Glittering World – Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family by Lois Sherr Dubin

The breathtaking, large and very detailed photographs is this coffee table style book make you feel like you are almost holding the jewelry. The sumptuous pieces are captivating. I’ve spent hours paging back and forth through the beautiful work, drooling over the buckles.

 

9 3/4″ x 9 3/4″
Hardbound with dust jacket
272 pages
Full color

There are many outstanding Yazzie jewelers. Because the subtitle uses the phrase “Yazzie Family” I expected more Yazzie artists to be included. However, this book mainly focuses on the life and work of brothers Lee and Raymond Yazzie. There is a good deal of text about the family, design, techniques and materials.

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It devotes a few pages to the Yazzie Sisters who make a variety of necklaces and bracelets and sterling silver Navajo Pearl necklaces.

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This 1970s Lee Yazzie buckle is part of my personal collection.

 

2014
National Museum of the American Indian
Smithsonian Institution

Glittering World
Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family
by Lois Sherr Dubin

Paula

Kokopelli

Kokopelli is based on the Hopi word KOKOPILAU  KOKO = WOOD   PILAU = HUMP
The kokopelli, flute player, often associated with the Hopi Flute Clan is the symbol of happiness, joy and universal fertility: humans, crops, domestic and wild animals. He is often a part of rituals related to marriage, conception and birth and has been a part of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples since Hohokam times (AD 750  – 850). The Kokopelli is a presence in Hopi legends and can appear in in ceremonies as a kachina (katsina). See the slide show below for examples.

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Kachinas, supernatural spirit beings, are called “katsina” by the Hopi and “Koko” by the Zuni (which means “raw people”). Kachinas are associated with rain and other good things such as longevity, strength and good fortune. Kachinas serve as an intermediary between the people and the gods to bring blessings to the entire universe.

Today depicted as a non-gender figure, kokopelli was traditionally a male figure, often well endowed until the missionaries discouraged such depiction ! Tales include the kokopelli visiting and by morning, all of the young women were pregnant.

Here is an excerpt from North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment by Lois Dubin

The kokopelli might be simple or have various adornments. It most always is holding and playing a flute, which announces his arrival and is suggested to represent rain, precious to the southwest. His legs are dancing in time to his own music. Sometimes kokopelli is depicted with feathers or a headdress protruding on the top of his head. In a few instances (mostly rock art) he has been depicted with a stick or bow.  He is most always shown in profile.

Milton Howard, Hopi

Kokopelli talks to the wind and the sky. His flute can be heard in the spring breeze, bringing warmth after the winter cold. He is the symbolic seed bringer and water sprinkler. His religious or supernatural power for fertility is meant to invoke rain as well as impregnate women both physically and mentally. He is also associated with fertility of wild animals.

From a Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest by Alex Patterson

The humpbacked kokopelli image is found from Casa Grande, Mexico to the Hopi and Rio Grande Pueblos and then westward to the Californian deserts in prehistoric rock, effigy figures, pottery, and on kiva walls.  Some say the reason he has a hump or is bent over is that he was carrying a heavy sack, perhaps full of seeds or some say with an unborn child he is going to deliver.

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Anasazi, Hohokam and Mibres peoples used the symbol on their pottery. Today many southwest Native Americans use the symbol on their pottery.

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Many Native American tribes use the kokopelli symbol. Here are some samples of its usage by Hopi, Zuni, Navajo and Oglala Lakota artists. Click the photos for more information.

Hopi Overlay Kokopelli Belt Buckle by Steven Sockyma

Hopi Overlay Kokopelli Belt Buckle by Steven Sockyma

Oglala Lakota Catlinite (pipestone) pendants

Navajo Overlay Kokopelli Ring by Calvin Peterson

Navajo Overlay Kokopelli Ring by Calvin Peterson

 

Navajo Sterling Silver Kokopelli Pin Pendant by Robert Vandever

Navajo Sterling Silver Kokopelli Pin Pendant by Robert Vandever

You may have heard of Ledger Art, where Plains Indians used the materials at hand, such as old ledger paper from forts and missions, on which to paint and draw. Well, this is Cigar Box Art, a creative repurposing of vintage cigar boxes by Lakota artist Alan Monroe.This box has a large capacity so will hold quite a few treasures or a good amount of sage and other smudging supplies.

Navajo Kokopelli Inlay Pendant

Navajo Kokopelli Inlay Pendant

Zuni Horse Fetish with Kokopelli petroglyphs by Tyrone Poncho

Zuni Horse Fetish with Kokopelli petroglyphs by Tyrone Poncho

 

Hopi Kokopelli Overlay Belt Buckle by Joe Josytewa

Hopi Kokopelli Overlay Belt Buckle by Joe Josytewa

This article is meant to round up the various interpretations of kokopelli, not serve as a definitive tome on the subject.

Paula

Repousse

What is repousse?

A method of embossing metal by stamping and hammering a design from the back to produce a three-dimensional bas-relief surface on the front.

Here is an excerpt from Indian Jewelry Making by Oscar T. Branson that shows the process.

Below are some examples of the repousse technique used by Native American jewelers.

One of the most classic uses of the repousse techniques is on ketohs (bowguards).

Ketoh (bowguard) by Navajo artist Daniel Martinez

View the slide show for other uses of repousse on ketohs. (Read more about ketohs on my previous post.)

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Sterling Silver Repousse Buckle by Floyd Arviso

Sterling Silver Repousse Cross by Robert Joe, Navajo

Orange Spiny Oyster and Satin Finish Sterling bumble bee pin by Tim Yazzie

    

A vintage NOS (New Old Stock) pin marked AP Sterling

The technique was used by Bell Trader’s craftsmen in the Fred Harvey era such as this copper cuff bracelet.

Read more about the Fred Harvey era in my previous post.


View the slide show below to see examples of Navajo barrettes that feature repousse designs.

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Paula

Book Look: Indian Silverwork of the Southwest, Illustrated Volume One Harry P. Mera

This book, written by the late Dr. Harry P. Mera (1875-1951) illustrates the features of silverwork in the southwest from its inception to the late 1930s.

Except for a very few pages, most of the 122 pages have two black and white photos, some of which are group photos so many items are pictured. Here is the table of contents:

Some examples of the pages follow. Click on the photos to find similar pieces in our store.

Paula

Devil Dancer Set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

This rare, museum quality 3 dimensional inlay set was part of a private collection. It was made by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley.

The 7 piece set includes:

a concho belt comprised of a buckle and 8 conchos

a man’s bracelet

a man’s ring

a woman’s bracelet

a woman’s pendant

2 women’s rings

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Excerpt from page 252 in American Indian Jewelry III M-Z by Gregory Schaaf.

Sterling Silver – Rare, One of a Kind
Museum Quality Apache Devil Dancer Set
by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley 

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Rare, One of a Kind, Museum Quality Apache Devil Dancer Set
by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

This 7-piece three dimensional figural overlay/inlay set includes:
– 
one concho belt
– 2-piece man’s set: bracelet and ring
– 
4-piece woman’s set: bracelet, pendant, and two rings
– certificates of authenticity
– materials include Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, mother of pearl, jet, coral, and sterling silver

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Post card titled
“Devil Dance of the Apache Indians from the 1930’s”

Concho Belt

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Conchos are currently on a double leather belt that is 1 5/8″ wide and 38″ long from buckle to end of leather. Holes are punched at 34″ to 36″.   526 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Buckle is 3″ x 2 5/8″.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Notice the 3-dimensional quality of the stone inlay and overlay on all pieces.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Each concho has a copper belt loop.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Holes are punched at 34″ to 36′

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Certificate of Authenticity for concho belt.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Eight conchos are 2″ x 2 1/4″.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

4-Piece Woman’s Set
b
racelet, pendant, and two rings

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet, pendant and two rings.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet is 6 1/4″ total inside circumference, this includes the 1″ gap.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet 3 1/8″ tall at front, 11/16″ at ends.
105 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

This four-wire bracelet design is traditional Navajo and Zuni bracelet form that is open and airy allowing for ventilation and making the bracelet more comfortable to wear in hot and humid weather. Read more . . .

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Certificates for woman’s bracelet, pendant and two rings.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Pendant 2 3/4″ x 2″, 32 grams.
Fixed stamped bail with 1/8″ opening,

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Ring size 9.  2 1/2″ tall x 2″ wide.  36 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Ring size 6,  2 1/8″ tall x 1 3/4″ wide.
25 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

2-Piece Man’s Set
b
racelet, pendant, and two rings

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Man’s bracelet and ring.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet size 8 1/4″.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Bracelet is 3″ tall at the front to 11/16″ at ends.
117 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

 

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Heavy man’s ring size 12 1/4 .

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Ring is 1 3/8″ tall x 1″ wide.  47 grams.

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

This four-wire bracelet design is traditional Navajo and Zuni bracelet form that is open and airy allowing for ventilation and making the bracelet more comfortable to wear in hot and humid weather. Read more . . .

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Authentic Native American rare museum quality sterling silver and stone inlay overlay devil dancer 7-piece set by Navajo artist Ernest Shirley

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise comes from one of the largest turquoise mines in North America located in Gila County, Arizona near the town of Globe. This turquoise is prized for its uniform blue color with little or no matrix that allows the stones to be easily matched and cut. It is the favorite stone of Zuni Pueblo silversmiths for use in petit point, needlepoint and inlay jewelry. Only 4% of the turquoise taken from the mine is left natural. Most is is enhanced or stabilized and sold to large distributors in the USA and Europe. 

If you want to see more information, view the webpage devoted to this set.

Paula

 

What is a “Married” piece of Native American jewelry?

The term “married” is sometimes used in the Native American jewelry trade to refer to a piece that is comprised of work from two or more eras and/or by two or more artists.

It is generally a complimentary term, that is, the piece is still authentic Native American made but it has had modifications.

If the piece loses its authenticity or artistic appeal, instead of calling it a marriage, it might be called a “bastard” or just a plain old “mess”.

Here are some examples of pieces that have had modifications.

This concho belt had a broken belt and lost its buckle somewhere along the way. Each of the conchos is hallmarked BL, artist unknown. I added a similar New Old Stock (NOS) buckle to the belt. The buckle is hallmarked CARSON B STERLING, for Navajo Carson Blackgoat. I added a new leather belt. So this concho belt is now a married piece in that it has vintage conchos made by one silversmith, a buckle by another and a new belt.

“Married” concho belt with vintage conchos by BL, buckle by Carson Blackgoat and new leather.

Adding a complimentary buckle to a buckle-less belt makes a useful marriage

Similarly this repousse concho belt lost its buckle. Because the remaining conchos were with and without stones, I was able to find a vintage buckle by Floyd Arviso that complemented the plain conchos.

Conchos on the belt that needed a buckle

Repousee buckle by Floyd Arviso

 

“Married” repousse concho belt

This next example is not so clear cut. The vintage inlay shell pendant probably lost its necklace which is not hard to imagine since many of the stone necklaces commonly used with such a pendant would be strung on string which could have degraded over time and broken.

So it appears that someone tried to make the pendant useful by drilling several holes and suspending the pendant by wire from a turquoise nugget necklace.

Although the two pieces might be Native American made, the way they are put together seems odd so this is a rocky marriage at best. Still it is a historic pendant and lovely necklace.

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Paula

The Art and Science of Wearing a Concho Belt

In Part One, All About Native American Concho Belts AKA Concha Belts, I covered a little bit about the history and makeup of a Native American concho belt.

Here I am going to talk about how to go about using that great belt you have hanging in the closet.

Men’s or Ladies?

Concho belts are unisex and can be worn with jeans as well as over shirts, blouses and with skirts and dresses.

First I’ll talk about link belts as they are quite simple.

Boulder Turquoise link belt by Platero

Link Concho Belts

Link belts are usually quite adjustable. You would purchase one approximately your waist size plus a few inches. Depending on the style of the belt, you usually can fasten the buckle’s hook on any of the rings between the conchos to get a custom fit. This is especially good if you are going to wear the belt in a variety of ways – over a blouse or shirt or through the belt loop of jeans because you will be able to fit a link belt to its intended use very quickly. Most link belts are narrow enough to fit through the loops of standard jeans. Generally 1 3/4″ wide and less will slide through belt loops.


Sterling Silver link concho belt

Depending on your waist size and the length of the link belt, you will have more or less excess belt hanging down in the front. This can be left hanging straight down or looped. 

Leather Concho Belts

Leather concho belts are traditional and popular. You need to choose a leather belt that is the correct size for the concho’s loops. If the leather strap is too narrow, the conchos will wiggle out of position. If the strap is too wide or thick, it will make it difficult to slide the conchos.

Belt is too narrow

Belt is correct width

Leather Concho belts fasten in one of three ways.

Sterling Silver link concho beltSome leather Concho Belts have a normal buckle with a tongue. With this style buckle, once you find the ideal place to punch the holes for your waist, you can cut off the end of the leather just so it tucks under the first concho as shown in the slide show below.

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Sterling Silver link concho beltOthers leather belt style Concho Belts have a large oval or rectangular “western style belt buckle” with a prong on the back that fits into a hole in the belt. 

For both of these types of belts, using a leather punch, you will need to punch a hole or two in the leather portion of the belt to custom fit the belt to your size waist. If you have a small waist, you might want to cut some of the leather off the end of the belt and slide the conchos closer together. If you have a large waist, you might want to slide the conchos farther apart from each other.

Some leather mounted concho belts have a hook and loop on the end panels such as this one by Dan Jackson.

P1170619 use

Dan Jackson leather concho belt with hook and loop fastener

With a belt like this, you would need to slide the panels closer together or farther apart on the leather belt until the hook and loop connect perfectly for your waist size.

P1170621 use

 The leather belt portion of a leather concho belt is usually extra long and blank (not punched) so that you can custom fit the belt to your size. The conchos can be slid along the leather as desired to position them perfectly for your waist size. You can also remove the conchos and buckle from the leather strip provided and place the conchos on a favorite belt that you already own.

If you are going to wear a concho belt over an untucked shirt or blouse, you would punch a hole to fit your waist and then arrange the conchos evenly spaced around the belt.  To do this, you need two simple tools. A screwdriver and a pair of pliers.

Using the screwdriver, carefully loosen the belt loops on the back, just enough so you can slide the concho into the desired position.

Then to seat it, place a cloth around the concho to protect it and gently squeeze the belt loop with the pliers to a snug fit.

You don’t have to scrunch down real hard because the loops are usually made of copper or silver, both soft metals that bend easily. You are padding the concho so the pliers don’t make any marks on the front side of the concho – or damage any stone or inlay. Be careful when squeezing with the pliers – only enough to get the job done.  Once you have the conchos set, you are ready to wear your belt.

The situation with a belt that will be worn with jeans is a little more complicated because first you want to be sure the conchos will slip through the belt loops.

Generally 1 3/4″ wide and less will slide through belt loops.

 

P1170615 use

A few brands of jeans have larger belt loops, I have found that Seven7 Skinny Jeans accept concho belts up to 2 1/4″ wide !

 

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Also, you will want to space the conchos so that they work in harmony with the belt loops. Here for example is one arrangement for a belt that has a buckle plus 11 conchos.

Front view

 

Back view

If you have to put your conchos and buckle on a new leather strap, simply loosen the loops and slip off the conchos. Most buckles are attached using  a 3 hole tie with lace as shown in the slide show below. It is the same tie you use to fasten a latigo to a western saddle.

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I love to wear concho belts and hope these two articles get you motivated to use yours !

Paula