The patina of decades has been polished to a high sheen, the better to showcase the dainty stamping. This is a lovely vintage piece by “Old” Joe Chee, a Navajo jeweler born in 1910. It dates from the 1950’s to 1970’s, when we bought it as new. Joe Chee was a noted jeweler back then, and won Best in Show at the New Mexico State Fair Indian Art show, in 1973, among other awards.
Clean, sleek, classic and beautiful, this buckle gleams like a mirror, punctuated with delicate stamping and chisel work that forms a design reminiscent of traditional rug motifs. The feature is a bright blue, natural turquoise. Set high above the glossy surface of the buckle, the rounded turquoise triangle is from the Kingman mine, and absolutely typical of the best from that mine.
Natural, and brilliant in color, the characteristic, uneven surface is a textural contrast to the smooth-as-ice surface of the silver. Meticulous, regular chisel work forms a frame, around the whole piece, while equally painstaking stamping creates the graceful, pattern in the center.
This is a mid-century classic of fine, traditional Navajo jewelry design and fabrication – all by hand, naturally – by a late, great jeweler.