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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Navajo Jewelry ‘Glitters’ at American Indian Museum Exhibition

Bracelet by Raymond C. Yazzie, 2005. Silver inlaid with coral, turquoise, lapis lazuli, 14k gold accents. Collection of Mark and Martha Alexander.

Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family” explores the intersection of art and commerce through Navajo jewelry making. The exhibition of 300 items will run till January 10, 2015, at the by The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heye Center, located in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York.

Blue Corn Bracelet by Lee A. Yazzie, 1980. Bisbee and Royal Web turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral and opal. Private Collection of Joe and Cindy Tanner.

The exhibition focuses on jewelry made by members of Yazzie family of Gallup, N.M., which the museum describes as “one of the most celebrated jewelry making families of our time” for their silver, gold and stone inlay works. The bead and stone work of Mary Marie Yazzie is also featured in the exhibition.

Sun Face Bolo by Raymond C. Yazzie, 2013. Lone Mountain turquoise, 14k gold, silver. Diameter, 2 in. Collection of Lloyd and Betty Van Horn.

Various types of turquoise, coral and opal are used to create the pieces along with other materials, such as lapis lazuli and sugilite set with gold and silver. Many of the materials have both spiritual and economic value for Navajo peoples and are sacred stones in Navajo beliefs.

Nugget Necklace by Raymond C. Yazzie, 2009. Fossilized Lone Mountain turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral, sugilite, opal, 14-karat gold. Overall length, 31 in. Collection of Susan Heyneman.

The majority of the objects are based on nature with traditional Navajo themes, such as the Blue Corn bracelet, which replicates an open ear of corn with the kernels made of coral, turquoise or lapis lazuli with 14k gold accents. In addition, the painting-like Blessings bracelet is an abstract depiction of katsinas, a spirit being. It is constructed from approximately 485 stones of various turquoises, black onyx, Australian opal, lapis lazuli, sugilite, coral, gaspeite, and 14k gold, with a base of rare Water Web Kingman turquoise.

Lapis Bracelet by Lee A. Yazzie, 1984. Lapis lazuli, 18k gold. National Museum of the American Indian collection.

The displays show the relationship with the family’s artistic and crafts skills, their Southwest environments and their strong connection to their Navajo culture.

Squash Blossom Necklace by Lee A. Yazzie, 2012. Lone Mountain turquoise, silver. Collection of Jeffrey and Carole Katz.

“This exhibition tells a story of both the artisans and the craftsmanship, exploring the natural materials, cultural influences and surroundings that inspire the Yazzie family,” said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian. “The exhibition goes beyond Native art to tell the story of the interplay between Navajo culture and commerce, which is in keeping with the museum’s mission to evolve the way visitors see and experience the long saga and continuing life of Native peoples.”

Blessing Bracelet by Raymond C. Yazzie, 2002-3. Height, 1 1/2 in. Collection of Daniel Hidding.

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Ring by Raymond C. Yazzie, 2006. Opal, coral, lapis lazuli, jade, Blue Gem turquoise, Orvil Jack turquoise, 14k gold. Height. Collection of Leota and Phil Knight.