Book Look: Southwestern Indian Rings by Paula A. Baxter

Like Paula Baxter states in her Dedication, I never feel “fully dressed without wearing at least one Navajo or Pueblo ring.”

In my case, sometimes I just have to wear more !  Being a Native American ring aficionado, I found this book an interesting reference.

In over 350 color photographs (taken by her husband Barry Katzen), Paula shows historic and contemporary rings made by Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Santo Domingo artists and more.  The photos here in my article are not from Paula Baxter’s book – they are photos of my personal rings and some from the store where I work.

Unmarked vintage turquoise – likely Navajo





Coral by Rose Castillo Draper, Navajo



Larry Pooyouma, Hopi

Sidney Sekakuku Jr. – Hopi

Richard and Geneva Terrazas, Zuni

Morris and Sadie Laahte, Zuni






















Contents of the Book

The Design and Appeal of Southwestern Indian Rings

Materials and Methods of Ring Construction

Historical Rings: Pre-Contact to 1930

Vintage Rings, 1930-1979: The Age of Experimentation

Master Innovator

Artistic Adornment: 1980 to Present

It is in the Master Innovator section that she shows and discusses work by Dan Simplicio, Fred Peshlakai, Lee Yazzie, Charles Loloma, Jesse Monongya, Kenneth Begay and others.

Contemporary artists include Sonwai and Arland Ben to mention just a few.

Besides displaying rings in the customary silver and turquoise, there are a number of rings showing other materials including variscite, pink coral, sugilite, petrified wood, ironwood, fossilized ivory, opal, jade, azurite, fire agate as well as many other agates, jasper, tortoise shell and more.


White Buffalo Stone by Freddy Charley









Mother of Pearl by Rose Castillo Draper, Navajo

Lapis by Navajo Bennie Ration


Natural Royston Turquoise by Navajo Walter Vandever






















Zuni artist Charlotte Dishta makes beautiful blanket pattern inlay

Charlotte Dishta has been making jewelry since the 1980s and is known for her mosaic rug pattern inlays.

Here is a beautiful example of a rug pattern on a vintage NOS (New Old Stock) belt buckle.

She uses the traditional four color materials of Acoma Jet, Turquoise, Mother of Pearl and Coral.

BU126-BG-inlay-dishta-1 BU126-BG-inlay-dishta-5Paula

Black and Silver Bead Necklace – Help Me Identify Please

Hi Paula, a few months about I emailed pics of a necklace I owned and wanted to know if you could tell me something about it.  Hadn’t heard back and thought I would try again.  I can email photos, but the make up of the necklance is silver beads and black beads that seem to not be stone or glass.  They actually seem to be plastic.  The chain is silver along with the Sheild with feathers.  But I don’t see a mark. Thank you for any help you can offer. Eileen

Hi Eileen,

Yeah I usually run about 2 months behind on answering questions, then Christmas came and I got even behinder !

Well it is hard to say for sure from a photo, but as soon as you said plastic, I thought acoma jet because it is very lightweight and sometimes is mistaken for plastic by people who haven’t seen or handled any jet items before.  If the silver is sterling silver, I would bet the black beads are acoma jet.

If the silver is just silver tone metal, then it could be that the black beads are plastic.

The silver beads and end findings do look Native American style. The round beads look like bench made old style necklace beads.

Without seeing it in person or being able to test it for sterling and without any hallmarks, that is about the best I can do !


Native American Jewelry and Carving Materials – Jet


One store owner here in Arizona calls jet a gemstone but I’m almost sure that isn’t correct – can you tell me if I am right or not?

Thanx, Jess

Hi Jess,

Good question ! Here’s my official answer.

Jet also known as Acoma Jet

Jet is an organic fossil – a solid, durable type of lignite coal that originated from wood.

Raw Jet

The term coal means the fossilized remains of ancient organic matter that ranges from bog materials to peat to wood. Jet, however, is the fossilized remains of araucaria (coniferous evergreen) wood specifically.

Therefore jet is not a stone or a mineral. It is fossilized wood.

You’d think jet is black……as in jet black……but actually it is very very dark brown but it appears black.

It is mined around the Acoma Pueblo region of New Mexico, among other places, thus the name Acoma Jet, or Jet for short.

Polished Jet

It can be highly polished. Therefore, it is very popular for carving fetishes. Here are some examples of Zuni Fetish carvings from jet.

Jet  is also used for inlaying but not usually used in large pieces for stone sets – if you see large black “stones”, they are usually black onyx.
Here are some examples of Zuni inlay pieces using jet.