All of the above probably. None are copies of actual Navajo Yeis or Zuni Koko. The question here is, who made what? I have discussed the problems of attribution before, apparently without much success.
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.
With over 40% of the Native American population residing in the western 1/3rd of the United States it makes perfect sense all five cities are in the West, Southwest to be exact. Arizona and New Mexico have great weather in the summer and in the winter. We have a number of different Native American Tribes in both states. With all the visitors coming to the Land of Enchantment and the Grand Canyon State, the local Native American cultures really get an opportunity to share their art and culture.
Navajo Chief's Blankets
For Katherine the task seemed simple enough.
“Write something about Navajo Chief's blankets.”
“All right, that's straightforward.”
Navajo Chief's Blankets: Exceptionally tight, well woven, wide striped blankets in a dimension wider than long; used as wearing apparel and high value trade items from 1800-1885, favored by the Utes and Plains Indians. The blankets were not specifically woven for “Chiefs,” but were given that designation because they were expensive and considered a status item among Native people. Textile scholars generally concur that there were four phases in the manufacture of Navajo Chief's blankets.
Its all a ReMix anyway, right?
If you read your Navajo jewelry history you find out that the Navajo was taught how to make silver by Mexican silversmiths. This event takes place when New Mexico is a US territory, and only within a couple of years of being ceded by Mexico. Technically its not even possible to say the Navajo invented their own jewelry craft.
New Mexico is Native American
Lets start with some facts. New Mexico is home to the 2nd largest American Indian population calculated as a percentage to the entire state’s population. Much of that population is the proud people of the Navajo Nation. Lets not forget that the majority of that reservation lies in Arizona, and so if you added that you would be looking at the largest American Indian population. This leads to a great wealth of Native American art!
The Navajo Nation observes daylight savings. It does this because New Mexico observes daylight savings, instead of following Arizona, which does not follow it. The reason is simple, it is because Gallup, New Mexico plays a vital role to the people living on the Reservation and is the main servicing town to the Navajo Nation.
Gallup, New Mexico has two types of Wholesale Businesses for Native American Art
If you are driving across the country and find yourself in the middle of nowhere with an almost empty tank of gas and you come across a service station (the only station for hundred of miles) you pay their price. Their price per gallon could be significantly higher than you just paid 300 miles ago, but you are happy to have the service and fuel. Now, we know that you would never pay that price if you had another lower cost choice. However, this gas station has the luxury of exclusivity. When it comes to Native American art in Gallup, New Mexico business is fierce and prices are driven down by competition.
BE CAREFUL! People Sell Fake Art
Navajo silversmiths don’t own the rights to turquoise and silver jewelry. Just like the Amish don’t own the rights to wooden furniture. However, what they do own the rights to is calling their work authentic Indian Handmade, and that is where the injustices are made by con artist jewelry businesses who represent their merchandise as Indian Handmade when it's really fake art from a factory overseas.
The Navajo squash blossom necklace is maybe the most recognizable Native American piece of wearable art.
In Gallup, New Mexico things are done a little differently than, well say Las Vegas where “Pawn Stars” is filmed. When our customers come into the shop it is never a question of, “what would you like to do, pawn it or sell it”. Here we are always pawning and keeping many very valuable pieces of Native American art secure in our oversized “safety deposit boxes”. Over 90% of our customers return for their pawn items.
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