Vintage Native American (?) Jewelry Anyone?

sweebyJuly 6, 2010

This necklace came down to me through the family with very little information. I know 'family lore' isn't the most reliable, but on this piece, I got nothin'! I didn't use to like it much, but lately, it's really grown on me, and it's got me wondering...

I know my father travelled to New Mexico often during the early 1960's through 1970's, and may have bought this necklace then. However, I don't think so, because my Mom told me about the other pieces he bought, and my Mom was never a jewelry buff. Mom also bought a few pieces during the late 1990's with her sister, who moved to Albuquerque in the 1980's and became quite knowledgeable about Indian jewelry. But again - I don't think so, because she hardly ever wore this piece. Which leaves one of my grandmothers, both of whom loved jewelry and had pretty good taste.

I think the stone is turquoise, though admittedly, it's like no other turquoise I have ever seen. The color is much deeper, and the stone appears harder, more polished and somehow, more transluscent. (It's not cracked.) Also, there's some white veining in there, and 'blue on blue', which isn't typical for turquoise. So I think it might be a type of agate, or possibly a variety of turquoise called 'Blue Gem' that was used more often in the 1930's and 1940's.

The design looks like Thunderbirds, with arrows, bear claws and other symbols. There is no signature or hallmark on the back -- no markings of any kind that I can see, though looking on the backside, the medallion appears to be hand-hammered. The links are very unusual, and resemble 'pop-top-chains' more than anything else I can think of. ;-) The tooling is very clear and precise, and the workmanship looks excellent. The original clasp broke and was replaced by a simple hook.

So -- Any guesses as to age or origin?

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lindac

Yes...it's turquoise....and it sure looks Indian to me....but a lot of "Indian Jewelery"w as made by non Indians during the time of great popularity in say the early 1970's.
The color of the metal looks strangely peweter-ish...but that may just be my monitor or your camera or both together....does it tarnish? I am puzzled that the deeper parts of the stamped designs isn't darker....please don't tell me someone has dipped it???!!! That might account for the greenish turquiose.
I am sure that hook clasp was original to the piece....how long is it?
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 4:24PM
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lazy_gardens

It could be from the Blue Gem mine - that mine produced many shades of really hard turquoise that is slightly translucent.

The style is not a distinctive tribal style, the stamping is uncommon, and the way the silver is cut and shaped is not traditional .... it really looks like vintage 1940s or 50s costume jewelry shapes, but in silver. I've seen high-end costume jewelry with that sort of "pop-top" links.

Someone might have copied a necklace that took his fancy or made a special order.

Examine it closely for a maker's mark stamped somewhere. I can't tell from the pic, but it looks like sterling to me. Don't polish it, just rub it up with a soft cloth and see what happens.

Take pictures in good outdoor lighting with the best camera you have, on a NEUTRAL background, not a red one, and in indirect light (the north side of a building is great, or under a patio roof.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 5:52PM
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sweeby

Thanks for your feedback --

Linda - The necklace may have been dipped, since my mom was fond of silver dip... But there's some tarnish in the stamping grooves and on the back sides of the links. Nothing that looks like plating wearing off or peeling, so whatever metal it is, it looks full-depth. Maybe nickel silver? The metal color is very similar to some of my old sterling jewelry, but there is no sterling stamp. (Unless it was on the now-gone clasp.)

I have looked very closely for markings. Unless it's practically worn off, there's nothing on the back, first or last links. Don't suppose they'd bury it in the middle? I'll see if good outdoor light reveals anything, but I doubt I'll be able to get better pictures. Is there something specific you's like to see LG?

Something tells me this piece is older than the 1970's. 70's peices had a kind of hippie/druggie/earth shoes look that I remember well ;-) I'm with LazyGardens in thinking it looks '40's or 50's-ish -- which was probably why it took me so long to warm to the piece.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 8:09PM
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lindac

Lots of Indian Jewelery wasn't marked in any way....particularly older stuff....and even some newer. If it were marked it would be in an obvious place....and lots of Indian jewelry was made with coin quality silver. It's pretty unlikely that a piece like that would be made from nickle silver. And I am fairly certain that hook/clasp is original to the piece.
I also think the style was typical of the 1940's....sort of sell to tourists along the road sort of thing.
And your father may have bought it used from a pawn shop in 1970.
Again how long? I hope it's at least 20 inches....great piece of jewelry. Very in right now.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 1:10AM
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jemdandy

The metal appears to be silver with black patina in the recesses. Do not clean that out, That detail is desired to form outlines around the embossments.

The stone appears to be green turquoise. The tiny bits of copper and maybe blackened silver stringers in the stone is diagnostic and differentiates it from a fake piece made by dying howlite. Turquoise grades in color from blue to a blue-green to a dull greeninsh blue to the shade of green seen here.

This piece could have been made by a variety of sources. It could have been assemblied by a Native American or put together by a hobbyist, or a shop owner. Findings in sterling silver can be purchased from hobbyist catalogs. The medallion appears machine stamped, but I could be wrong about that.

The stone, however, is a "keeper" and it has been nicely mounted. Good pieces of turquoise are getting scarce, therefore goodly sized pieces are valuable.

Turquoise is assocaiated with copper and silver ores.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 3:20AM
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texasredhead

In the Old Town section of Albuquerque, there are Indian style jewelry stores on virtually every corner. The people who make this jewelry which is largly silver and turquois are real craftspeople. The piece you show is an excellent example. This jewelry is expensive. I purchased a ring that cost $200. The piece you have may have cost several hundred dollars. However, it is very common for the craftspeople to stamp a mark on the piece. My ring has such a mark.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:58AM
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sweeby

My Dad in a pawn shop? Not a chance -- He just wasn't that sort of guy. A side of the road purchase -- quite possibly. He did mention that during his trips to Los Alamos he regularly saw Indians selling jewelry and blankets an such by the side of the road. I still have a small blanket and some bolos he brought back from one trip around 1967 that he acquired that way. (The chain is just over 20" long, so about 22" with the medallion.)

I love Old Town TexasRedhead! (And turquoise jewelry.) Last time we went to Albuquerque, poor Hubby got dragged around to an awful lot of those shops... But my Aunt (who lives there) told us never to buy in Old Town (tourist traps) and took us to a place on the outskirts of town called The Utility Shack for 'the good stuff'. But this piece didn't come from one of those trips...

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 1:25PM
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