Meet Monty Claw and his Unique Jewelry

Monty Claw

We are so happy to have met Monty Claw and feature some of his unique jewelry in our webstore.

Navajo artist Monty Claw is largely self-taught although he did study at The Institute of American Indian Arts.

He has worked in many mediums including leather and beadwork, making feather fans, painting and silversmithing.       

See two of Monty’s fans below in this slide show   – for more details, see Fans on our website. 

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Monty Claw and his work have been featured in a number of publications including The Smithsonian Magazine and Native Peoples Magazine.

Monty’s pieces appear in museum quality collections such as Nelson Atkins, The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Denver Art Museum, The Sam Noble Museum, and Musée Du Quai Branly in Paris, France. Watch the slide show below to see some of his museum quality pieces. 

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Although he has only been a full time jeweler since 2011 he has already started accumulating awards: SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, The Heard Museum Indian Market, and Cherokee Art Market in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Today Monty focuses mainly on jewelry and metalsmithing and specializes in tufa cast pieces. He creates amazing works of silver and gold occasionally set with precious gems like turquoise, coral, and diamonds. But truth be told, he really prefers to work in all metal.

He enjoys creating sculptural pieces that look like they are going to walk or fly off a ring or bracelet and come to life.

His pieces are unique, with singularly creative details. His ideas range from traditional to beyond modern, from beautiful to edgy, from simple classics to groundbreaking creations. He creates many pieces related to animal and spiritual beings. Click on the photos below to see more views and dimensions.

First People

Yei Bi Chei

Apache Crown Dancer

Raven Spirit

Dragonfly Spirit

Wolf Spirit

 

His work is highly sought after by major collectors, museum board members, major curators and Native American jewelry enthusiasts who just love to wear his pieces.

Monty Claw tells us stories with his jewelry as he continues on his creative path.

Paula – I’m closing with a photo of the first of my many Monty Claw pieces – a treasured buffalo inlay buckle………..

Paula’s inlay buffalo belt buckle by Monty Claw

Foxtail, Chain and more………..

 

Stamped, graduated sterling silver bead necklace by Larry Pinto

We often get questions from customers about how sterling silver Navajo beads are strung. The same information applies to Squash Blossom Necklaces.

Some very old necklaces might be strung on string or waxed cord. Because of the movement of the beads on the string, the string can become worn, thin and break. Often, such a necklace would have to be restrung.

Most silver beads are strung on chain or foxtail and sometimes snake chain. It is a matter of personal preference of the artist.

Chain has a very open weave (light density), making it very easy to add a jump ring or fastener on the end. It is often used to string Navajo Pearls.

Chain

Foxtail, sometimes called wheat chain, has a medium density yet loose weave. This makes it possible to organize the ends and attach a ring or finisher. And it also results in a stronger, smoother track for the beads to slide on.

Foxtail

For instructions on how to string with foxtail and finish the ends see the photo below and also see the tips on RioGrande

Snake chain which has a very tight weave is sometimes used for stringing sterling silver beads but because of the added step of clamping to finish the ends, foxtail is usually preferred over snake.

Snake chain

Stamped, graduated sterling silver beads by Jeffrey Nelson.

Paula

 

What is Seafoam Turquoise?

The term Seafoam Turquoise does not refer to a mine or location where certain turquoise is found.

Rather it refers to two visual characteristics that turquoise nuggets might have. The turquoise could come from any number of mines.

Seafoam refers to both color and shape.

Here is a slide show with examples of the color seafoam, used to describe interior paint, linens and clothing among other things. Although the colors vary, you can see the sea in all of them!

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Below is what the shape of seafoam can look like, but it varies considerably. It is meant to look like the configuration of bubbling foam at the seaside, so bumpy turquoise in the seafoam color.

For beads, the nuggets are not cut, but left in their natural shape.

If to be mounted such as on the vintage necklace below, the back of the seafoam nugget is flattened but the top is left bumpy.

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Paula

Native American Buttons and Button Covers

Buttons on Native American dresses, shirts. leggings and moccasins were originally of bone, shell, stone and other natural materials.

In the mid 1800’s, a few Navajo began to learn the art of silversmithing from Mexican plateros.

To learn more on that, read my article   Where did Navajo silversmiths learn their craft?

Early silver beads and buttons were made from coins. Later when silver and sterling silver were more available, buttons were made from ingots and sheet silver.

Read about early Navajo silversmiths.

Early buttons from about 1870 were round, flat and with two holes like conventional buttons. Plain domed silver buttons were made soon thereafter.

 

Buttons were originally for fastening garments but soon became more ornamental and even were used as a trade item. Navajo Indian agent John H. Bowman observed in 1886 “When they wish to buy anything and have no wool to exchange, they simply cut off the needed number of buttons. These vary in value from 2 1/2 cents to $1 – and are never refused as legal tender in this vicinity.”

With access to more diverse tools in the late 1800s and early 1900s, hand-made buttons were domed, filed, etched, fluted, stamped and a loop would be forge-soldered onto the back.

Stones were added about 1900.

See the end of this article for several book excerpts that show button-making techniques.

When button production became mechanized (die cut and machine stamped) hand-made buttons which were labor intensive couldn’t compete price-wise so fewer were made. That’s why hand-made Navajo buttons are fairly scarce.

 

A mixture of vintage buttons and contemporary button covers - can you tell which are which?

A mixture of vintage buttons and contemporary button covers – can you tell which are which?

Enter button covers………………

A variety of sterling silver button covers

The 1970s Native American jewelry boom (see my article The 1970s Native American Jewelry Boom) and the popularity of southwestern and western style dress beginning in the 1980s brought us the tourist version of the Native American button – the button cover –  a clever system that could be slipped over and clasped to any button to dress up a shirt or dress. Instant Urban Cowboy !

Manufactured (not Native American made) southwestern style sterling silver button covers.

Buffalo Nickel Button Covers

The hinged fasteners are machine made of plated steel or stainless steel.

Commercially stamped sterling silver button covers

The design portion or button cover top is usually made of sterling silver. They can be Native American hand-made or commercially machine made.

Contemporary Native American made button covers

Yellowhorse hallmark on above group of button covers

Since most buttons and button covers do not have hallmarks, it requires experience and a good eye to recognize design styles and see details under magnification to determine whether the button tops are hand made or machine made.

Likely these are Native American made concha style sterling silver button covers.

It is possible that the sterling silver shadowbox bear paws with turquoise cabochon were made in a Native American shop.

Navajo-made onyx button covers with dangles – you might ask why one has the oval dangle stones set horizontally and the other vertically……….this is not a set but two individual button covers designed to be worn on the top button of a shirt or blouse. So perhaps his and hers?

 

BOOK EXCERPTS SHOWING HOW BUTTONS ARE MADE

 

Indian Silversmithing by E. Ben Hunt

Indian Silversmithing by E. Ben Hunt

 

Indian Jewelry Making by Oscar T. Branson

Paula

 

Wesley Craig AKA Wes Craig, Navajo Jeweler

Navajo artist Wesley Craig, born 1959 in Gallup, New Mexico, has been actively making jewelry since 1974. Son of Robert Etsitty Craig Jr. and Marie Craig, he was taught his craft by his mother Marie.

His hallmark is usually Wes Craig in script inside a feather but he also has used WC. Often he adds IHMSS – Indian Hand Made Sterling Silver.

Sometimes the Running Bear shop mark (RB inside a bear) is also included which would indicate he made the item at Running Bear Trading Co in Gallup, New Mexico.

His brother, Hyson Craig, is also a notable Navajo jeweler.

Paula

Restringing a Squash Blossom Necklace

When this arrived in a recent estate lot, I went eeek ! and then promptly contacted our favorite repair shop. Although we can make minor repairs and alterations here at our store, we leave something like this to a professional that has experience with Native American jewelry.

A jumble of beads and a broken wire – I wonder if everything is here to make a necklace again??!!

The 14 mm handmade beads are stamped on both side and so are the blossoms – quite rare !

As usual Henry did his magic – straightening any bent blossom petals, balancing all the beads beautifully, making a new hook and eye closure….resulting in a treasure of a necklace.

The repair shop we use…….

Diane Radeke
602-354-5028
P. O. Box 55935
Phoenix, AZ  85078

See this related article

Shortening a Squash Blossom Necklace for Paula

Paula

Why do Navajo Pearls have hook and eye closures?

Dear Paula,

My concern is about the hook and eye closures on the silver beads (Navajo Pearls).  Are these secure?  I would think that they could fall off easily and do not understand why they do not come with a lobster claw or more secure closure.  Have most customers been satisfied with this kind of closure or do they tend to lose their jewelry? Is there anything that can be done to make this closure more secure?

Thank you.

MM

BD843-19-grad-stamped-yazzie-3

Hello MM,

The hook and eye is traditional as the early Navajo artists did not have access to lobster claw clasps or other mechanical style clasps.

N227-squash-turq-27-5I’ve never had a necklace come undone. If you are worried you can squeeze the hook together which will make it more secure but also a little harder to hook.  Once on, I have found hook and eye closures to be quite secure.

BD832-stamped-grad-30-nelson-7

You could purchase a necklace extender with a lobster claw clasp. We offer both kinds but the hook and eye extenders sell 8:1 to the lobster claw clasps. It is a matter of tradition and personal preference.

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N256-WB-25-beads-bears-2N256-WB-25-beads-bears-6

Paula