My Vintage Navajo Silver And Turquoise Necklace Whispers To Me (The first in a series of the story)


I have always prided myself at picking out and wearing very unique pieces of jewelry.  However, this necklace of mine is very different from all of my other jewelry.  Although this necklace is very unique, the big difference between it and my other jewelry is that this necklace picked me.

I lived in California at the time and in 1992 on my birthday I was given a Native American silver and turquoise necklace as a gift.  My friend who gave the necklace to me told me it was old and that an older woman friend of her family had given it to her.  My friend told me that was all she new about the necklace.  I remember holding the necklace in my hands with great reverence.  I gently put the necklace on my neck and only wore it for a few minutes because it was strung on some kind of thread and I was concerned about breaking the thread.  I immediately put the necklace on my dresser and there it remained adorning my dresser with its beauty for the next three years, until I moved from the house.  When I moved I packed the necklace away in my jewelry box and there it safely stayed until 2003.

In 2003 I began to pay attention to the necklace.  I would carefully lift it from the blue velvet bag I kept it in and hold it in my hands for hours just looking at its strand of silver beads and the three silver pendants that were attached to the bead strand.  The beads were the size of peas and the pendants were medium sized with turquoise mounted bezels that were surrounded by some kind of floral design.  For some reason at that time I did not pay close attention to the floral design and instead admired the necklace as a whole piece of beautiful jewelry.  After spending time admiring the necklace I would gently place it back in its velvet bag and return it to the shelf in my closet where it would sit until the next time I would take it down to look at its beauty.  That is all I did for years.  I never wore the necklace.  I was always planning to have the necklace re-strung so that I would feel safe to wear it without it breaking.  For some reason I never had the necklace re-strung.

Around 2010 I started to wonder where the necklace came from and who made it.  I looked for an artist signature or hallmark but found none.  No matter how much I turned the necklace in my hands and no matter how much light I shone on it I could not conjure up or at least I could not find any signature markings.  The necklace was an anonymous piece of silver and turquoise.  Paying attention to the necklace this way was like opening a dam.  My curiosity about the necklace came gushing out.  Everything I had felt about the necklace grew exponentially.  I not only wanted to know where the necklace came from and who made it, I now needed to know.

I started a journey of searching which took up all my free time.  Every night I would come home from work and eagerly sit in front of my computer glued to the screen searching every website I could find on Native American jewelry.  I would sit at my desk in front of my computer screen as I searched far into the early morning hours.  I was transfixed as I sat in my comfy office chair with my finger glued to the down arrow click – click – clicking away.  I would scroll through the photos for hours looking for a necklace similar to mine.  I never found any necklace that remotely looked like my necklace.  I then began having an entirely new feeling about the necklace.  I started to realize the necklace was not really mine.  Instead, I realized I was the steward, the caretaker and it was my duty as the wise steward to find who the necklace belonged to.  I wondered why I started feeling like the steward/caretaker of this necklace since I didn’t consciously feel that way for the prior 18 years.  Though I wondered about this I didn’t get bogged down with this realization.  Instead, I would just merrily keep my searching going as though this was the most natural way to honor the necklace.

In 2012 I found an online appraisal sight and sent pictures of my necklace to be appraised hoping the appraisers could also tell me who the artist was.  No such luck.  They were not able to tell me anything about my necklace.  I finally decided to take my search into the outside world which meant I found a local shop that was dedicated to everything Native American.  I took my necklace to the shop and the owner and I spent a wonderful time talking about my necklace.  She confirmed that the necklace was old and that the turquoise was real.   She told me I had a beautiful piece of Indian jewelry but she was not able to tell me where the necklace came from or who the designer/silversmith artist was other than she thought it was from Nevada or at least the turquoise was from Nevada.  So now I had verification by a Native American jewelry collector that my necklace was authentic and probably crafted in the 1950’s or 1960’s.  This information was a confirmation for me and just spurred me on to search further.  Little did I know that within 6 months of my visit to that Native American store I would be moving to New Mexico. Upon moving to New Mexico my necklace journey moved with great speed of intriguing twists and turns .

Due to being laid off from my job of 12 years and no longer able to find employment in San Jose, California I packed my stuff and moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Thanks to my brother who lived in Las Cruces and who agreed to let me stay with him I was able to start my life over. (That is another life story I will be posting about in the near future.)  Once I got settled in Las Cruces I again started up my search for the artist who created my necklace.  I was in luck.  Two local jewelers I met told me that they thought the turquoise in my necklace was Morenci Turquoise.  One of the jewelers told me the necklace was strung on silk thread and that it probably had been re-strung many years earlier.  He also told me that the necklace may have been created in the 1940’s.  I now knew about where the turquoise came from but still did not know who the artist was.  Without an artist signature or hallmark neither of the jewelers could tell me that bit of important information.  I continued on the search.

One day months later I found a book on southwest turquoise at our local used bookstore, COAS.  (The book is “The Allure Of Turquoise” by New Mexico Magazine)  I read about the Zuni silversmith and jewelry artist Dan Simplicio Sr.  Finding this book and learning about Dan Simplicio took me on a very interesting journey.  I began to research Dan Simplicio and the jewelry he made during his life as a Zuni artist.  Needless to say, I thought my necklace may have been made by this Zuni artist.  One of the reasons I thought this is because Dan Simplicio was known for his leaf designs.  By the time I started researching this Zuni artist I had begun paying a great deal of attention to the leaf designs that embraced the turquoise pendants on my necklace.  I began to think that maybe the leaf designs were the signature designs Dan Simplicio Sr. was known for and that maybe he was the artist who made the necklace.  I also wondered if the silver stamped flowers at the top of each pendant were designed by him.  My research journey of Dan Simplicio and Zuni jewelry landed me into a youtube site where I found the video, The C.G. Wallace Collection Of Zuni Jewelry Narrated by Deborah C. Slaney, Curator of the Albuquerque Museum.  After viewing the video I decided to contact Deborah Slaney at the Albuquerque Museum.  Deborah was very helpful.  I emailed her pictures of the necklace and though she thought the flower applique designs adorning the top of each pendant were quite beautiful she told me she didn’t think the necklace was made by Dan Simplicio.  Deborah told me she thought the necklace was more like a Navajo design.  She suggested I contact Turkey Mountain Traders and talk to them about the necklace to see if the artist was Dan Simplicio Sr.  Deborah also suggested I contact Bob Gallegos, located in Albuquerque and who knows about artists who were working with hand-drawn wire.  She told me that Bob Gallegos could also let me know if the necklace was made by Dan Simplicio Sr.   I spoke with Turkey Mountain Traders and after viewing pictures of the necklace they told me that it was not a Dan Simplicio Sr. necklace.  I then spoke with Bob Gallegos and after viewing pictures of the necklace he told me it was a Navajo necklace but unfortunately could not tell me who the jewelry maker/artist was.  I was thrilled.  I now knew the necklace was Navajo.  I immediately started researching Navajo silver turquoise necklaces.  That is when I found the confirmation that the necklace was indeed Navajo made.  On the first website I landed on I found a necklace with similar silver stamped flowers like the ones on the pendants of my necklace.  Apparently, these flower designs are uniquely Navajo.  Although the flower designs were similar they were not exactly the same as the flowers that adorn the top of the pendants strung on my necklace.   Interestingly, during my long years search while living in California I never found any necklaces with these flower designs.  For if I had I would have learned that my necklace was Navajo made.  Also, the owner of the Native American store I took the necklace to didn’t know it was Navajo.

I now knew more about my necklace than ever before.  The turquoise may be Morenci Turquoise.  The drawn silver work along with the silver stamped work of the leaves and the flowers is Navajo.  What I also knew is that the necklace whispers to me.  I have come to realize that all these years the necklace was guiding me along my journey of searching for it’s original owner, the silversmith/artist who designed and made the necklace.  When I finally realized that the necklace was guiding my journey my intuitive self said, “Of Course, That makes total sense!”  My intuitive self is thrilled with knowing I am the steward of this necklace, a necklace that is guiding me with its whispers.  It is my logic thinking mind that has a difficult time with all of this.  It is one thing to be ok with all the research time I have put in all these years, for after all, research is the realm of a logical thinking mind.  On the other hand, intuitively following a journey guided by a Navajo necklace that whispers to me is not quite the realm of a logical thinking mind.  The interesting thing is, that while I was busy researching my mind was kept busy while my intuition worked alongside of the necklace as it was whispering to me and guiding me.  Intuitively I allowed myself to take this journey all these years and so as I continue this journey I know that my mind may argue that I am silly to follow a whispering necklace but my intuition will willingly hear the necklace whispering to me Keep Going, Keep Searching, Keep Looking For The Artist. Keep Going……….

The necklace whispers to me that It is time for me to go to Old Mesilla and talk to store owners there.  I am onto the next leg of my journey.  Onto Old Mesilla I go.