Is this Native American Concha Belt bought in 1976 from an Arizona Pawn Shop an Early Tommy Singer piece?

Hello Paula,

I just found your site & it is fascinating. I’ve been trying to do some research for my mother-in-law on a belt she has. In 1976, she purchased a concha belt from a pawn shop in Arizona. They had had the belt in their safe for about three years, the person who pawned it never came back for it. At the time she was told that it was a Tommy Singer piece. I have been in touch with a gallery that does business with Tommy Singer and he says that he doesn’t recognize the belt. I sent them photos. I have had little to no luck in finding out who the artist is going by the hallmark on the back of the buckle, a deeply stamped capitol “T”. There is also a fainter capitol “A” a little ways away. It is a beautiful piece, swooping birds (swallows, or maybe water birds?) on the buckle and each concha, inlaid with
turquoise and red coral chips. We were just wondering how else to discover who the artist is, since it is not who she was told it is, so that she has some knowledge about it when/if she decides to sell it. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks, Karyn

Hi Karyn,

The chip inlay figures on the belt are peyote birds or water birds. Some call it one – some the other. Here is an article on that figure. Peyote Bird, Water Bird

From what I can see in your photo of the back of the belt buckle, as you say the prominent hallmark is a T and there is a faint A that seems to be separate. Also engraved on the back with what the Navajo artists call an “electric pencil” is what looks like “T 28306 Colo”.  There might possibly be one more number after the 6 but nevertheless, I don’t know what that number stands for as it doesn’t seem like it could be a date. Colo certainly could indicate Colorado yet I’m not sure what that would indicate.

Tommy Singer has used several hallmarks over the years, the earlier one being variations on a T. Sometimes the variation is a peaked figure that looks something like an A. If I could see that portion more clearly on your buckle, that might help.

Tommy Singer’s contemporary hallmarks are gothic caps:



There is a TA hallmark attributed to Thomas Atsitty first used as chisel cut in 1974, later as gothic letter as on your buckle. I’m not saying this is by Thomas Atsitty, because the two letters are so far apart on your belt buckle……..yet that is the only other lead I have at this point.

It is too bad that Tommy Singer told the gallery you contacted that he doesn’t recognize the piece as his because as soon as I saw it, I thought it very well could have been a Tommy Singer piece.

I’m posting this in case other readers might shed some light on this.


Antique Totem Necklace from 1968

Hi Paula,

When i was 10, in 1968 my mom and i took an across country road trip for the summer and stayed all over out west. I bought this necklace, which is like a 5 inch totem  w/ turquoise & coral inlaid in silver  both sides are ornate & i just came across it again in my moms old cedar chest. I scanned pics of it and know nothing about. could you tell me about it and or if its valuable. Please it has all handmade silver beads round and long ones and the totems nose is even turquoise-its very unusual thats why i got it, when i was little but mom took it away and hid it from me cause i played with it! I got it back now.


Hi Vonda,

Even though the front photo is terribly out of focus, I posting both here in case someone has seen something like this.

Here’s what I can tell you. What you call the back side, the bird-like creature made of chip inlay has features of a peyote bird or water bird and also an eagle kachina.

Sterling Silver Eagle Dancer Kachina Pendant by Bennie Ration, Navajo

The front side – the nose or beak is certainly an interesting feature of the kachina.

I wouldn’t venture a guess on its value because of the photo quality and not knowing if it is sterling silver, real turquoise etc. The main value is to you because of its provenance – the memories, the story with the piece.


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!


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.


Native American Symbols – Water Bird, Peyote Bird, Thunderbird

Native American Symbols

Water Bird, Peyote Bird, Thunderbird

©  2010 Horsekeeping © Copyright Information

The Water Bird is a symbol of the renewal of life, rainy seasons, rivers, distant travel, distant vision & wisdom. It is often also referred to as the Peyote Bird because the Water Bird plays a significant part in the Native American Indian Church Peyote meetings and, in fact, since the early 1900’s has been the symbol of the NAC.

Peyote Bird

Peyote Bird

The Peyote/Water Bird is not a Southwest tradition, but one of the Plains Indians. The Peyote Bird is connected with lightning, thunder and visions. Those who dream of the thunder beings will become Heyokas, those who do things backwards, upside down, or opposite. This is a Lakota way of being. It is part of the medicine of the Heyoka to remind us that we should not take ourselves too seriously – that’s why Heyoka is often translated as the “sacred clown”.

Peyote - Water Bird

Peyote - Water Bird

The Thunderbird is a cross-cultural symbol of the Southwest, Plains and Pacific Northwest tribes as well as in the non-Native world. Much is written about the origin of the symbol and its significance. It has been suggested by some that the symbol was borrowed by Native American artisans from the white man’s medal dies. Others claim the Thunderbird has always lived in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. There, carved totem poles are often topped with a Thunderbird with outstretched wings. Looking at a Thunderbird, it is easy to see why it symbolizes power, strength and nobility.

Zuni Inlay Thunderbird Pin Pendant by Randolph Lateyice

Zuni Inlay Thunderbird Pin Pendant by Randolph Lateyice

Thunderbird Pin Pendant by Zuni Rose Tekela

Thunderbird Pin Pendant by Zuni Rose Tekela

Zuni Inlay Thunderbird Pin Pendant by Leagus Ahiyite

Zuni Inlay Thunderbird Pin Pendant by Leagus Ahiyite