Steve's Insider Info

This is where we at Turkey Mountain Traders can take the time to give our clients and friends a glimpse into how we look at the art we sell.

Every month, we'll look at one topic in depth, and readers will learn about what technical aspects are important, how we separate the good from the great, and what makes something important culturally, historically and artistically.

To see past Insider Info pages, click here

This month...The Collector's Essential Library, and Quick Jewelry Fixes

This month, we look at books every collector should have, and then discuss simple, inexpensive and easy fixes that can turn a broken item into a personal favorite.

The Collector's Essential Library

Some of the most essential purchases any collector can make are the books in their reference library. An educated collector is a smart collector, and the right books can make all the difference.

Here is a list of books on the subject of antique American Indian jewelry and silverwork, with some personal thoughts on each. Essential 101 books are those we think should be in every antique jewelry collector’s library—the absolute essentials. General 202 books are those that go into a bit more detail, and have very good information for those looking to expand a basic knowledge base. We use these books to find information on pieces comparable to those we have in inventory, such as Pine Springs sandcast bracelets similar to those pictured in the Doneghy collection. Advanced 303 books are more specific, and usually focus on a certain topic in depth—they are important for people with an interest in that particular area, but might not be necessary for a more general collector--a perfect example would be the Wallace catalog and index, which would not help a collector of 19th Century pieces but are absolutely indispensible for Zuni collectors. Many books are currently available from Turkey Mountain Traders, while out of print works are kept in stock when possible. Prices for out of print books can vary, but will usually be near the level given. If you need a certain book to complete your library, please give us a call at (480) 423-8777 and we will obtain a copy for you. (These make great holiday gift items, and can be sent surreptitiously to a loved one for holiday delivery.)

ESSENTIAL 101

Adair, John. THE NAVAJO AND PUEBLO SILVERSMITHS. Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1944. Has been reprinted numerous times, and contains fabulous first-hand accounts of silversmiths at work on the reservation. The best early work on the art, craft and business of American Indian silversmithing. Softcover, in print.

Frank, Larry and Millard J. Holbrook II. INDIAN SILVER JEWELRY OF THE SOUTHWEST 1868-1930. Atglen, PA, Schiffer Publishing, 1990. The basic text on the subject for most beginning collectors. Very fine photographs of outstanding pieces from museum collections, many of which have very useful collection histories. In print, available from Turkey Mountain Traders for $35.

Lowry, Joe Dan and Joe P. Lowry. TURQUOISE UNEARTHED. Tucson, Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2002. Small, but packed with information and photos of examples from the classic American mines. The most accessible and useful book on turquoise currently available. In print, available from Turkey Mountain Traders for $12.95.

Slaney, Deborah. BLUE GEM, WHITE METAL: CARVINGS AND JEWELRY FROM THE C. G. WALLACE COLLECTION. Phoenix, Heard Museum, 1998. The best modern source for information on the great carvers and jewelers of Zuni, using examples from the portion of the Wallace collection that was gifted to the Heard Museum. Out of print, but available from Turkey Mountain Traders for $19.95.

GENERAL 202

Bedinger, Margery. INDIAN SILVER: NAVAJO AND PUEBLO JEWELERS. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1973. Relies less on first-hand observation than Adair, but covers the 1944-1973 time period in good detail. Hardcover, out of print but often available from TMT for around $85.

Lincoln, Louise editor. SOUTHWEST INDIAN SILVER FROM THE DONEGHY COLLECTION. Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1982. A wonderfully photographed book showing many pieces from the collection of Virginia Doneghy, who carefully documented each piece that she bought during her many trips to the Southwest. An excellent reference, covering many different time periods and styles. Softcover, out of print but often available from TMT for around $75. Occasionally, a hardcover is available for a higher price.

Mera, Harry P. INDIAN SILVERWORK OF THE SOUTHWEST, ILLUSTRATED VOL. 1. Globe, Ariz., Dale Stuart King, 1960. A collection of the pamphlets Mera wrote before his death in 1951, each dealing with a different type of silverwork. Excellent for technical details, though solid dating is not given. (Mera never did a Volume 2, though King did one dealing with later silverwork in 1976.) Softcover, out of print but often available from TMT for $35 to $50.

Baxter, Paula. SOUTHWEST SILVER JEWELRY. Atglen, PA, Schiffer Publishing, 2001. Very good color photos, and illustrates a broad range of pieces. The dating on many of the Trusdell collection pieces is imaginative, but the book is a good overview and generally worthwhile. Hardcover, in print.

ADVANCED 303

THE C. G. WALLACE COLLECTION OF AMERICAN INDIAN ART (auction catalog). New York, Sotheby Park Bernet, 1975. C. G. Wallace was a trader at Zuni who accumulated the greatest private collection of Zuni jewelry ever assembled, half of which was auctioned in 1975 (the other half went to the Heard Museum). Though there are some inaccuracies, this remains the final work in attributing Zuni inlay work. Out of print, and selling for amazingly high prices when available. If you find two, keep one and sell us the other.

Berlin, Jean. INDEX TO THE C. G. WALLACE AUCTION COLLECTION CATALOG. Scottsdale, Turkey Mountain Traders, 2008. An exhaustive cross-referencing of the items in the catalog by type and artist. Also reprints the price estimates, prices realized and addendum, and includes a story about the auction with quotes from people who were there. Indispensable for anyone who has the catalog. Softcover, available from Turkey Mountain Traders for $25.

Batkin, Jonathan. THE NATIVE AMERICAN CURIO TRADE IN NEW MEXICO. Santa Fe, Wheelwright Museum, 2008. A fine overview of the subject, showing the development of the trade and the work of some very important smith such as Ambrose Roanhorse. Hardcover and softcover, in print.

Bauver, Robert. NAVAJO AND PUEBLO EARRINGS 1850-1945. Albuquerque, Rio Grande Books, 2007. A catalog of the Gallegos collection, showing all the important styles of early Indian earrings. Softcover, in print and available from Turkey Mountain Traders for $40.

Schaaf, Gregory. AMERICAN INDIAN JEWELRY. Santa Fe, CIAC Press, 2003. Lists information for most important jewelers, both historic and contemporary. Quality control on the information is a bit less than stringent. Hardcover, in print.

Struever, Martha Hopkins. LOLOMA. Santa Fe, Wheelwright Museum, 2005. The definitive work on the life and work of Charles Loloma, with excellent color photos. Vitally important for the Loloma collector, though of limited interest to collectors of antique material. Softcover, in print and available from Turkey Mountain Traders for $45.

Wright, Barton. HALLMARKS OF THE SOUTHWEST, SECOND EDITION. Atglen, PA, Schiffer Publishing, 2000. The most complete listing of American Indian hallmarks and shop marks. Very useful with newer material, but no help with older pieces that are not hallmarked. Hardcover, in print.

Quick Jewelry Fixes


Everyone who collects Indian silver has a piece that is unwearable or unusable for one reason or another. Maybe it is a bracelet that doesn’t fit comfortably, or a ring with a cracked stone, or a necklace that doesn’t hang well. Whatever the reason, it does no good to own a piece that can’t be enjoyed. But often, these problems can be fixed easily and inexpensively, turning an unappreciated item into a treasured star of your collection.

What easy fixes can be done? Here are some suggestions, all of which can be done with a minimum of fuss and expense. If any of these fixes would help an item in your collection, please give us a call and we will help restore your treasure to its former glory.

Necklace restringing—if a necklace has broken, or if it simply does not hang elegantly, restringing on strong cord is always an option. Some necklaces do well with a wrap on the back, which can also be used to lengthen a necklace that is too short. Other necklaces need to have a clasp added so that they can be taken off more easily. Since a necklace made in the 1920s could still be on the original cord, it is often a good idea to do a little bit of preventative maintenance to forestall an unfortunate accident. And if a necklace is too long as a single strand, maybe it would look great as a double strand--or maybe the reverse is true. Whatever the case, we can help you out.

Bracelet reshaping and resizing—many old Navajo bracelets were made to fit a “Navajo” wrist, which is to say they are wide and flat. Some can be reshaped by hand, but others (especially those with many stone settings) need to be done professionally. In some cases, as with Zuni inlay pieces, there is nothing that can be done, but most of the time adjustments can be made that will help a great deal.

Stone replacement—many older pieces have cracked turquoise, or replaced stones that don’t match the originals. A bad replacement is worse than nothing at all, but it is possible to find old stones that match the originals.

Ring resizing—one of the most common fixes. As the seasons (and our weights) change, rings often need to be resized. Most old rings have been sized at some time, and having it done professionally and well does not affect the value or integrity of the ring.

Bolo/pin conversion—there are quite a number of extremely fine bolos that would work as fabulous pins, and the conversion is not a difficult one.

Earring conversions and replacements—women who do not have pierced ears can still wear many pairs of great old earrings with a simple clip or screwback conversion. Conversely, old screwback earrings can be converted to standard posts or hooks with little difficulty. And if a favorite pair of earrings ha suddenly become a single, we can work with you to try and replicate the missing one.