Dragonfly and the Isleta Cross

About the Isleta Cross

Also called the Pueblo Cross, the Isleta Cross is a very old Pueblo design associated with the Isleta Pueblo. The double-bar cross design is said to have originated with the Moors and Spaniards.

To the Pueblo Indians the double-bar cross was very similar to the dragonfly symbol of their culture, so many Puebloans incorporated the Isleta cross in their jewelry. By the early twentieth century, Pueblo artisans made elegant necklaces with a large central cross as a pendant and smaller crosses along the sides interspersed with beads.

Many crosses of Spanish and Mexican origin as well as Isleta crosses have a heart or a partial heart at the bottom. This is sometime referred to as the “bleeding heart”. In the Catholic Church, the Sacred Heart (the pierced and bleeding heart) alludes to the manner of Jesus’ death and represents Christ’s goodness and charity through his wounds and ultimate sacrifice. However it has been said that the reason the Puebloans put a heart on the bottom of their crosses was for other reasons. They felt it represented the big generous heart of the dragonfly who loved the people. Also, the Pueblo women were said to like the crosses with the hearts on the bottom better, so it could have simply been a case of fashion preference.

The Isleta Pueblo is located in central New Mexico, on the east bank of the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque. It is on the same site as when it was discovered in 1540. It was the seat of the Franciscan mission of San Antonio de Isleta from approximately 1621 until the Pueblo revolt of 1680. The Spaniards captured the pueblo in 1681. In the late 1700’s, when Isleta was repopulated with native peoples, it became the mission of San Agustín de Isleta. Tiwa, a Tanoan language, is the tongue of the Isleta Pueblo.

Read more about Pueblo here What does Pueblo mean?

About the Dragonfly

The dragonfly is associated with many Native American tribes but most notably those of the southwest beginning with early HOHOKAM and MIMBRES depictions on pottery. Early Puebloans and many contemporary southwest artists have continued the tradition.

from Heart of the Dragonfly by Allison Bird

Mimbres reproduction Dragonfly AD 1250 Site Mimbres Valley New Mexico


Dragonfly represents rain and its life-giving force, a source of renewal for the land, plants, animals and thus allows human life.

from Landscape of the Spirits: Hohokam Rock Art at South Mountain Park By Todd W. Bostwick, Peter Krocek

1000 year old dragonfly-petroglyph photo by bryan-pfeiffer – click photo to learn more……………


From Rock Art Symbols by Alex Patterson

The dragonfly inspires spiritually and creatively and helps us on the path of discovery and enlightenment.

It spiritually embodies the stripping away all negativity that holds us back, helping us to achieve our dreams and goals.

Dragonfly is the keeper of dreams, the energy within that sees all of our true potential and ability. Dragonfly reminds us that anything is possible.

If you have ever seen a dragonfly’s wings glisten in the sunlight you can see why they have inspired jewelers. And how their intricately colored bodies would lead to works of stone inlay.

It is no wonder that contemporary Zuni, Hopi, Navajo and other southwest silversmiths create many beautiful dragonfly pieces.



Which of these crosses would be suitable for men?

Hi Paula

Are any of the following crosses appropriate for men

Hello JaJa,
It is a matter of personal preference, but from a female perspective – of the ones you ask about this one might be OK for a man.

Size is a big issue, so be sure you look at the dimensions – and know how we will wear it.

If he wants to wear a cross as a choker, such as on a leather thong, he probably wouldn’t want one too big, so something like this is very popular with guys.
NP263-AB-cross-yazzie-ABThis one is a little larger, goes well on a leather cord and also is very manly.
If he want to wear it on a long chain, then it could be much bigger, so here are some ideas.

It really is a matter of size and personal taste – be sure to get out a ruler so you know what size would be best.

To view our full list of article or to ask a jewelry question, follow the instructions here
http://www.horsekeeping.com/native-american-jewelry-artifacts.htmIf you are selling your jewelry, read this
http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn-buying.htmVisit our pawn shop for your research and shopping


What is the gold and black on my Sterling Silver Singer cross?


I just received the beautiful Tom Singer cross. But I do have a question
about the cross. It is stated to be sterling but the front surface is copper
colored. Can you explain the process used to make it that way?


NPC602-AB-rsinger-B-1Hi Len,

The cross is solid sterling silver and Tommy Singer (and his son Richard whose crosses I am using to illustrate this article) oxidizes part of it (the black areas) for accent and puts a layer of 12 K gold on other parts of the design. This is called gold filled.

You can read about Gold Filled here


Beautiful cross !!!


Hand Stamped Native American Cross Wanted

Hi Paula,

The cross in the attached photo was bought in New Mexico somewhere between Zuni & Navajo reservations – It was about 2.25 -2.5” in length – my husband lost his over the summer and we are trying to find another just like it – Can you help?

Thank you!  Denise

Hi Denise,

I have one very similar made by Francis Begay – it has a clear turquoise cabochon in the center. It is 2 1/2″ long including the fixed bail.

Hope this helps as I know how it is to lose a favorite piece of jewelry – often it is difficult to impossible to replace exactly  – especially when the piece was hand made.

We have found that one year we might purchase a certain pendant from an artist and when we want more the next year, he or she has moved onto different things and isn’t “set up” to make those any more. Navajo artists, especially, are quite inventive and always changing the items they make to suit themselves, the availability of materials and the market.

Best of luck,



Horace Iule and his Zuni Cross Legacy

Horace Iule (1901-1978) was a Zuni artist who made a wide variety of sterling silver and stone pieces, most notably traditional Zuni crosses.

Horace worked with his wife Lupe Iule, who was from San Felipe Pueblo. They were married in 1933, and had six children: Ruby, Lupe, Cecilia, Robert, Barney, and Phillip. Cecilia continues in her fathers tradition with the crosses.

Cecilia creates her crosses from tiny to huge and uses coral, turquoise, and other gem stones.

Vintage Malachite and Opal Cross by Cecilia Iule, Zuni

Horace Iule was taught silversmithing by his father. He made sand-cast items and then embellished them with hammering and die stamping. His children use some of his original casting equipment to continue the Iule cross legacy.


Native American Pendants – Cross or Crucifix?

I’m an old Catholic (don’t get me started) and during my childhood, Catholics wore crucifixes. Now it seems crosses are more the norm? Do you have any information on that? Jeanette

I’m no expert Jeanette, but here is some general information and an opinion.

Native American Crosses

Native American Crosses

A crucifix is a cross with a corpus (body) on it – the body of Jesus Christ – and is a symbol mostly used by the Catholic Church.

A cross has no body on it.

There are many types of crosses.

One of the types is the Christian Cross which is a symbol of Christianity in general, not specific to any one Christian religion. It shows belief in and devotion to Jesus Christ, Christ or God.

The cross can symbolize so many specific things to so many people, but the recent popularity of the symbol in jewelry seems to be a declaration and celebration of Christianity.

Gold and Silver Cross by Navajo artist Richard Singer

Gold and Silver Cross by Navajo artist Richard Singer

Navajo and Zuni Crosses from Tiny to Huge

One person’s “large” is another person’s “small” and vice versa. I’ve learned that size is very relative.

I’ve had people contact us looking for a small Native American cross pendant and they mean 2-3″ tall and the next person that wants a small cross means 1/2″ tall.

So I’ve reorganized all of our crosses into size categories. The fabulous webmaster here put all of the photos in scale so now you can see how the crosses relate to each other in terms of size.

Just to keep life simple, I went with

Small – under 2 ” tall

Medium – 2 – 3 ” tall

Large – over 3″ tall (and several are over 5″ tall !!)

The height of crosses like all other pendants is measured from the top of the bail to the bottom of the pendant. Some pendants have very large bails so that will add substantially to the overall length but since the bail plus the pendant results in the total drop length (where it will hang on you !), the bail is included as part of the total height.

Here are a few pics in scale to give you an idea of what I am talking about.

Small Zuni and Navajo Sterling Silver Crosses

Small Zuni and Navajo Sterling Silver Crosses

Medium Zuni and Navajo Sterling Silver Crosses

Medium Zuni and Navajo Sterling Silver Crosses

Large Zuni and Navajo Sterling Silver Crosses

Large Zuni and Navajo Sterling Silver Crosses