Native American Jewelry Making — Ancient Art of Identity

The tombs of Monte Alban, the ancient Zapotec civilization perched atop a mountain in Oaxaca, Mexico, revealed, when excavated, unparalleled Mesoamerican gold metal smithing, stone and beadwork. For many of us who live in Oaxaca or visit there, we become attached to filigree work in traditional designs brought to Mexico via the Moors who taught the Spanish this intricate technique.

I’m offering Oaxaca and New Mexico jewelry for sale from my collection. If you are interested, please indicate by number and send me an email norma.schafer@icloud.com with your mailing address. I will add $10 USD to mail within US and $28 USD to mail to Canada to invoice.

SOLD. #1. Large mosaic pin/pendant, 3″ x 1-3/8″, Mary Tafoya, Santo Domingo Pueblo, $295

Throughout the Americas adornment was and continues to be a symbol of tribal identity and pride. Distinct styles developed which continue today, made by makers who live along the Rio Grande River Valley of New Mexico, and Navajo and Hopi groups who inhabit the mesas and desert of western New Mexico and northern Arizona.

Silversmithing techniques migrated from Mexico to the Southwest, where these techniques were taught to Native Americans. Horsemen need spurs, bridles, belt buckles and bolo ties. Women need earrings, necklaces and rings.

Necklaces and pendants were fashioned from hand-drilled, cut and polished stones, shells, animal teeth, fossilized plant materials, and wood.

#2 Heshi rope and feathers by Ray Coriz, 16″, $295

To visit Santa Fe is to go back into this history for me. It is a personal history, too. One of migration along the Santa Fe Trail, traveling Old Route 66, and our own family’s trek from the Midwest to California in the early 1950’s.

Every day, Native American jewelry makers and artisans sit under the Palace of the Governors portal on the Santa Fe Plaza. Every day, based on lottery, a lucky few can spread their blankets and display their work. This is like attending a juried show. Each vendor is licensed and must adhere to strict quality guidelines to sell here. I’m drawn to this place for many reasons.

#3 Yalalag Cross, Oaxaca, 22″ handmade with milagros, sterling silver, $895 USD

I’m going back to the memory of our stop in Albuquerque after two days of travel on the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Super Chief in September 1953, on our way to resettle in Los Angeles. I was young, my sister a toddler, our mom cautious. There were Indians sitting cross-legged on blankets as we stepped onto the platform. Laid out before them was silver and turquoise jewelry, blankets, ceramics, trinkets. Were they wearing buckskin and feathered headdresses? I can only imagine. It was the time of Wild West romanticism, Cowboys and Indians, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Hopalong Cassidy.

#4 Oaxaca filigree by Grand Master Jose Jorge Garcia, $185 USD

I was curious. Our mom shooed us into the dining room and then back to the train. It’s likely we passed by Fred Harvey bracelets, real Navajo blankets, tooled leather belts, Hopi pottery, Zuni petit point, squash blossom necklaces: Native American jewelry we dream about today.

SOLD. #5 Zuni vintage petit point necklace, 15″. $145

As mom and daughters traveled west by train, our dad drove the Plymouth station wagon along Route 66, pulling a small tarp-covered trailer through the desert, a water bottle hanging from the front grill. The manual shifter was on the steering column. Only he could drive it. He later became a huge admirer of Maria Martinez, the famed black pottery maker from San Ildefonso Pueblo, attempting her iconic style.

#6 Oaxaca coral and sterling silver milagro necklace, 20″ — $495

I’m taking you back to Santa Fe Plaza and the Palace of the Governors. Here is an opportunity to meet artisans, talk with and buy directly from them. Many come from miles away. Navajo silversmiths will travel from Gallup, NM. They might do other things, like teach school or repair cars or serve as tribal administrators. Sometimes, a family member like a mother, father or brother, might sell in their stead.

#7 Inlaid Mosaic Pendant by Warren Nieto, shell, turquoise, mother of pearl, silver. $155 USD

If you are adventuresome, like me, you might strike up a conversation and ask to visit a home and workshop. Many live within a two-hour radius. That’s how I got to the Santo Domingo Pueblo to see where Warren Nieto lives and creates.

#8 Flora Maria Mexican Designer, amethyst + moonstone, sterling earrings, $165 USD

I’m considering organizing a September 2020 folk art study tour of northern New Mexico, based in Santa Fe or environs. This could include visits to Native American jewelry makers, weavers and potteries. We will also include a Native American Feast Day. This feels like a good fit with my love of indigenous arts and my desire to directly support native artisans, as we learn about life, culture, craft and continuity. If you are interest in knowing more as I develop this program with Sheri Brautigam, please send me a note to add you to the list of interested people. norma.schafer@icloud.com

2 responses to “Native American Jewelry Making — Ancient Art of Identity

  1. Dear Norma,
    On No. 2, the Ray Coriz necklace, what are the length and width of the pendant?
    Many thanks,
    Dorothy Herrmann

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