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What is a Hallmark?

Hallmarks identify the jewelry maker. Many times they are just simple letter stamps. They are not something new, but can be traced back to the 4th Century. Famous American metal smiths used them before we became a country. Paul Revere who warned the Colonial militia “the British are coming” during the American Revolution used a hallmark on his handmade silver pieces in the 1700s.>

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Carved Zuni Fetishes an Introduction

Friday, October 10, 2014 5:57 AM

For the past two centuries across the American southwest, in silent ruins and cave shelters, archaeologists have unearthed 1000 year old carved Zuni fetishes: duck-like birds of chalk turquoise, a frog of polished jet, birds of hematite, aragonite and tiny, turquoise tadpoles to name a few. Many of these items have holes drilled in them, possibly for cords to suspend about the neck. What did these objects signify and how were they used? For answers to these questions one must look to the modern day Zuni, the Native American tribe most noted for their fine, carved Zuni fetishes.

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Zuni Fetishes

Thursday, January 28, 2016 5:55 AM

One of the most popular arts, nearly equal in importance to Zuni jewelry, is Zuni fetishes. The origin of small figures carved of shell and native stone goes so far back into ancient history it may be considered always part of Zuni culture. Unlike other art forms, Zuni fetishes were the sole property of that tribe. Carved animals of the hunt and the field, were traded to Navajos and other Pueblos. Today the Navajos have added fetishes to their talents, but they did not make them traditionally.

The word fetish has negative connotations in American English, but it was applied to these small carvings because they have protective and healing qualities. The Zunis traditionally had six prey animals for the six cardinal directions (counting zenith and nadir—up and down) and the most senior prey animal is the mountain lion. These days the term “Beast Gods” is often used but the Zunis object to the designation as misleading. Clearly it is good marketing. It sounds more powerful than “prey animals.”

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Allunite - Zuni Fetish Carving Material

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 6:01 AM

You don’t have to travel far in the Four Corners area to find the rocks used in Zuni fetish carvings. Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah are all very rich with minerals. Allunite comes from Utah and can be very diverse in its look. You can find this material in white, gray, yellowish gary, reddish gray, and yellowish white. As well as all of the different colors the mineral can range from transparent to semitransparent.

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Deer Antler - Zuni Fetish Carving

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 6:07 AM

Drive through the Four Corners area and you are likely to see mule deer, elk and antelope. Did you know that deer antler color can vary depending on the location the deer was harvested from? Variations are usually the result of the amount of oxidized blood left over from velvet shedding and the type of plant the buck uses to help shed it's velvet. The chemical reaction between the blood and sap present in the tree or bush used to rub the antlers can sometimes lead to interesting color variations.

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Dolomite - Zunis Fetishes

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 6:26 AM

Dolomite is a sedimentary carbonate rock similar to limestone, but much harder. It has a unique saddle-shaped crystal made of calcium magnesium carbonate. It is most commonly found in areas of Europe (particularly Italy), Canada and Africa. Not a traditional Zuni carved stone, the carvers that do use it like it for its bone color. It can vary in color though, from white-to-gray and white-to-light brown. Less commonly, colors such as red, green and black are possible.

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