What is a Shadowbox?

Recently a customer ordered a shadowbox item from our store and when she received it, she was shocked saying “but it is hollow, it is not solid !!” We used the term shadowbox in the description and showed all kinds of views revealing the construction but perhaps if  a person has never seen a shadowbox, he or she might not know what they are looking at and what to expect.

Shadowbox Belt Buckle - Wilbur Musket, Navajo

Shadowbox Belt Buckle – Wilbur Musket, Navajo

A common jewelry technique used by Navajo and other Native American silversmiths to add interest and layering to a piece is a shadowbox.

The shadowbox technique consists of a cutout top layer that is usually domed and that is soldered to a solid bottom layer.

Vintage Shadowbox Ring

Vintage Shadowbox Ring

The cutout design on the top can vary from paw prints to kokopelli to blanket designs – limited only by the designer’s imagination.

Shadowbox Bolo Tie with Paw Prints

Shadowbox Bolo Tie with Paw Print Cutouts

The bottom layer might be left bright silver or oxidized to give a dark contrast to the cutout design.

Shadowbox Bracelet by Pauline Benally, Navajo

Shadowbox Bracelet by Pauline Benally, Navajo —-the underlayer has a darkened (oxidized) background for a contrasting accent.

Stones are often set into the shadowbox – some artists let the stones protrude somewhat out of the top of the shadowbox and others use stones that when set are flush with the cutout layer.

Shadowbox ring showing one flush (turquoise) and one protruding (coral) piece

Shadowbox ring showing one flush (turquoise) and one protruding (coral) piece

Paula

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All About Link Bracelets – Native American and Otherwise

A variety of link bracelets

A variety of link bracelets, most Native American made with a few vintage costume jewelry and a few Mexican bracelets.

The traditional southwestern Native American bracelet is a cuff bracelet.

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Vintage 9 Stone Kingman Turquoise and Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet – C.T.E. Sterling. Raymond Etsitty, Navajo

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But a cuff is not for everyone and especially some women, so in response to market demand, along the way, Navajo, Hopi and Zuni artists began making link bracelets.

Link bracelets are a great alternative to cuff bracelet – they are light, loose, airy and have a nice movement and feel to them. They are great for summer.

And if you are like me and want to wear more than one bracelet at a time, link bracelets make a nice addition on the same wrist as a watch, cuff bracelet or bangle bracelet.

Ken and Mary Bill - Navajo

12 K G.F. and Sterling Silver by Ken and Mary Bill – Navajo

Shirley Tso - Navajo

Rhodochrosite, Mother of Pearl and Opal Inlay by Shirley Tso – Navajo

Southwest Native Americans learned the art of silversmithing from plateros, Mexican silversmiths. Therefore I am including some Mexican link bracelets in this group to show various features.

Two Mexican-made bracelets stamped MEXICO 925

Two Mexican-made bracelets stamped MEXICO 925

The first Native American link bracelets started appearing in the Fred Harvey era and were made of copper.

Copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet - Fred Harvey Era but no markings

Copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet – Fred Harvey Era but no markings

Not all link bracelets are created equal. They take a lot of work to put together. Because they are somewhat “mechanical”, i.e. they have moving parts, either they work well or they don’t. That aim of this article is to point out some of the variables so you can choose the perfect link bracelet.

First of all, these are the main styles with materials most commonly used in Native American Link bracelets.

Sterling Silver Stamped Bead Link Bracelet by Navajo Marie Yazzie.

SILVER – Sterling Silver Stamped Bead Link Bracelet by Navajo Marie Yazzie.

 

Larry Lincoln Navajo Sterling Silver and Gold Storyteller Link Bracelet

STORYTELLER – Larry Lincoln, Navajo Sterling Silver and Gold Storyteller Link Bracelet

12 K G.F. and STERLING link bracelet with decorative box latch.

SILVER AND GOLD – 12 K G.F. and STERLING link bracelet with decorative box latch.

Lambert Perry, Navajo sterling silver concha style link bracelet

CONCHA STYLE – Lambert Perry, Navajo sterling silver concha style link bracelet

Rhodochrosite Inlay by Navajo Shirley Tso

INLAY – Rhodochrosite Inlay by Navajo Shirley Tso

Turquoise and Sterling Silver Cluster

STONE – Turquoise and Sterling Silver Cluster

LEATHER – Concha Belt Style by Navajo Danny Martinez

Next, how are the various panels attached to each other?

HINGES

HINGES

RINGS

RINGS

How do the ends fasten?

ADJUSTABLE WITH TOGGLE AND RINGS

ADJUSTABLE WITH TOGGLE AND RINGS – Lambert Perry, Navajo

BOX CLASP WITH TAB INSERT

BOX CLASP WITH TAB INSERT – Alonzo Mariano, Navajo

LOBSTER CLAW CLASP THAT ATTACHES TO RINGS - Navajo Scott Skeets

LOBSTER CLAW CLASP THAT ATTACHES TO RINGS – Navajo Scott Skeets

SPRING RING CLASP - Marie Yazzie, Navajo

SPRING RING CLASP – Marie Yazzie, Navajo

Sister (Scissor) Clasp on vintage copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet

SISTER CLASP – Sister (Scissor) Clasp on vintage copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet

BUCKLE - Concha belt style - Danny Martinez, Navajo

BUCKLE – Concha belt style – Danny Martinez, Navajo

Fold Over Clasp

FOLD OVER CLASP – OPEN on Sterling Silver Marcasite Bracelet stamped 925

Fold Over Clasp closed on Sterling Silver Marcasite Bracelet stamped 925

FOLD OVER CLASP – CLOSED on Sterling Silver Marcasite Bracelet stamped 925

Peg With Keeper

PEG WITH LATCH (KEEPER)

Vintage Topaz link bracelet with hidden latch

HIDDEN – Vintage Topaz link bracelet (from my mother’s jeweler box) with hidden latch

What are some  other features?

Tillie Jon, Navajo Storyteller Overlay Link Bracelet with Safety Chain, Spring Ring Clasp

SAFETY CHAIN WITH SPRING RING CLASP – Tillie Jon, Navajo Storyteller Overlay Link Bracelet with Box Latch and Safety Chain

Stephen Haloo, Zuni Snake Eye Link Bracelet with safety chain and lobster claw clasp

SAFETY CHAIN WITH LOBSTER CLAW CLASP – Stephen Haloo, Zuni Snake Eye Link Bracelet with box latch and safety chain

Lapis Link Bracelet stamped 950 (greater silver content than Sterling) with box latch and safety clasp.

SAFETY LATCH (KEEPER) – Lapis Link Bracelet stamped 950 (greater silver content than Sterling) with box latch and safety clasp (keeper).

Box Latch with Keeper on top edge

SAFETY LATCH – Box Latch with Keeper on top edge

HERE ARE TWO UNIQUE HINGED CUFFS

Yazzie Navajo Link Cuff Bracelet with Amber

HINGED CUFF – Yazzie Navajo Link Cuff Bracelet with Amber

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HINGED LINK CUFF – Jay Boyd Inlay Bracelet

Jay Boyd Hinged Link Cuff Bracelet

HINGED LINK CUFF – Jay Boyd Inlay Bracelet

Remember, you will be putting a link bracelet on with one hand, so choose one that has a fastener you can easily operate.

Although many link bracelets are adjustable, be sure to choose a length that will allow the bracelet to fit like you want – snug in place, loose, or actively moving.

I hope that this article has helped you find the missing link in your jewelry collection !

Paula

 

 

Examining a Tab Necklace – Is it Kewa, Santo Domingo or Other?

This post is designed to describe the process I go through when I am trying to authenticate whether an item is Native American made or not.

Here is a very pretty necklace that may or may not be Native American made. In this particular case, I’m going to say guilty until proven innocent, in other words, not Native American made unless I can find some solid proof that it is.

Paula's Tab Necklace

Paula’s Tab Necklace

But coming to a verdict is harder than one might think because there are far fewer definitive references for Santo Domingo, Kewa and Pueblo stone necklaces than there are for silver and stone jewelry.

Add to that, the fact that very few stone necklaces have hallmarks of any kind. And finally, tab necklaces are much more uncommon than other Native American jewelry. In fact, this is the first of its kind to arrive here.

First of all, what it it? It is a Tab Necklace – the three inlaid pendants suspended from the heishi choker put it in the Tab Necklace category.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause it measures 17 inches, I would categorize it as a choker as opposed to a necklace which is typically 24-32 inches long.

What is it made of?

The very finely turned and graduated heishi is made from brown shell which varies from a deep amber, dark honey to a very dark brown. It reminds me of tortoise shell in its variegation. The only piece I have for reference that I KNOW is tortoise shell is my beloved Chester Mahooty bracelet shown here.

Chester Mahooty inlay bracelet. The two outermost wings are tortoise shell.

Chester Mahooty inlay bracelet. The two outermost wings are tortoise shell.

The heishi is very smooth and expertly produced. Heishi is made by stringing shell or stone, then grinding, sanding and polishing it into smooth edged circles. Each of the heishi discs in this choker are only 1mm thick. The graduation is very well done.

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This choker is strung on string and finished off with sterling silver cones and a hook and eye fastener. The fastener seems hand made. There is sunburst stamping on the cones.

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Now to the tabs. The base is made of a very dark wood. It is possibly iron wood or cocobolo wood which some Navajo artists use in conjunction with their inlay work.

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MK440-AB-sheath-med-yazzie-B1

Cocobolo wood used in conjunction with inlay knife handles by Navajo Doris Yazzie.

Cocobolo

southwest design border669

The inlay on the tabs of my necklace is made with some very interesting turquoise with matrix and a white material that has the hardness of stone. There are no visible pores in the white material and, because of its density, it has been polished to a very smooth surface. It could be ivory, alabaster, stone composite ??

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The channels between the turquoise and cream pieces are baffling since they have a distinct gold cast to them. They could be brass, jeweler’s gold or some variation.

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Each tab has a thinner channel of metal at the bottom position. On the middle tab, that thin channel almost looks like is has leaked something which could be a metal residue or a metallic colored resin or adhesive.

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As far as age, this necklace was probably made at least 15 years ago and it could be much older.

What do authentic Native American Tab Necklaces look like?

I’m including information on early tab necklaces for historical interest, not to suggest the choker I am researching is one.

from Skystone and Silver, Stacey, Santo Domingo Mosaic Necklace

from Skystone and Silver, Stacey, Santo Domingo Mosaic Necklace

Depression era tab necklaces (made beginning in the 1930’s up to the 1960’s) were constructed from various discarded materials such as 78 rpm records, car battery cases, red plastic dinnerware and Dairy Queen spoons.

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Jewelry by Southwest American Indian: Evolving Designs, Schiffer p 122

The backing for the inlay on vintage tab necklaces was usually black – from records or car batteries.

The heishi used was usually quite thick and made from white clam shell.

Fine Indian Jewelry of the Southwest; The Millicent Rogers Museum Collection p149. ca 1940

Fine Indian Jewelry of the Southwest; The Millicent Rogers Museum Collection p149. ca 1940

Most of the examples I have been able to find are necklace length, approximately 26-30″.

Generations, the Helen Cox Kersting Collection, Santo Domingo Tab Necklaces 1940-1059

Generations, the Helen Cox Kersting Collection, Santo Domingo Tab Necklaces 1940-1059

The ends were finished off with either a squaw wrap or with cones and hook and eye closures.

What does all of this mean about MY necklace?

I love it. It is beautiful.

Who made it? I don’t know.

Is it Native American made? Possibly but not likely……………here are the Pros and Cons:

Pros – String, cones and clasp, very fine heishi work, nice turquoise.

Cons – Wood backing for the inlay, undetermined material in the channels of the inlay.

If you have comments please leave them at the bottom of this post.

Be sure to read all of the comments as they come in because that is part of the process of learning about these pieces.

Bottom line. Although this is most probably an imported choker from the 1970’s, it is very well made, pretty and looks great on. So even though not a Native American made necklace, it still is a nice vintage item. It is what it is.

Paula

 

Why is copper used for belt loops, pin backs and more in Native American jewelry?

Copper was the first metal discovered by man and has been used for thousands of years by craftsmen around the world for tools, artifacts and jewelry.

Copper was considered sacred by some Native American cultures and it continued to be used extensively even after the introduction of silver, steel, and metal alloys.

CSB21-symbols-bell-1

Vintage copper bracelet with Native American symbols

Copper was abundant in the Southwest, with Arizona having one of the largest copper deposits in the world. In some areas native copper could be found just laying on the ground without the need to smelt it from ore.

Raw Copper

Raw Copper

Copper’s was and is much less expensive than silver.  Unlike steel and most other metals, copper can be easily shaped without heating.

Soldering or “sweating” is joining two pieces of metal together, using a medium called solder (pronounced “sodder”).  The metals that are being joined might be the same such as copper to copper or sterling silver to sterling silver. That type of soldering is relatively simple for an experienced metal smith.

It is when soldering two different metals together that things can get tricky in terms of the amount of heat necessary and the type of solder required.

Examples of dissimilar metal-to-metal soldering common in Native American jewelry is copper to sterling silver and steel to sterling silver.

Copper Soldered to Sterling Silver

Copper Soldered to Sterling Silver

Copper requires much less heat to solder to sterling silver than it would take to solder steel to sterling silver. Also with copper, there isn’t a specialized solder needed.

That’s why copper is the metal of choice for belt loops on concho belts and is also seen as pin backs, for example, on vintage Native American pins and pin pendants. 

Copper pin soldered to vintage sterling silver pin

Copper pin soldered to vintage sterling silver pin

Sterling silver concho belt with copper belt loops.

Sterling silver concho belt with copper belt loops.

Paula

Native American Ring and Earring Special from now until Valentine’s Day

From now until St. Valentine’s Day, February 14, take advantage of “Paula’s Heart Special”.

Buy any two rings and get a third ring of your choice for free !!

Buy any two pair of earrings and get a third pair for free !!

The free ring or earrings need to be of equal or lesser value than the lowest price item you purchase. For example, if you purchase a $100 ring and and $80 ring, you can have a ring of your choice worth $80 or less for free !!

Here’s how to take advantage of this special offer.

Browse rings in three places: our New Native American rings, our Native American Pawn Shop rings and our Bargain Barn Rings.

Decide which 3 rings you want and place the two highest priced rings in the cart. Don’t add the ring you want for free to the cart. Instead, as you are checking out, in the note section of the order, enter “Paula’s Special” with the item number of the ring you want for free.

By the way, if you are looking at a ring or earring lot, that will count as one item whether your are buying or claiming your free item.

Only rings that have an order button on their page are eligible. If an item says SOLD, it is no longer available.

Here are the 3 ring sections to browse in:

New Native American Rings

New Native American Rings

Native American Pawn Rings

Native American Pawn Rings

Bargain Barn Rings

Bargain Barn Rings

Similarly, you can buy two pair of earrings and choose one pair for free. Single ear cuffs count as one pair whether you are purchasing or requesting for free. Here are the three earrings sections.

New Native American Earrings

New Native American Earrings

Native American Pawn Earrings

Native American Pawn Earrings

Bargain Barn Earrings

Bargain Barn Earrings

Feel free to mix and match between rings and earrings.

I think that’s about it. If you have any questions, be sure to ask ! I answer promptly.

Paula

How to determine the value of your item using eBay SOLD feature

Every day I receive numerous queries asking me “What is my bracelet (concho belt, pendant, squash blossom necklace etc,) worth?”

To get a good idea of the retail market value of a Native American jewelry item, use the eBay SOLD feature. Here is how.

Log onto ebay.com

in the search bar type the description of the item – I’ve typed in “concho belts” for this example

1Click “Search”.

Then when the search shows up, look in the left hand column and under Categories, You’ll see Jewelry and Watches and under that Ethnic, Regional and Tribal. Click that

2Then when THAT search shows up, look again in the left column and click on Native American

3That search shows you all concho belts that are currently for sale that are in the Native American category. But you want to know what has SOLD so look in the upper right hand corner and you’ll see “Advanced”. Click on that.

4You’ll be taken to this page – check the box that says “Sold listings” and then click “Search”

5You have now drilled down to a list of all Native American concho belts that have sold in the last 90 days or so. In this example there are 447. The green price indicates the price the belt sold for. If it is crossed out and it says Best offer accepted, that means the seller accepted a price lower than the one shown. Scroll through the pages of sold items to find those most like yours. It is best to find 5-10 that are similar and average the prices paid for the item. This will give you an idea of the retail market value of your item.

6Extra tip: When you see a belt like yours and you click on it, you will likely be taken to a page that looks like this

7Click on the phrase “See original listing” and it will take you to a page with more photos and information.

8You’ll see for this belt there were 40 bids with a final price of $78, you can see more photos and specs.

Best of luck with your research !!

Paula

Looking for a SMALL squash blossom necklace

Hi Paula,

I am looking for a SMALL squash blossom necklace or choker, ideally WITHOUT the large naja central pendant. I am also interested in matching earrings.

Thanks, Lee

Hi Lee,

Here are a few ideas.

Here is one that is 18″ long and what I would call a miniature squash blossom necklace by Zuni artist Lorena Peina and it does have matching earrings.

NS328-needlepoint-squash-turq-peina-setAnd here is a New Old Stock (made in the 70s) Zuni sunface you might like, but this one is longer – 24 inches.

S407-WB-sunface-set-4Both of these have the central naja. I rarely see a squash blossom necklace without one.

This lapis squash blossom necklace is medium in size and 19″ in length and also has matching earrings.

N186-WB-squashblossom-lapis-naja-set-1

N186-WB-squashblossom-lapis-naja-set-5

Paula