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.

CON4H-850w

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 !

Scan10001

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.

Scan1

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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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Vintage Native American Thunderbird Pin Wanted

Dear Paula,
Is it possible to get another thunderbird like the vintage P133?  the new thunderbirds do not look like this one.  Thank you very much.
Navajo
Sterling Silver Vintage Thunderbird Pendant #P133

John

Dear John,

Thanks for writing. The items in our pawn shop are older items and we get them in, usually in a lot such as from somebody’s collection or an estate lot, so there would be no way of predicting when we might get something similar to that Thunderbird pendant in. It looks a little more Pacific Northwest to me rather than Southwest.

You could keep an eye on our NEW page which is where we list something new each day – and that means pawn items as well as new contemporary.
I’ve just listed a few new Thunderbirds which I think you might like……….

These wonderful old style pins are made from heavy gauge sterling silver plate; hand cut, deeply hand-stamped, smoothed and polished leaving some areas intentionally oxidized or darkened. A polished turquoise stone is set in a handcut smooth bezel. A twisted sterling silver rope encircles the bezel. Albert Cleveland typically uses King Manassas turquoise, known for its brilliant greens with gold or brown matrix. They have a locking pin finding. Very retro.

Albert Cleveland is of the Dashchanii clan and was born on the Navajo reservation near Mt. Taylor. He and his wife live near Gallup, New Mexico. His brother is Bobby Cleveland and his parents Etta and Philip Cleveland. Cleveland signs his pieces AC if he works on them alone or AJC when his wife Jacqualine works with him. Albert Cleveland works in a retro style, reminiscent of the 1940’s curio shop work which featured Native American symbols such as Eagles, Thunderbirds, Bears, Waterbirds and other animals.


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Our Bargain Barn is like an Online Garage Sale

Hi!
I ordered two items yesterday, a needlepoint bracelet and barrette – are the turquoise stones mined turquoise or are they man-made?  Looking at other online sites, I see a distinction being made and didn’t see a specific reference on your site.  Thanks. Pat

Hi Pat,

The bracelet on the way to you is made from mined, clear Sleeping Beauty stones.

The needlepoint barrette made by the Nez family is made with mined turquoise stone and stones used for small needlepoint work are usually treated (stabilized) to prevent breakage of the tiny pieces.

So both pieces are made from mined turquoise stones.
We don’t state on each page that all of our new Native American jewelry items are made from mined turquoise because we only buy from artists who use real turquoise.  You can read All About Turquoise and Mines here.
We never sell anything made from man-made stones unless it is so noted and they would usually be in our Bargain Barn where we list Non-Native American items or items we are not sure about.
We often purchase estate lots which include some non-Native American items or things we can’t authenticate. I’ll include some examples of those types of items below the Bargain Barn logo just to give you an idea.

Bargain Barn Pin

Bargain Barn Ring

Bargain Barn Earrings

 

 

Bargain Barn Belt Buckle

 

Bargain Barn Bracelet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bargain Barn Bone Choker

 

So, just as a reminder:

All of the items in our New Native American Jewelry Store are sterling silver with shells and mined stones and are made by Native American Artists.

All of the items in our Pawn Shop are used Native American pieces.

The items in our Bargain Barn are a mixed bag. Some could be Native American, some definitely are not, and some are costume jewelry.

Have fun browsing !

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Native American Symbol – Peyote (Water) Bird Colors

What do the coral and turquoise inlay represent in the peyote (or water) bird?  I have heard they refer to fire & ice, but I would like a better explanation if you happen to know.  [Or if you know of a place to refer me to]  I want to put a peyote bird on my fire place mantle in cut stone and emulate it, but would like to know why first..??  Why the two colors?  Thank you for your time, your website has been most helpful!

Lisa

Hi Lisa,

To expand or clarify on my previous postings on this subject, the peyote bird is associated with the Plains Indians and the Native American Church and the water bird is associated with the Hohokam culture. And yet many people consider these symbols to be very similar or the same.

The Hohokam were the early inhabitants of south central Arizona.

Evidence of their life there dates between 100 B. C. and A. D. 1500. Today’s Pima Indians and Tohono O’odham (formerly Papago) are said to be Hohokam descendants. The first known turquoise jewelry of the southwest was found in this location.

Archeological Remains of the Hohokam Culture in the Southwest United States

The peyote bird, AKA snake bird and water turkey, is associated with the Native American Church and the ritual use of peyote there by the church members. The expansion of the Native American Church to many regions has also brought about the widespread of the use of the peyote bird as a symbol by many Native American artists regardless of their tribal affiliation or geographical location.

Native American Church Symbol - Peyote Bird

The shape of portions of the peyote bird correspond to portions of the Native American Church ceremonies:

the head shaped like the rattle used in the ceremonies

the wings outspread like the ceremonial altar

the fan-like lower body like the tipi where the services are held.

Hand carved and hand painted Peyote Bird Necklace by Lonny Cloud

Chip inlay is one of the most popular ways to depict the peyote bird. Chip inlay utilizes small pieces of stone chips left over from use in other projects. Therefore, since the most common stones used in Southwestern Native American jewelry are turquoise and coral, those are the traditional colors used in almost all chip inlay.

Navajo Sterling Silver and Chip Inlay Peyote Bird Pin Pendant

I am not familiar with any symbolism of the colors specifically but just that turquoise and coral were available, made a good contrast to each other (like fire and ice), so have been used that way for a long time.

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