Native American Pin Vest

In days gone by, small to medium pins were commonly worn on blazer lapels, sweaters, coats, jackets, scarves. clutch purses and hats…………pins were a fashion staple.

See the slide show below for samples of classic Navajo pins.

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A brooch is a large decorative piece of jewelry pinned to a sweater or dress to complete and outfit and make a bold statement. Large grandmother pins can be thought of as a brooch.

 

Native American artists have made many styles of pins over the years and continue to do so today.  They range in size from tie tacks and hat pins all the way up to large petit point pins and employ all types of animals, symbols and designs.

See the slide show below for samples of Zuni, Hopi and Navajo symbols.

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Although I have written about ways to use pins in previous blog posts, truth be told, I rarely use pins unless it is as a pendant, using a pin-to-pendant converter.

See these articles:

Pins Make a Comeback

Native American Pins 

Native American Pins Beautify Handbags

Like many Native American jewelry aficionados, I have accumulated quite a few pins and rather than just look at them in a drawer or box, I decided to use a denim vest to display some of them.

See the slide show below for examples of animal pins.

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Butterfly pins are popular by both Zuni and Navajo artists.

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Cluster and grandmother pins are made by both Zuni and Navajo artists.

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Paula

Native American Pins Beautify Handbags

If you are like me and have been a Native American jewelry aficionado for years, you likely have a drawer full of beautiful pins – in my case they are Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and Lakota pins that haven’t seen the light of day for a while.

I do wear a pin on a shirt every now and then but they really need to be showcased more often.

One way to feature a large pin is solo on a special handbag. Here is a gorgeous 3″ x 2 1/4″ vintage pin on a stunning Estellon bag from France (the clutch was a gift from a dear friend in Paris and I had the perfect large pin for it!).

Below are a few large pins that would be perfect for solo use on a handbag.

Another way to showcase a large group is to round up all your horses and pin them onto a fabric bag.

This incredibly cool denim handbag was made from a pair of Wrangler jeans and just cries out for horse pins !  Alright, maybe I overloaded it, but nobody wanted to be left out!

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Here are some horse pins like the ones I have on my bag. Click to see more.

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Happy Pinning !! 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

Vintage Native American Brooches and Pins Make a Comeback

A brooch is usually a large decorative piece of jewelry pinned to a sweater or dress to complete and outfit and make a bold statement.

A pin is a smaller, simpler item that can be used in a variety of more subtle ways.

Depending on the design, colors, materials and subject matter, a brooch or pin can define an ensemble and the person wearing it !

For a while, it seemed like brooches got a bad rap – maybe due to the gaudy and clunky costume jewelry brooch that often comes to mind.

But recently both brooches and pins have made a strong comeback in the fashion world. So it is a perfect time to get out your vintage and new Native American pins and use them in all kinds of ways. Here are some ideas from classic to unique and a pin that I think would work for each specific use:

At the center of a neckline

NPP485-sunface-unkestine-1

On a collar

NPN753-AB-bee-yazzie-A

Anywhere on a jacket or coat

NPN781-knifewing-woody-1

On a scarf to adorn and/or hold it in place

PN440-WB-stamped-repousse-multi-AP-1

To keep a blouse or shirt buttoned

PN441-petit-turq-350w

 

On a clutch purse

PN436-WB-sandcast-turq-1

On the strap of a purse or backpack

NPN768-AB-kokopelli-perry-A-1

Anywhere on denim, pockets, lapels, anything goes

NPC702-AB-PP-spiny-brown-A

On the strap of a tank top

NPP452-lizard-turq-ration-1

To draw attention to or away from an area

NPN714-cluster-wilson-1

With a hair scrunchie or headband

P190-OS-PP-turq-hannaweekea-1

On a hat

P326-AB-WB-circle-multi-A

On shoes or boots

PN438-WB-sandcast-bow-turq-1

On a turtleneck

PN411-coral-abalone-1

As a pendant – for this you can use the pin itself to hang onto a necklace or between the beads of a necklace.

NPP436-bowcluster-coral-skeets-1

Or you can you can use a pin to pendant converter to help.

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What are some other ways to use a pin or brooch?

Paula

Pin Clasps on Native American Jewelry and how they help date the piece

A safety clasp on the back of a pin is the one you are probably most familiar with as it is commonly used today. It is sometimes called a locking pin finding.

1000pcs-25mm-High-quality-Brooch-Locking-Bar-Pin-Back-with-Safety-Latch-Clasp-Back-Pins-for

Safety clasp or locking pin finding. On the left securely locked. On the right, the open position.

Hand made safety clasps appeared on non-Native American jewelry since the 1900s.  The modern safety clasp began being manufactured in the 1930s.

Vintage or antique clasp or hinge3

But it wasn’t until about the mid 1940’s that safety clasps became readily available to Native American silversmiths and started to show up on pins and pin-pendants.

PN430-BC-butterfly-7

1940s – 1950s Navajo butterfly pin showing an early safety clasp

Prior to that time, the simple C clasp was used, which was a curled piece of silver on which to hook the pin – simple. If well made, it would be very secure; if not well made, the pin could bend or otherwise come unfastened.

PN426-OS-turq-1

1930s Navajo pin

PN426-OS-turq-2

Hand made C clasp

PN426-OS-turq-3

Hand made C clasp

Paula

Bell Trading Post History and Hallmarks

Bell Trading Post was founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1932 by Jack Michelson and his wife Mildred. They sold southwest style jewelry at various tourist locations in the United States.

CSB69-7-knifewing-wide-bell-1

Bell Trading Post got its name from Jack’s wife, whose maiden name was Bell.

The types of jewelry sold by Bell Trading Post included sterling silver, nickel silver, gold, and copper.

To see a selection of  Bell Trading Post jewelry, visit our Copper Shop.   Here are some examples:

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Their main competitor was The Maisel Company until Maisel’s closed in 1968.

In 1969, Sunbell Corporation was formed and included these merchandise lines: Bell Jewelry (which now carried the Sunbell hallmark), Gregorian Copper Ware, and Oglala Lakota moccasins from Pine Ridge South Dakota. Sunbell also purchased Maisel’s inventory.

Sunbell Corporation

Sunbell Corporation catalog

Gregorian Copper Ware

Gregorian Copper Ware catalog

 

Pine Ridge moccasins

catalog page showing the Pine Ridge moccasins

Sunbell continued to offer jewelry items, now with the Sunbell hallmark,  as well as giftware and moccasins until the late 1980s. 

Over the years numerous hallmarks were used on items sold by Bell Trading Post and Sunbell. The hallmarks typically included the image of a bell or that of an arrow sign post with a bell sign hanging from it. Shown here are just a few of Bell Trading Post’s hallmarks.

According to a reader who researched the trademark records, the mark “Bell Jewelry”  was first used in 1935.

The “Arrow post hanging bell sign” was first used in 1961.

Bell Trading Company hallmark   Bell Trading Company hallmark   Bell Trading Company hallmark  Bell Trading Company hallmark

Bell Trading Company hallmark     Bell Trading Company hallmark   Bell Trading Company hallmark

When the name changed to Sunbell, this is the hallmark often used.

sunbell cropped

February 2019

I originally wrote this article in 2011 but just updated it after receiving a note from Jacquelyn Michelson: “As the Daughter of Jack and Mildred Michelson you are incorrect in your facts about the Bell Trading Post. It was never called Bell Trading Company and Bell never merged with The Maisel Company in 1935. They remained fierce competitors until the 70’s when Sunbell Corporation bought the Maisel Company. Please correct your facts. Thank you”.

So I thanked Jacquelyn for taking the time to write and I have corrected the errors in my article and added more information and photos courtesy of Jacquelyn. I’m so glad she wrote, how else would I have known !!

I now want to share with you some references that I had used originally and that I dug out again today as I rewrote this article. I am including them all so you can review the information and draw your own conclusions. As is often the case, things aren’t always black and white.

An article online entitled Bell Trading Post, Albuquerque, NM (1932 -1969)

Although that article seems to provide some good information, Jacquelyn Michelson did point out there are a few errors, in particular this sentence:

“Then in 1957 Jack Michelson pasted away4 leaving the company to his two sons, Jack and Douglas.”

Well not only should that have said passed away, not pasted away, it should have said:

Then in 1957 Jack Michelson passed, leaving the company to his two sons, Jack and Douglas and his daughter Jacquelyn who was a proud and active part of the business. It was Jacquelyn who came up with the name Sunbell and the logo when Sunbell became a corporation.

 

 

An excellent book Reassessing Hallmarks of Native Southwest Jewelry by Pat and Kim Messier.  I’m showing one excerpt here but there are other discussions on this topic and much more !

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Mssier excerpt

In the book Fred Harvey Jewelry, there is a timeline that states Maisel’s and Bell merged in 1935 which Jacquelyn Michelson says did not happen.

The author of the above book referenced the following book as the source for the merger information. Here is the book cover and the page referenced.

Finally, this is another reference with much about Bell Trading Post, Maisel’s and more.

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Vintage Native American Pendant-Enhancer – Any Ideas?

Hi Paula:

This is an enhancer with the odd hallmark. Wondering if you have any thoughts about the hallmark and also the enhancer itself, which is an unusual shape.

Linda

Hi Linda,

When you first wrote using the word “enhancer” I had no idea what you meant. After doing a bit of looking, it seems to me that an enhancer is a cousin to a pendant in that it is used with a necklace of some sort. In the case of yours, the enhancer has a Shepherds Hook which will allow the piece to be hooked in between silver or stone beads as well as on a sterling silver collar and more. Other enhancers have hinged hooks so that you can open and clip the enhancer onto a necklace and click it securely closed.

Whereas a pendant usually has a swinging or fixed bail or loop on the back through which the necklace is strung. Some Native American pendants or pin-pendants have Shepherds Hooks.

So now that we have that out of the way, for my benefit and that of other readers, not yours, since you already know that ! On to the piece.

I am immediately drawn to the hand cut and decorated bezel which is really special.

I keep looking at its overall composition and shape and something seems very familiar to me yet I can’t remember where I have seen this shape. It seems to have a religious significance in my brain. Now that I have seen it, I will keep my eyes open. I have a huge reference library here and often when paging through one of my books, looking for one thing, I’ll spot something else. So I have this on the “back burner”.

I’m sorry I can’t be of help with the hallmark – it just doesn’t look familiar to me.

However by posting the photos, perhaps we will find someone who knows about this piece and its maker.

Thanks for writing and happy holidays !

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