Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Early 1900s Navajo Turquoise Ring

When you wear a ring you seldom notice it. It becomes part of your hand after a while, and after 3 years you only hold it up for inspection when someone comments on it, and even then you're not looking at it—you're showing it to them.

A Frisbee got hooked on my ring the other day causing a tiny skin break where the shank meets my finger. The ring was irritating the injury so I took it off. I wanted to let my finger heal unmolested. This gave me an opportunity to really examine it for the first time in a couple of years, and remember why I chose it as my personal ring to begin with.

I found it in a cigar box at a garage sale, cleverly concealed as junk, as it was among paper clips, empty pens, spools of thread and whatever else the seller had deemed “crap” and decided to toss in a box—a little family of junk that he was sure no one would be interested in.

After wearing it for a year, one end of the shank popped loose from the back. The repair shop I frequent gets work from around the world. They stay very busy, have several talented Native American artisans on staff, and the work they do is superior. I left the ring in their care, got my ticket and a promise that they'd get around to it within the next 30 days.

When I retrieved the ring I was aghast. The ring was made around 1900 using blacksmithing tools, and had incredible age patina which is something I like on my sterling pieces—it gives them a lived in/loved look. They had polished every aspect of the ring—it looked like it had just come out of the artisans shop.

But that's not the worst of it; they had re-soldered the shank onto the ring 180 degrees out, so the triangle stone was now pointing sideways—not the original design. I was heartbroken. After some bickering I had them put the shank back correctly and inquired as to why they had polished it against my strict instructions. As it turns out, the sterling had been soldered with copper solder, which is not nearly as stable as sterling solder, and once they started working on the shank repair, which entails removing the stone prior to heating the ring, they put the torch to it and it simply fell apart—the copper solder couldn't handle it and it all just let go.

They did a great job of putting it back together, but in order for solder to work correctly, it must be applied to a 100% clean surface, hence the polishing. In my eyes the ring had lost considerable value in it's trip to the repair shop, but I got over it. It's my personal ring, I had no intention of ever selling it due to it's antique nature, amazing Cerrillos mine stone (the mine has been closed for decades) and it's unique design. So I just popped it back on my finger and went about my business.

Here it is a couple of years later, the ring never leaves my finger and it's patina has returned.

There is a ring museum in Las Cruces, New Mexico, run by a rather crusty collector. His collection is outstanding with his focus being on rings made prior to 1930. I offer him rings regularly and I think he's acquired two in the many years we have known each other. On my last visit he finally noticed my ring and was very interested in having it for his collection. I informed him it wasn't for sale and he proceeded to offer me $550 for it. I passed.

I have been encouraged to start a personal collection; pieces I know have significant historical value like this ceremonial buckle by noted Hopi artisan Michael Kabotie or this CG Wallace inspired Zuni Ranger set, that are so beautifully designed and crafted, that I will certainly never see another. Sadly, this is often the case concerning the pieces I offer on the Native Treasures website. At 10 years of study, honing my skills of acquisition and establishing a network of suppliers, I've kept the pieces moving, placing 100s of items in important collections and supplying a few dealers with goods.

I examined the movement thing a while back, and asked myself, “Where's YOUR collection?” I realized I am more interested in acquisition, for the fact that I get to see more and better items that inspire me to raise the bar. And to keep this happening I need funds. I get those funds by moving the gear. I have the pieces for a while, absorb their artistry, and pass them along so I can go do it again.

I have affectively started my collection with this ring. Agreed, it's just a ring, but it's a nice start.

1 comment:

  1. It is a magnificent ring, it has always looked great on you.
    You have a great eye for what you do.