Weight: 13 grams
Height with bale: 2.25 inches
Bale Size: 8mm
Artist: Calvin Begay, Navajo
For a while, Calvin worked with A Touch of Santa Fe in Gallup, where he authorized their bench artists to use/fabricate his designs alongside him. Almost all the work designed and made there carried both Calvin's signature AND the TSF stamp (and sometimes a third stamp of the artist who made it.
After a while, he left TSF. They continued to use Calvin's designs and some of his silversmiths and lapidary artists. The problem was that they continued to identify the pieces as Calvin's work with his name stamp, unauthorized. He instructed them to stop. The New Mexico Consumer Protection Division has sued and won a fraud lawsuit against the dealer.
This many years out from the conflict, there would be no discernible way to know which pieces were from the authorized era versus not. More than anything, being at TSF meant his work was cranked out and so simply having a Calvin Begay stamp doesn’t make a piece very valuable.
Although used by many civilizations for centuries all over the world, in the Navajo tradition, Turquoise is foremost a protection stone. Navajo is the word assigned by colonizers, they call themselves Diné.
Often, Native American artists will metalsmith either at-home or in-house for traders in Gallup. On Aunt Suzie’s frequent buying trips, there were only a handful of second and third generation reputable traders she trusted to cherry pick the best from. These are those pieces.
She was one of a only a few dozen retail members of the Indian Arts and Crafts Association, dedicated to preserving the authenticity of Native goods as it is against federal law to misrepresent goods that are not. Un-ironically, after 30 years this organization disbanded the same year she passed away.
Imported jewelry robs Indigenous communities of the ability to provide for their families. [So does criminally deflated wages but that is a soapbox for a different day]. It seemed like quite a leap when a prominent silversmith stated that the counterfeit jewelry is genocide. But after reflection and with firsthand knowledge, we at High Desert Turquoise vehemently agree that forgeries are indeed that harmful. No matter where you buy your jewelry, PLEASE ask questions and educate yourselves.
Despite no branding, social, and little reference for 'High Desert Turquoise’, Shjames was a power seller on eBay for 20 years with 100.00% positive feedback (20K transactions!) known by loyal customers all over the globe for her taste, extensive knowledge, and authenticity. Her listings were authoritative and artful dissertations.
In perfect series of unfortunate events, our family lost her item descriptions. So her niece Lauren spent hundreds of hours over the past 3 years obsessively following, connecting with, and learning from long-time collectors, gallery owners, other traders and resellers, Native smiths, and stonecutters who have been incredibly open-source with their knowledge.