We miss the late Roger Tsabetsaye, award-winning jeweler, painter, activist, teacher, mentor, and tribal official.
He was especially noted for his luxurious, substantial and simple pieces, set flawlessly with the highest quality stones.
His trajectory through the arts began in elementary school: he was always interested in learning, and was the first kid to understand English, as opposed to Zuni, in his school.
He started out painting, inspired by his culture’s symbols and figures. (The Phillips Collection museum, in Tulsa, exhibits one of his early paintings.)
A Rockefeller scholarship took him to the University of Arizona for several summers, which led to the Rochester Institute of Technology, in New York State.
That is when he began making the jewelry that led to so many awards.
This ring is one of the very last pieces he brought us, and it is both typical, and different.
Typical, in the heavy gauge silver, simplicity of design, large stones, and flawless workmanship.
Different in the uncommon stones used: natural pyrite druzy from Russia.
The glittering flecks of “fool’s gold” are mixed with sparkling bits of green, as well.
These are rather rare stones, and totally non-traditional to Zuni culture, but stunning, and attention-getting.
Despite his personal adherence to Zuni traditions, Roger was always open to “new” and different stones, as long as they were special and beautiful.
The stones are symmetrically placed, with rounded edges for both triangular shapes at top and bottom, and the elegant, narrow oval, placed horizontally in the center.
The silver work is as splendid as the stones: solid, smoothly finished and polished.
The cool gleam of the silver is a nice foil for the warm glitter of the druzies, although only a slender edge of silver is visible from the front.
Two pairs of small silver balls adorn the spaces between the middle druzy, and those on the ends,providing just a touch of that contrast.
Pleasing symmetry, glamorous, high-quality stones and impeccable workmanship, continue the artistic legacy of this exceptional artist.