you.

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