Navajo silversmith, Mark Chee (b. early 1900s-1981), was well known for using heavy silver, beautiful turquoise and adorning them with traditional stampwork. Using only a saw, torch, mallet, and stamp he would create, manipulate and mold his pieces. His hallmark of a bird with his name in the body is stamped in his jewelry.
Born in a sheep camp on a Navajo reservation in the Four Corners area near Lukachukai, Arizona, Chee moved to Sante Fe after attending Fort Defiance boarding school from the age of 10 to the 11th grade. Chee quickly progressed from polishing silver for $5 a week at Julius Gans’ shop in Sante Fe, to becoming a benchsmith for Frank Patania’s Thunderbird Shop and Al Packard’s Shop in Santa Fe.
Between 1930-1960, Chee sharpened his craft and quickly became an accomplished silversmith specializing in old style designs with heavy silver. In 1946, he won first prize at the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial in Gallup, NM. His influence can be seen today in jewelry by contemporary artists like Mike Bird Romero. In 2002, Chee’s jewelry was shown in the “Jewels of the Southwest” exhibition.