Benjamin Becenti Inlay Storyteller Concho Belt shows Navajo life

Born about 1950, Benjamin Becenti is the son of Robert Becenti, Sr and the
brother of Robert Becenti Jr. He is from Crownpoint, New Mexico. He has been
active in inlay work since the 1970s.

He is well known for his wonderful inlay storyteller belts. Each panel shows a different scene from Navajo life.



CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-7 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-8 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-9 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-10 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-11 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-12 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-13 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-14 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-15 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-16

He uses turquoise, mother of pearl, acoma jet, red coral and orange spiny oyster for his inlay work.

This belt is NOS, New Old Stock,  vintage but never used.


What can you tell me about this Lloyd Bicenti Storyteller Belt?

Hi Paula,
I recently purchased a storyteller belt by Lloyd Bicenti.  It has 8 rectangular sections plus the buckle. I would like to know what the story is for this specific belt, but would also like to know if there is a source that one could go to about different story belts and bracelets.
Thank you,
story belt001 story belt002 story belt003Hello Arthur,

Your beautiful belt depicts Kachinas, the eagle kachina and the antelope kachina to name just a few that are masterfully represented on the belt.

Kachinas represent the forces of nature, human, animal, plant, and act as intermediaries between the world of humans and the gods. Kachinas play an important part in the seasonal ceremonies of the Hopi, which encompass generations of passed-on knowledge and tradition, and has become the subject of a number of books. The simplified description here is meant only as an introduction.

A kachina has three aspects. The supernatural being as it exists in the minds of the Hopis; the masked impersonator of the supernatural spirit; and the dolls that are made in the likeness of the masked impersonator of the supernatural spirit.

Traditionally, kachina dolls are created by Hopi or Zuni artists. Your belt is made by a Navajo silversmith.

There are many good books written about kachinas – one of the books I show below talks about 266 different kachinas, often with subtle differences between them.  To find out which kachinas are represented on your belt, I’d suggest some online or library research.

We have a very few kachinas on our website (click on the last photo) but there are websites that devote many pages to describing them.

scan0007 scan0009Best of luck with your research and enjoy that gorgeous work of art !


To view our full list of article or to ask a jewelry question, follow the instructions here

If you are selling your jewelry, read this

Visit our pawn shop for your research and shopping


What is the story on this bracelet?

I recently purchased a bracelet which was made by Tom and Sue Kee.  Can you explain what the story is about?  I can send you a picture.
I am not selling my jewelry.  We just were in Arizona and it was purchased at Black Arrow Indian Art in Prescott Arizona.  It cost approximately $200.  My husband purchased it as a gift for me.
I have attached the photo.  I only want to know what is the story on this bracelet.
I hope you can help.
IMG_0959 croppedHi Debbie,
You have a storyteller bracelet by Tom and Sylvia Kee, a Navajo husband and wife team that have been making storyteller items for a number of years. (By the way, the name Sue was erroneously carried forward for several years based on a mistake made at one of the dealers in New Mexico and many people repeated “Tom and Sue Kee” but Sylvia contacted me and told me the story !)
Storyteller bracelets show Navajo life. The home (hogan) and the activities around the home such as cooking, weaving, tending livestock, driving a wagon to town. The scenery of the area such as buttes, trees and shrubs and sometimes clouds are also depicted. It is hard for me to see the exact details of your bracelet in the photo but if you click on some of these bracelets you will see some of the typical stories depicted.
Storyteller bracelet by Tom and Sylvia Kee, Navajo
Enjoy your beautiful bracelet !! A lovely gift from your husband.
PS As Russ Nobbs mentioned in his note below, the “real” storyteller is something more like this:

Tom and Sue Kee – it should be Sylvia Kee

Ten years ago, when I first started working here one of the very first items I listed was a vintage storyteller bracelet by Navajo silversmiths Tom and Sue Kee. I put it in the pawn shop.


The bracelet had the hallmark TSK and a hogan. I was told by several people more experienced than me that it was the hallmark of Tom and Sue Kee, Navajo husband and wife silversmiths who specialized in storyteller items.

“The Little Book of Marks on Southwestern Silver: Silversmiths, Designers, Guilds and Traders” by Bille Hougart states the same thing on page 181 – that the hallmark is shared by Tom and Sue Kee.

And so over the years, I’ve listed barrettes, bracelets and all kinds of things attributed to Tom and Sue Kee.


Then the other day, when I got to work, there was a message on the answering machine something like this
“Hi Paula, This is Sylvia Kee. I see on the internet you have the storyteller bracelets by Tom and Sue Kee. It should be Sylvia Kee. I thought you would like to know.”

Sylvia, I wish I had been here to talk with you or that you left your phone number……..but anyway, I did some more digging and heard that years ago Tom and Sylvia had made some jewelry for a store and when Sylvia signed for the payment, her signature was misinterpreted as Sue – and it STUCK !!

Thanks for bringing this to our attention Sylvia. We have corrected our website listings.

Navajo Artists Tom and Sue Kee – Storyteller Specialists

Hi Paula,

Can you tell me the approximate age of Tom and Sue Kee’s silver jewelry.  I’m looking at a bracelet on eBay but cant find information about the age.

thank you,  Mike

Hi Mike,

Navajo artists Tom and Sue Kee specialize in storyteller pieces. How old? It depends on the piece as they have been making it for over 30 years and are still making it – they are currently practicing their craft.


Information please on Navajo Storyteller Pendant by Jeff James

Hi Paula,

I’m trying to get some information on and find the value of a Jeff James story telling pendant that I inherited. I’ve attached a photo and scanned notes that may have been giving to her by the artist. Thank you, Shelley

Hi Shelley,

The drawing and notes you sent seem like they could have been written by the artist or by a person who the artist was talking to about the storyteller pendant.

The notes indicate:

Shiprock is in the center of the pendant.

The four sacred colors are used to depict the four sacred mountains that form the physical border of the Navajo reservation.

The mesa designs around the border symbolize the steps up out of the underworld as the Navajo came up from the underworld to earth.

All of that sounds in line with Navajo legend and tradition. And the images of the mesas and the Navajo man and woman are very much Jeff James and just like the ones he makes today. Here are some examples of his current work which will help you value your piece.


The Origin of Storyteller Scenes on Native American Jewelry

Storytelling is an important part of many cultures. Traditions, rituals, and historic events are passed on orally.

Navajo Sterling Silver Storyteller Link Bracelet by Tillie Jon

In the first half of the 1900’s Helen Cordero of the Cochiti Pueblo used a storyteller motif in her ceramic pieces. Usually her storytellers would be a Pueblo woman telling stories to a group of children who were gathered around.

In this way the language and culture are kept alive.

Since the 1960’s a new type of storyteller art emerged, partly in response to the desire of non-Native Americans to have some sort of Indian folk art to display or wear. Storyteller jewelry pieces are generally overlay (see explanation of overlay at the end of this article). Each figure is cut out then placed onto a contrasting background and finished in place. A very painstaking and delicate process.

Navajo Storyteller Bracelet by Francis Tabaha

The idea was embraced by Navajo silversmiths and made popular by such artists as (click on the artist to see a sample of his or her work).

Clarence Lee

Tommy Singer

Tillie Jon

Lloyd and Floyd Bicenti

Francis Tabaha

Richard Singer

Tom and Sue Kee

Marie Bahe, and others.

Here are some examples of a few of those artists’ works.

Tommy Singer

Tom and Sue Kee

Marie Bahe

Richard Singer

Tommy Singer

Richard SInger

Traditional scenes include

The Hogan

Home Life



Traveling by wagon

The Horse



The Campfire

Southwest Scenery

A Day in the Life of a Man, Woman, Horse, Bear and so on……..

What is Overlay?

Overlay pieces are made of two layers. The bottom layer is a solid sterling silver piece. The top layer has a cutout design. The cutout is placed over the bottom layer and the two pieces are “sweated” together, that is heated so that they become one.

The bottom layer (background to the cutout) is usually accented. The Navajo silversmiths oxidize the bottom layer which darkens it. Hopi silversmiths oxidize and etch the background (texturize it) with hashmarks.