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Turner Auctions + Appraisals to offer Southwest jewelry from a private collection
Native American Turquoise Sterling Silver Bracelet.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Turner Auctions + Appraisals will offer the private collection of Southwest jewelry from a major dealer/collector. The extensive sale will be held in several parts: Part 1 features Native American works from the Navajo, Zuni and Hopi. Offerings include bracelets, squash blossom and other necklaces, rings, belt buckles, watch bands, earrings, ketos and more for men, women and children. Parts 2 and 3, to be offered in 2017, feature Western jewelry and artworks. Turner Auctions + Appraisals begins its online auction Sunday, December 4 at 1:00 pm PDT; sale items can be previewed online until the sale starts. The online auction will be featured live on Invaluable and LiveAuctioneers, easily accessed through ‘Upcoming Auctions’ at the company’s website.

The owner of the collection was a major dealer and collector of Navajo, Zuni and Hopi jewelry in Southern California for over 30 years. From mid-1970s to the early 2000s, he operated a retail business that sold vintage, contemporary and custom Southwest jewelry to movie studios, prop and costume houses, and collectors. Some items have been in his possession since the 1960s. All items at auction are “from the vault,” he says – ones that were reserved for personal use or set aside for future appreciation.

Everything in the collection is original and hand-made. Most items are crafted of solid silver – either sterling or coin silver (“as heavy as we could get it”), embellished with gem-quality turquoise stones, some from mines now closed, and elaborate hand-cut bezels. The majority were crafted by talented artists; many are maker-stamped. Some are vintage ceremonial pieces; other contemporary pieces feature gold enhancements. Many are museum-quality items suitable, not only for wearing, but for display as wall-hangings or in shadow boxes. None of the pieces has colorenhanced stones, or are plated with silver or nickel. Overall, the owner’s quest was to obtain top-quality items that were out of the ordinary – specifically, “the finest examples of handwork we could find.”

The items in the collection range from the 1950s to about 1990, plus ones from the 1920s and 1930s during the “Harvey House period.” (One route of the Santa Fe Railway – officially named the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway – went southwest from Chicago to Southern California through New Mexico, Arizona and other states. Beginning in 1878, at numerous railroad stops, Fred Harvey built Harvey House restaurants, which brought good food at reasonable prices to the traveling public throughout the Southwest for nearly a century. In fact, because of the indigenous jewelry they offered train travelers, it can be said that Harvey Houses – considered America’s first restaurant chain – introduced Indian art to America, which became extremely popular with tourists as superb souvenirs of their trips to the Old West.)

Jewelry in the upcoming auctions was acquired in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada from the Navajo, Zuni and Hopi – each with a distinctive style. Many of the Native American jewelry makers for Harvey House were farmers who, during down time in the winter, made jewelry for shops to supplement their income. Other items were acquired from the makers themselves or their families. Some were obtained through trading posts or itinerant sellers; that is, representatives of various tribes who would stop at dealers to show and sell new wares. Other inventory was obtained from the vault of Tobe Turpen, Jr., a long-time trader who sold his Gallup, NM, store in the mid-1990s. Some were obtained from trading posts and reservation pawn shops: many Native Americans, having nowhere to store their valuables, would go to pawn shops near their reservations for items’ safekeeping, then redeem them later on. Some items became “dead pawn” – items sold after they had gone to pawn and were never redeemed, for one reason or another. The collection also features a few items from Plains or Northern Indians, which had been traded among tribes at pow wows.

The collection’s owner grew up in the Southwest in the 1950s. Back then, the desert town he lived in (which had ballooned from 8,400 in 1940 to about 25,000 in 1950 and over 64,000 in 1960) was still filled with purveyors of Native American and Western wares. Then, like now, jewelry for Indians was a store of value and status, along with sheep and horses. So with his background, contacts and interest in the Old West, the owner launched his own Southwest jewelry business in Southern California in the mid-1970s. At the time, there were few competitors, he says; in the era’s collegial environment, shops would send customers to other stores to find the specialties they wanted.

Now, after 40 years, the owner is ready to retire – from his business, his collection and his numerous possessions. As he says, “I’ve worked all my life and am ready to kick back a bit. I have greatly enjoyed collecting for my business and myself. And now it’s time for someone else to do the same.”

Highlights of this sale include:

Lot 83: Native American Turquoise Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet. Design by Navajo Native American, marked MD (Mary Dayea) inside sterling; the bracelet is approximately 2 inches wide with an inner circumference of approximately 6 1/2 inches including the additional 1" wrist gap; approximate total weight: 6.6 ounces or 189 g. Estimate: $200 - 400. The owner notes this piece is sand-cast.

Lot 152: Wilford Begay Silver Kachina Sculpture. Silver Eagle Dancer by Navajo Wilford Begay; approximate size: 9 1/4 inches in height; approximate total weight: 510 g. Estimate: $800 - 1,200.

Lot 143: Native American Navajo Coin Squash Blossom Necklace. Vintage Navajo jewelry, a coin squash blossom necklace made from dime beads (dating from the 1940s) and Morgan silver dollars (dating from the 1800s/1900s) approximately 16 inches long. Approximate total weight: 490 g. Estimate: $400 - 600.

Lot 87: Native American Turquoise Sterling Silver Bracelet. Design by Navajo Native American, marked H. Jim (Harrison Jim) inside sterling; the bracelet is approximately 3 inches wide with an inner circumference of approximately 6 1/2 inches, which includes the additional 1" wrist gap; approximate total weight: 5.5 ounces or 157 g. Estimate: $400 - 600. With its huge, hard-to-find stone, the owner calls this piece the “Big Chief.”

Lot 49: Native American Cuff Bracelet, Sterling Silver. Design by Navajo Native American Robert Becenti, marked inside sterling; the bracelet is approximately 1 inch wide with an inner circumference of approximately 6 1/2 inches, which includes the additional 1" wrist gap; approximate total weight: 4.5 ounces or 129 g. Estimate: $200 - 300. The owner notes this is made from layers of silver and hand-cut.

Lot 175: Native American Turquoise Rings. Vintage pawn Southwest jewelry, consisting of a miscellaneous grouping of 6 silver, turquoise and other stone rings, some marked; approximate total weight: 68 g. Varying sizes. Estimate: $100 - 200.

Lot 101: Native American Turquoise 14k Gold Cuff Bracelet. Vintage Southwest / Navajo jewelry marked inside 14K; the bracelet is approximately 1 1/4 inches wide with an inner circumference of approximately 6 1/2 inches, which includes the additional 1" wrist gap approximate total weight: 4.3 ounces or 124 g. Estimate: $1,000 - 1,500.

Lot 22: Two American Western-Style Cuff Bracelets, Sterling Silver, Gold Filled. One marked inside sterling Silver King Made, Chatsworth, California; the other 14K sterling, sterling Silver King Made, Chatsworth, California; the bracelets are approximately 3/8 inch wide with an inner circumference of approximately 6 1/2 inches including the additional 1" wrist gap; approximate total weight: 7.9 ounces or 224 g. Estimate: $300 - 500.

Lot 82: Native American Turquoise and Coral Sterling Silver Bracelet and Ring. Vintage Southwest / Navajo jewelry, marked Art Tafoya inside; the bracelet is approximately 2 1/2 inches wide with an inner circumference of approximately 6 1/2 6 3/4 inches which includes the additional 1" wrist gap. The ring size: 8. Approximate total weight: 282 g. Estimate: $500 - 700. The owner notes this is a pow wow, chief or ceremonial piece.

Lot 153: Navajo Bolo Tie by Jerry Roam. Large hand-wrought all-silver katsina bolo tie, marked JR; approximate size: 7 inches in height (bolo); approximate total weight: 247 g. Estimate: $800 - 1,200.

Lot 61: Two Native American Bracelets, Coral and Sterling Silver. Vintage Navajo Sterling Coral Bracelets by Jackie Singer and Dan Jackson the bracelets are varying sizes, largest example approximately 1 1/2 inch wide (Singer) and 1 inch wide (Jackson) with an inner circumference of approximately 6 1/2 inches which includes the additional 1" wrist gap approximate total weight: 4.4 ounces or 126 g. Estimate: $300 - 500. The owner notes the red coral, not available now, is from old stock.

Lot 1: Three Turquoise Belt Buckles. A grouping of three mid-20th century handmade silver Southwest belt buckles largest example: 3 inches in width approximate total weight: 206 g (for all three). Estimate: $400 - 600.

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