Thursday, December 8, 2016
SHEET SILVER--silver formed into a flat sheet of uniform thickness, normally by mechanical means. Commercially produced sheet silver has been available in the Southwest since 1929.
SILVER--well, duh. Seriously, early silverwork (pre-1910, generally) was made from melted coins, which were normally around 90% silver and 10% copper. When laws were enacted making it illegal to destroy American currency, traders substituted silver ingots or slugs, which were a higher purity of silver. (Still looking to see when those laws were passed.)
TURQUOISE--the generally blue or blue-green mineral that is the most commonly used stone in Southwest Indian jewelry and silverwork.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Part 3 will be coming shortly, so stayed glued to your screen.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
ANNEALING--a process of tempering metal by heating and rapid cooling. Usually, it involves hammering the softened metal into the desired shape and form. Most silverwork done before 1940 in the Southwest was either annealed or cast.
CABOCHON--a style of stonecutting in which the stone is polished into a rounded surface and not faceted. Most turquoise set in post-1920 silver items is in cabochon form.
CASTING--formation of an object in a mold, which in this case meant pouring molten silver into a mold. Different types of casting will be discussed later.
CHASING--decoration on silver with a chisel and hammer. Normally only occurs on very early Navajo work, as it was quickly replaced by stamping.
INGOT--silver that has been melted and cast into a form for later use. Ingot silver can describe a piece of jewelry that was originally produced from a silver ingot, rather than from commercially rolled sheet silver.
Stay tuned for part 2.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
The style with two tri-wires on either ide of a twisted square wire is not uncommon, and was one of the favored styles of that particular time. However, not many of these bracelets have the very cool details found on this one.
First off, note the plate under the turquoise. It is thick hand-pounded silver, rather than machine-milled commercial sheet. The irregularities of the edges mark it as pounded ingot, which is generally earlier and far ore desirable from a collector's standpoint than sheet silver.
Next, note the wear on the inside of the bracelet. The twisted square wire shows the type of wear consistent with years of use and skin contact, which is exactly what would be expected from an old piece.
Finally, the terminal ends are finished with a thick rectangular piece of silver instead of a thin piece--again, ingot silver rather than sheet silver.
There is more to be said about this wonderful bracelet--to hear the full story, give us a call or drop us an email. (480) 423-8777 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
There are a plethora of antique and Native American shows we could do, enough to keep us busy every weekend if we so chose. But we try to be careful with the shows and events at which we exhibit, as this list of events points out.
November 4th--The St. Louis Indian and Western Art Show. A smaller show, more low-key than many, but probably the only good venue for Indian material in the Midwest.
November 11-12--Special Trunk Show in New York City. The Big Apple has always been a good market for us, and we were regular exhibitors at the Pier Show, which unfortunately died an untimely death. There are other suitable shows in the City, but none that fit well into our schedule, so we will be doing a trunk show on our own at the Skyline Hotel on 10th Avenue at 49th Street.
January 21-22--The High Noon Show in Mesa, Arizona. The best Western show in the country, with a lot of very fine Indian material as well. And since we lived in the Phoenix area for so long, it is always nice to see old friends.
February 17-19--The Marin Show in San Rafael, California. One of the longest-running Indian shows in the country, and a good place to see West Coast clients and friends.
February 28-March 5--Special Trunk Show at Bishop Gallery in Scottsdale during Heard Market. Those of you who have not been to Heard Market, which is basically like Santa Fe Indian Market in miniature, are missing a treat. And the Bishop Gallery, where we set up during that time, is one of the oldest and most interesting galleries in town, with a particular specialty in the work of Fritz Scholder.
Friday, September 9, 2016
Not the types of turquoise that everyone considers top of the line, like great Lone Mountain, #8, Landers and Bisbee. Though those remain very popular, the hottest area of collecting was the turquoise in the next level, like Blue Gem, Kingman, Morenci, Royston and the Mountains (Indian and Red). Very fine stones all, but pricewise a notch below the most expensive stones, and therefore a good value. Most pieces with these stones do not have great age, since those mines were generally not open before 1930, but it is the quality and vibrancy of the stones that is the appeal.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
The earliest beading tradition resides in the Northeast, where items decorated exclusively with beadwork were collected as early as 1807. This great antiquity has led to many different variations in styles amongst the numerous tribes of this densely populated region, but there are some common denominators that differentiate the work done in the Eastern Woodlands from that done by artists of the Plains tribes.
As with the tribes of the Plains, the glass beads used by the native artists of the Eastern Woodlands were imported to America from European production centers such as Bohemia and Venice. (The answer to the commonly asked question of how the Indians made their glass beads is, of course, they didn’t.) Being so close to the main East Coast ports of Boston, New York and Philadelphia, it stands to reason that tribal groups in the Northeast would have earlier and better access to a variety of bead colors and sizes. From an early date, probably in the late 1780s and early 1790s, beadworkers of the various Woodlands tribes (mainly Iroquoian and Algonquian) made use of very small, brightly colored seed beads, in sizes as small as 20 beads per inch. The opening of the Erie Canal in the 1820s made visitor access to Native lands, as well as transport of these seed beads, even easier, and an increased non-native market for beaded items led to the use of larger seed beads that could cover more space more quickly. By the 1900s, the small beads were out of favor, replaced by those in the 8-14 per inch sizes.
In stark contrast, the early beads used by the Plains tribes generally appear around 1830, and are of the larger “pony bead” style, which are usually size 8-10 per inch. (Part of this is likely due to a lack of metal needles on the Plains, which were necessary for manipulating the tiny seed beads.) They were also in very limited colors, generally white, black and blue. (Woodlands beadwork of the 1830-40 era also incorporates pony beads, but normally only as edging rather than as part of the main design.) The tiny seed beads so favored in the Northeast do not show up in any meaningful profusion on the Plains, even fifty years later. Reservation-era Plains beadwork makes use of beads in the 10-12 per inch sizes, with very uncommon exceptions.
Though both Plains and Eastern Woodlands beadwork makes heavy use of the lazy stitch technique, where a line of beads is sewn down in spots to give a series of low loops, their use of this stitch was quite different. Woodlands work started as completely flat, but by the 1840s had developed a dimensionality that came from placing the ends of the lazy stitch loop close together, which caused the loop of beads to stand up off the surface of the object. The high loops could be grouped together to create convex designs, which was especially effective in rendering flowers. This “embossed beadwork” eventually became a trademark of many tribal groups, especially the Mohawks of Kahnawakee, whose huge pillows and purses of the 1890-1920 period were covered in huge layers of embossed beadwork.
It was quite different on the Plains, where lazy stitch was one of the generally preferred methods for covering an entire surface with a single layer of beads. The lazy stitch sections were laid flat against the surface and then sewn down, leaving a beaded design that was uniform and regular. Design elements and background colors were both done in beads, while the background of Woodlands pieces was generally left unbeaded. Some tribes also used spot stitch to cover large areas, a technique that was not used at all in the Woodlands.
In both Plains and Eastern Woodlands beadwork, the earliest designs mimicked quillwork designs of earlier generations. The difference was that early Woodlands beadwork was lacy and open, while that of the plains was done in solid blocks of color. As time went on, the greater variety of bead colors available to beadworkers of the Woodlands, as well as easy access to high-quality needles, sent the designs created by the artists in many different directions. Pieces from the same community could be quite different in appearance, though the forms were generally the same. The years between 1830 and 1870 were especially notable for the huge variety and incredible creativity expressed in the small beaded pouches that became the favored form. After the 1860s, when European floral embroidery designs were introduced, nearly all Woodlands beadwork became rigidly floral to meet the demand of the non-Indian buying public.
With rare exceptions, floral beadwork was never a popular style on the Plains as it was in the Woodlands. Geometric designs were predominant, with each tribe having their own distinctive motifs and styles. The Northern, Central and Southern Plains styles encompassed many tribes, and within these separate regions were numerous tribal variations. Pictorial designs were also not uncommon on the plains, while such elements are extremely rare in Woodlands beadwork.
Though very early Woodlands beadwork was done on deerskin, most 19th Century work was done on fabric and sewn with cotton thread. In contrast, it is uncommon to find a Plains beaded item that is not done on some sort of animal hide, and sewing with sinew was common.
Monday, May 9, 2016
A hallmark, by definition, is a mark or device placed or stamped on an article of trade to indicate origin, purity, or genuineness. With jewelry, this has come to mean the particular mark, normally either stamped or engraved, that indicates the individual maker of the piece. An item made in a shop by more than one hand, assembly-line style, will often have the mark associated with that particular shop or company. (Charles Loloma and Preston Monongye both worked this way, having inlay work done by other artists, but the current marketplace accepts these pieces as individually made because they were not done as multiples, as is the case with more modern shop artists like Ray Tracey.) However, there is another kind of shop mark that is distinctive to the Indian Southwest, where an individual artist would make a piece but only mark it with the shop mark. For collectors, this is a dangerous type of mark that can leave itself open to much misunderstanding and false conclusions.
A perfect example is the Thunderbird Shop, Frank Patania Sr.'s establishment in Santa Fe (and later Tucson.) From early in the history of the shop, silver produced there was marked with a stamped thunderbird to indicate its origin. Later, Patania put his own hallmark, a conjoined FP, on to his own pieces along with the thunderbird, while items made by other shop smiths, of whom there were many, would have only the thunderbird shop mark. Since Patania and the other smiths were all working off designs done by Patania, similar work was very common, and often the only true distinction between a Patania piece and a shop smith piece was the presence or absence of the FP. With the passage of time, it has become common for many pieces with just the Thunderbird Shop mark to be attributed to Patania, making them more valuable.
Some shops only used the shop mark, and the individual artists did not use their own hallmark--the Navajo Guild, for example, and the UITA posts. It is impossible to know exactly who made those pieces, but the shop mark serves as a clue to the origin and quality standards that were in place. However, with the Thunderbird (and the White Hogan, in Scottsdale), the shop mark was only part of the information. The accompanying hallmark is the true story, and all collectors and dealers should know how to read it.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
The one thing we saw that stood out the most was a bracelet by Earl Plummer, one of the really fine Navajo smiths. It was done in matrixed turquoise, maybe Kingman, and inlaid on a silver cuff was a spiderweb pattern with a domed coral cab in the center. Very reminiscent of Preston Monongye's spider bracelets, but with an inlaid design rather than a cast one. It won an honorable mention for jewelry, which baffled us because we saw no other jewelry that we thought was more deserving--maybe the category winners had already sold, and we never saw them. Whatever the case, it was the best thing we saw at the market, and he sold it later in the day, so congrats to Earl.
Anyone who is interested in seeing really fine and creative silverwork should check out Earl Plummer at the next Indian Market. Turkey Mountain Traders does not represent him, nor do we have any of his pieces for sale; we just like to recognize excellence when we see it, even if there is nothing in it for us.