vintage jewelry info

prisAugust 22, 2010

I have some vintage jewelry my MIL gave me in the early 1960's. She purchased it in Arizona in the early to mid forties. She seemed to think it was American SW jewelry but I have my doubts. It's just as likely to be Mexican. Anyway, I'm trying to get as much info as I can so that when I pass this on I can give the recipient as much history as possible.

I searched the internet and have come to believe the stone is snowflake obsidian even though the first hundred or more examples I found had sharper snowflake images than mine. I finally did find some with the hazier appearance. All the pieces are marked "sterling" and the silver is quite substantial, not easily bent. Could it be a silver alloy mix? There is no silver content number or any other mark on any of the pieces. I had the earrings converted from clipons to pierced so the sterling mark is not on the earrings now.

My ex and I had two boys and they have no interest in this jewelry but the ex remarried and they have a daughter. I would like to be able to pass along as much info as possible along with the personal story attached to her GM.

Any help identifying the maker (SW, Mexico, other) would be appreciated and what you think it might be worth.



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There is all sorts of info on the web about Indian Jewelry and about mexican silver jewelry.
A picture of the pieces would help.
Sterling is an alloy of pure 925 parts silver and I think copper, coin silver is a similar alloy but with 900 parts silver.
Don't sniff at mexican silver jewelry....some is very sought after.
Let's see some pictures.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 1:27PM
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I have no idea what happened. My first try at posting a picture (with the original post) didn't work so I re-posted and attached the pictures. I checked after posting and verified the link worked and now my whole second post with link is gone.

Linda, I wasn't casting aspersions on Mexican jewelry, just that I thought these pieces might be Mexican rather than SW as she thought.

Here goes. Third time is hopefully the charm.

Here is a link that might be useful: jewelry

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 1:56PM
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Would love to see closer. My gut instinct says Indian, but they are not very finely worked....I would say for the tourist trade.
Notice the stones are all set into the same bezel and the bezel applied to a bracelet a broach barrette and earrings.
Almost without a doubt sterling but for the barrette back.
They are not typical of any work of any tribe I can think of in that area that was making jewelry at that time.
And it could be some little old guy in a workshop, who bought the stones in the bezel and soldered them on to the bracelet etc himself.
I also don't think there is much doubt that they are snowflake obsidian....which points a little more toward them being Mexican.
Whatever, They are nice pieces.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 4:45PM
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My photography skills leave a lot to be desired, plus, it's a new camera. The kids gave me this one recently as my camera was no longer compatible with the computer. I'm still getting used to this one. The pictures aren't as clear as I would like but I picked out the best of what I had.

I think the obsidian is what made me think more along the lines of Mexico rather than SW. Either one is likely from that area. My inlaws moved from NJ to Arizona when my ex was a toddler. He was born in 1940 and developed severe asthma. Medication was not as good in the early 40's hence the move. They were only out there two or three years and then returned to NJ about 1945. This set was purchased during their stay there.

I did internet searches for every discription I could think of and didn't find anything that resembled this. Maybe someone else has seen something along these lines. If not, I'll try finding someone to appraise it for me.

Thanks, Linda

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 7:01PM
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Where in Arizona did they live?
You will get your best evaluation from a site that deals in Indian Jewelry. don't ask for an appraisal, ask what they think they are.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 7:16PM
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I don't remember where they lived. I'm sure it was mentioned at the time but that was 50 years ago and they didn't talk a lot about the short time they spent there.

I've been searching just now and did find a ring that is similar. The bezel is the same except for the 5 half circles. On mine they are at the top and bottom and graduated in size and on theirs on the side and all the same size. I also found a cuff bracelet on ebay that was similar. Mine is approx the same width all around but theirs had three strands of silver that tapered down in back. Much like taking the outside pieces off mine leaving the three pieces of silver going 'round. This one advertized it as Navajo so it looks like mine may be SW. Also it looks like you're right about the bezels. Most I saw at these two sites were a lot like mine.

Thanks again for all your help.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 8:07PM
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The stones do appear to be snowflake obsidian. The "flakes" are rather large compared to the average material. The cuts are probably standard cabachons which are easily made on a cabbing machine. Measure the long and short dimensions and if these measure to whole millimeters, it is likely a standard cut. Common ratios of length to width are 1.2, 1.25, 1.33, 1.4, and 1.5.

Look in catalogs for hobbyist lapidary (such as Griegers) to find standard mountings. Much Indian and Mexican jewelry made for the tourist trade is made from purchased cabachons and findings that are assemblied onto designs by the artist. But hobbyist often purchase inexpensive chains, links, and pieces and then assemble several different pieces by mixing and matching. This is also a common practice for tourist trade items as well.

The next step up in jewelry making is adding soldering skills. The third step up is designing unique mounts and making these pieces. At this point, a person's input begins to be classed as an artist.

Many of these findings may range from 12 to 18 caret silver and won't be marked. Pure silver is much too soft and weak for mounts.

Snow flake obsidian is black volcanic glass. The material will range for slightly translucent to opaque. Various colorants and 'stingers' mixed intot he glass gives it various appearances. The snow flake effect is less common and a good piece is quite striking. A good piece of finished snow flake will not have soft spots and will have a good polish over the entire surface. The 'snow' will be fully disolved into the glass and not like and 'inclusion'.

Being glass by nature, it is relatively soft as gem stones go. It has the hardness of ordinary glass (mohs 5) whereas quartz is mohs 7. For this reason, it should never be mounted as a ring stone, but applied as your pieces are.

Snowflake obsidian is not rare, but as the years roll by, good pieces are becoming more scarce, therefore, the value should not go down. The value of a snow flake obsidian cabachon is determined by appearance, good shape, polish, and size. Some cabachons are cut too thin.

The value of your pieces probably lie in the findings and chain work. Be aware that good looking pieces can be assemblied from catalog parts by hobbyists for material cost starting at $20. Charges for labor and design ups the price.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 1:11AM
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There is a ring in the set that no one has mentioned so far. The ring and earrings are the only pieces I ever wore with consistancy. I did wear the bracelet a few times before wrist surgery in the early 70's. After that it irritated the scar. Living in S. Texas made wearing the brooch a little difficult. Even our winter clothing is not terribly heavy and the brooch requires a solid attachament due to weight.

The similar bracelet I found on ebay is advertised as new so there is still some doubt as to the maker. Navajo today may not have been in the early 40's.

Also I noticed the stone in the bracelet is a little wobbly. What should I look for in a jeweler to be sure it's fixed properly? Small town and only one official jewelry store. I should probably take it to San Antonio to have it fixed?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 12:47PM
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Navajo jewelry of the 40's and 50's had quite a distinctive look and your stuff doesn't have that look.
You need a silver smith or someone that deals in hand made silver jewelry to fix the ring....just a jewelry store will perhaps clobber it.
I would remove the pin from the broach and attach a ring, find a good heavy chain and hang it around your neck,,,,or make ut into a belt buckle.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 5:17PM
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Can you borrow a better camera, one that can focus close-up, and get some better-lit close-ups of the silver soldering technique and the bezels around the stone? Bring in a couple of desk lamps and really blast some light onto them.

It looks "tourist trade" Navajo to me.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 5:58PM
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Can you borrow a better camera, one that can focus close-up, and get some better-lit close-ups of the silver soldering technique and the bezels around the stone? Bring in a couple of desk lamps and really blast some light onto them.

It looks "tourist trade" Navajo to me.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 6:01PM
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