Lightning White Buffalo Three Stone 7 Inch Cuff by Navajo Gilbert Tom
Weight: 111 grams
Height: 2 inches
Inner circumference: 5 and 3/4ths inches
Gap: 1 and 1/4th inches
Overall size: 7 inches
Native American jewelry styles popularized for tourist consumption in the 70s and 80s became far removed from traditional Navajo techniques. A wave of silversmiths decided to go against the grain and began a classic Navajo revivalist movement.
Gilbert Tom’s work is a perfect example this revivalist technique with old-style patina. He is a living silversmith in Gallup, New Mexico. He metalsmiths for the traders my late Aunt was like family to.
When we hear ‘White Buffalo’ in the world of Native American jewelry, people erroneously call it White Buffalo [Turquoise]. The chemical composition is NOT clinically turquoise, as it lacks copper. The Ottenson family owns the mining claim outside Tonopah Nevada, and they refer to it as White Buffalo. They also began White Bison, a lookalike cousin to White Buffalo.
**This is not to be confused with ‘White Turquoise’. There can be rock that appears almost white, but has a very faint blue or green tint to it, called Dry Creek Turquoise. It would clinically test as turquoise as it does contain the necessary heavy mentals, just in trace amounts equaling the lighter color.**
In regards to White Buffalo, the woven veins of Black Chert and hard White Dolomite are considered a magnesite and alumite with calcite and iron. There are few lookalike rocks that some may fraudulently try to call White Buffalo. Specifically Howlite.
Also, some may refer to White Buffalo [stone] as sacred, ie Sacred White Buffalo Turquoise or Sacred Buffalo Turquoise. While albino (white) Buffalo may be sacred in some Indigenous culture, there is nothing sacred about the stone.
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.
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. Some were like family to her. 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.
In perfect series of unfortunate events, our family lost her item descriptions. So her niece Lauren has 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.
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.