Native American Jewelry Artists and Silversmiths We Love
Posted by Toqos Gallery on
Every precious stone has a story of its own. The one for turquoise, we feel, is especially touching and romantic. They say that many, many centuries ago, the Native American Indians would dance and cheer whenever they saw rainfalls. Their tears of joy mixed with the rain and seeped into Mother Earth to become turquoise. For this matter, they understand the beauty and meaning of the stone the most. Most of our turquoise jewelries are made by the native Navajos whom learned their skills through their family traditions. They all have their own unique signatures that you can use to identify them. Now let’s meet some of the artists and silversmiths we admire.
Navajo Albert Platero was born on the Navajo reservation in To'hajiilee, New Mexico, 30 miles west Of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has been creating outstanding silver work since the rise of its popularity in the 1970's. He is the uncle of Vincent Platero, another outstanding silversmith.
Alex Sanchez was born in 1969 and is Navajo to Zuni Clan. He learned to silversmith from his brother Myron Panteah, and has been working in silver since 2001. Alex believes his talent in fine jewelry is a gift from the Creator. He always strives to make the finest pieces not to spoil his gift.
Alex’s works are mostly traditional native styles, with original design and a contemporary twist. We like that he reveals in his works a sense of native culture and pride.
Arnold Blackgoat lives on the Navajo Reservation, Black hat. He started to silversmith at the age of eight, by helping his grandmother, Helen Blackgoat; mother Jenny Blackgoat; and his well-known uncle Carson Blackgoat. Arnold is known for his thick-gauged silver, deep stamping technique, all done free hand, which makes his jewelry one of a kind.
Born in Tohajiilee, New Mexico, Art Is a Navajo native of the Mud Clan and Reed People. His mother, father and brothers are all silversmiths, and Art grew up working with silver. Art completed a degree In education, but continues to follow his love of silversmithing. Living In Tohajiilee, New Mexico, Art has been working In silver and gold since 1976.
Betty Tom (Bea Tom)
Although we don't have too much information about Betty, we do love her work.
Bobby Johnson is happily living in Church Rock, New Mexico, which is known for the wealth of fine Native jewelry crafted by its abundance of Navajo silversmiths.
Within the town's silver working community, Bobby is considered one of the "elders". He is admired for his techniques and production skills and sought out for advice by many of his fellow jewelry artisans.
His skills were honed early as he grew up and learned in a silversmithing family. Bobby, along with his sisters and brothers, has all become experts at this art. Now in his sixties, Bobby's love for working with silver and turquoise has grown with time and he is more productive than ever. We hope that his health keeps up with his enthusiasm so we can continue to enjoy his creations for many years to come.
Calvin Martinez is a revival silversmith, creating classic, traditional styles of Navajo jewelry. He still uses many of the old techniques of silverwork, going so far as to shun commercially available sheet silver in favor of forged pieces, where old or scrap silver is melted down into ingots, then hand rolled into the necessary thickness for each piece of jewelry. His efforts have won entry into the finest shows and galleries, as well as some of the most exclusive private collections worldwide. Among his awards, first place at the prestigious Inter- Tribal Indian Ceremonial in Gallup, New Mexico.
Carlos Eagle is a celebrity jeweler. He began making jewelry in the early 1940’s and worked with some the best silversmiths of his time. He went on to bring the best jewelry of its time to some of the most famous people, from the Roosevelts to President Eisenhower to Elvis Presley and Cher.
The youngest in a family of 11 children, Dine' silversmith Danny Clark grew up in Klagetoh, Arizona. With his father being a silversmith, Danny carries on the family and cultural tradition. Living now in Gallup, New Mexico, he loves the work that he does. Danny's work is often detailed, including intricate elements such as feathers, flowers, and starbursts integrated with traditional forms. His range of silversmithing skills is apparent in the myriad of design styles he is able to excel at, from most traditional to contemporary. He is especially inspired by the natural world for his designs and finds these perfect forms of nature make a piece of jewelry more beautiful.
Darrin Livingston is a respected Navajo silversmith and jewelry maker. He lives in Church Rock, New Mexico, where he has lived most of his life and where his father and grandfather are from. He lives there with his family of four girls and one granddaughter. He learned his silversmith trade at the young age of 13. After graduating from high school, he honed his skills and decided to make a living as a silversmith. We have become a fan of Darrin’s work and has quite a few of his jewelry in our collection.
Eddie Secatero Jr. is a Dine' Silversmith born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His parents Agnes & Eddie Secatero taught him to silversmith as a young teen, while he also attended To'hajiilee Community School. Creating jewelry full time now, Eddie lives in Canoncito.
Eleanor Largo is a Navajo silversmith from the Towering House (Kinya’oanii) and Salt (Ashii’i) Clans. Born in 1953, Eleanor learned her craft from Anni Joe, a silversmith from Smith Lake, when she was a teenager. Currently living in Naschitti, New Mexico, Eleanor specializes in cluster work and earrings.
Emma Lincoln is a renowned Navajo silversmith and jewelry maker. She was born in Brigham City, Utah and was raised in Vanderwagon, New Mexico. Today, she works as a master silversmith in Gallup, New Mexico. After her husband passed away, this is how she supports her 5 children. She started practicing the art of silversmithing when she was 15 years old. Emma’s love for silversmithing and creativity has made her one of our favorite artists.
Ernst was born in Kayenta, Chilchinbeto, Arizona. He currently lives in Breadsprings, New Mexico with his wife Readda, and their twins Ernest Jr. and Faith. Back in 1975 he took silversmithing classes at Monument Valley High School. “We used copper in the class, but that is where I got my start. I took the class because it looked like something fun and easy to do. I used to watch my bro-in-law and his father make jewelry, they used to give me scrap silver to work with.”
Ernst’s jewelry making career took off when he brought some distinguished pieces to the Navajo Nation Fair and the Gallup Intertribal Indian Ceremonial. He was awarded with multiple ribbons there and decided to pursue jewelry making full time. Over the years, he has built a reputation for coral and turquoise cluster work on heavy gauge silver with deep custom-designed stamp work.
“I really feel my work is unique. That’s why I got the blue ribbons because it was something like the old style -- using thick silver -- and different from all the other pieces. Concho belts, squash blossoms, bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings and belt buckles, I do them all in my own signature old style series….I also do some great pieces in 14K gold, contemporary and old style.”
Today, Ernst is one of the most respected Navajo silversmiths. His custom deep stamping work is different from all others. He also has a gospel band called the Harvest Glory Band. They play all throughout the reservation and off, declaring the good news of the gospel.
Etta Endito is a creative silversmith and jewelry maker. Born in the winter of 1961 to the Tanglewater and Bitterwater Clans, she still resides in her hometown of Crownpoint, New Mexico. With the help of her mother, she started honing her craft at the young age of 13. Etta’s work has been featured in the Indian Craft Shop of The Department of the Interior in Washington D.C. She is famous for her distinctive contemporary silver jewelry and is one of our very favorite contemporary artists.
Jimmy Lee was born in Gallup, New Mexico, the “capital of Navajo Land.” He spent most of his childhood years in Arizona, and now calls the reservation community of Yatahey, New Mexico his home.
While still just in junior high school, he began to take classes in silversmithing, showing a natural affinity for this traditional art of his Navajo people. Now, at the age of 38, Jimmy has spent his life as a professional jewelry designer. His pieces are finely crafted, dramatic designs -- usually featuring high grade turquoise -- often decorated with sprays of silver leaves, wirework, and raindrop clusters. At a glance, his work displays a beautiful balance of fine silverwork matching the quality of the fine stone. He is also sought out for his unusual and stunning jewelry featuring bear claws, set like stones in his most unique pieces.
A master silversmith already, we look forward to the wonderful creations Jimmy will reveal in the decades ahead!
Kathleen Livingston (Kathleen Chavez)
Kathleen Livingston was born in Church Rock, New Mexico. She was bom on December 17,1958. She currently resides in Church Rock, New Mexico with her husband Lorenzo Juan and works out of Gallup, New Mexico. She started to silversmith in 1974, when the silver price wasn't so high. She started off making small stuff, such as earrings and rings and “slave bracelets". In 1994 she started to challenge herself in making higher end jewelry, which she says, “'it is more fun to make because of the amount of thought and imagination you have to put in it.”
Larry Spencer is a Navajo Silversmith who began working silver with his wife since 1985. He was born in Fort Defiance, Arizona. Larry loves riding horses when he is not in his studio working.
Lee Charlie, Jr. was born to the Navajo tribe in 1968 and is a proud member of the Deer Water Clan. His mother Nellie Charley was his silversmithing teacher and started him working at a very young age helping her prepare jewelry orders she was working on. Lee has produced his own unique jewelry professionally since 1992. His work, particularly his masterful dragonfly jewelry is featured in premier galleries across the country and is highly prized by top collectors of Native jewelry and art.
Few silversmiths have mastered the range of skills necessary to create excellence in so many different types of Native American jewelry as our friend Lee. You will find his modest LC makers mark on bold concho belts and buckles, dramatic squash blossom necklaces and bolo ties as well as very refined jewelry featuring delicately crafted dragonflies, horses, fish and other fanciful creatures. He is as comfortable and competent recreating traditional vintage Native jewelry as he is creating new contemporary designs of his own.
Lee is also a big fan and collector of "Iron Man" action figures and T-shirts.
Leo Feeney is recognized as one of the most skilled Native American style artisans in the world. For the past 40 years, he has perfected a one-of-a-kind style of Southwestern fine jewelry, influenced heavily by Zuni Pueblo design. Leo’s work can be identified by the intricate cluster designs of the sterling silver along with turquoise, gaspeite, red coral, spiny oyster and occasionally faceted stones. He has, without doubt, mastered his craft, though this humble master jeweler notes that he will always evolve, improve and fine-tune his skills. Needless to say, Leo is one of our favorite artists and we feature a lot of his works.
Leon Martinez is originally from Prewitt, New Mexico. He learned to silversmith at a young age. Well-known artists influenced him. His religion and prayers helped him perfect his craftsmanship. His goal is to make unique jewelry.
Lorenzo Juan was born on October 6,1954. He currently lives in Church Rock, New Mexico and works out of Gallup, New Mexico. He is a Navajo silversmith, who loves what he does. He has been silversmithing for 42 years since 1969.
His first creations were making beaded silver work, and other easy lower end jewelry, because of the lack of knowledge and experience at the time. Since then he has come a long way into making more complicated high end work. The style of jewelry that he enjoys making the most right now is the petroglyph overlay, which he takes his time making, because “in the end it is worth the time, if done right, it looks amazing!”
Mark Yazzie creates some of the most intricate and balanced jewelry coming out of the Navajo nation today. His clean techniques and attention to decorative details are testaments to his thirty years of mastering the many traditional and contemporary silversmithing skills evident in his work.
Mark was born in Fort Definance, Arizona and raised in the reservation community of wide ruins. Back in the mid-seventies, as Native American jewelry began a resurgence in worldwide attention and popularity, Mark began to do his silversmithing professionally at 3 Hogans, near the Arizona and New Mexico border. Through the years, and with his eventual move to Gallup, New Mexico, he has crafted probably every type of jewelry in the Navajo tradition -- squash blossom necklaces, concho belts, storyteller bracelets, earrings and rings.
Thousands of beautiful silver adornments and hundreds of pieces of turquoise later, his creative talents now bring us masterfully hewn jewelry, resplendent designs with high grade stones nestled in cradles of delicate silver leaves, berries and vines. His designs in silver, gold, copper and stone are collected and enjoyed by a growing jewelry following worldwide.
Marita Benally is from the Navajo Indian Tribe. She was born and raised in Steamboat, Arizona. Marita started her craftsmanship in the late 1990's, and she credits her husband, Daniel Benally, for teaching her everything that she knows about silver work and design. She enjoys and loves creating detailed and articulate designs. She currently works out of Gallup, New Mexico.
Born to the Edgewater Clan and the Mexican people in Gallup, New Mexico, 1959, Marvin McReeves learned to silversmith at his Grandfather's bench as a young teen. Honored by the Americans for Fine Arts organization, Martin is best known for his double stack saw and cluster work.
Mona Van Riper
Mona Van Riper was raised in Santa Fe and in Taos, New Mexico. She began silversmithing at the Mabel dodge Lujan House in Taos in 1976. Making and designing jewelry has been constant in her life ever since.
Mona's early jewelry was heavy stamped navajo style made from hand-cast ingots and coins. Over the years her style has developed into a more sophisticated and contemporary look while maintaining her signature old-world flavor. In 1992 Mona introduced engraving into her work which has given her jewelry a broader appeal.
Currently Mona's unique jewelry is made from sterling silver in combination with 18 karat gold overlays and engraving. She often uses rare and very high-grade custom cut turquoise in her pieces. Mixing precious and semi-precious stones also gives her jewelry a timeless look.
"I find making and designing jewelry exciting. There is always something new to learn".
In 1993 Mona won first place in the Silver Division in the New Mexico Jewelers Association Jewelry Design Competition. She also received the Enchantment Award in the same competition.
In 1994 Mona took second place in the Gold and Platinum Division of the New Mexico Jeweler's Design Competition.
Paul Livingston was born on March 3, 1954 in Gallup, New Mexico. He has spent his entire life in the Navajo Church Rock Reservation where he grew up watching with fascination his silversmith uncle craft raw metal and stone into beautiful jewelry. Through trial and error and a great deal of help from his Uncle, Paul became a fairly accomplished young jewelry maker. By the time he was 22 years old he was ready to launch himself into a full time silversmith. Today nearly 40 years later, Paul is a nationally known and collected jewelry artist. He is particularly known for a style of jewelry most silversmiths shy away from - cluster and row work, where multiple tiny stones are used together to form delicate, colorful designs in jewelry. Paul is happy to work with the little stones, even the tiny "snake eye" ones and is renowned for how exquisitely aligned the stone clusters are on his jewelry.
Even at his age Paul continues to experiment with jewelry techniques and design styles. He especially enjoys working with unusual textures created on metals and will often incorporate a new surface finish or other design application to see if these changes might enhance the jewelry's appearance and appeal. Though his forte has always been more traditional even vintage looking Navajo-style jewelry, his contemporary designs are also in high demand. The intricate saw work design of these pieces is especially difficult to achieve, but so very visually appealing in Paul's finished jewelry.
Raymond Beard is a registered Navajo Indian. Currently he works out of Gallup, New Mexico. He started silversmith in 1978, and was taught by his brother-in-law. The first types of jewelry he made were Zuni needlepoint cluster jewelry and inlay jewelry. As his skills improved, he moved on to making some Black Hills type of jewelry. One piece that he is most proud of is a large concho belt that he made with a crow dancer in the middle and clusters of stone around it.
Raymond Bennet has been a silversmith since 1994. He was born and raised and currently resides in Gallup, New Mexico. He learned his craftsmanship from his family members: mother, father and uncles.
Born in Twin Lakes, New Mexico in 1966, Daniel “Sunshine” Reeves is an award-winning Navajo artist of many talents. Sunshine learned the art of silversmithing from his older brothers at the a young age and has since become an innovator in the realm of his craft.
He has earned many awards throughout the years, including Best of Show at 1997 Santa Fe Indian Market and Best in Class in 1998. On any pieces he makes, Sunshine will use multiple different handmade stamps to create his signature unique patterns.
Sunshine's work is well-known throughout the world, including Asia and Europe. His work is exhibited in galleries and museums around the world.
Terry Martinez has been actively selling his art since 1976. Born in Blue Water, New Mexico and living now in Arizona, Terry come from a large Navajo family and a long line of silversmiths and artisans. Known in the Southwest for his work with traditional methods like the labor-intensive gold and silver sand-cast process, developed in the 1800’s, Terry also uses heavy stamp work and plate rolling to create his unique jewelry and silver bowls.
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Such a good personalities! This blog post is valuable as this help us to know about native american jewelry artists