Navajo Silver Box with Zuni Turquoise Carved Leaf
Artist: Once Known
Dimensions: 11 1/8”L x 6”W x 4”H
Tribe: Navajo/ Zuni
Stone: Natural Turquoise
As seen in Elegant Vessels: A century of southwest silver boxes (Page 104-107)
In yet another unusually large example, it can be seen that this silver box was designed and built around the central setting. In this case, a carved-turquoise leaf of impressive proportion was selected to hold that position. Traders would supply expensive stones and fine carvings or mosaics by noted Zuni artists to the most highly skilled Navajo silversmiths to combine on these exceptional boxes. The expertise evident in the carving suggest it is the work of Leekya Deyuse, Dan Simplicio, or one of the other talented carvers at Zuni. Until San Ildefonso potter Maria Martinez was encouraged to sign her work, the concept was unknown among Native artists. As the commercialization of Native arts increased, traders promoted the work of skilled individuals that was “signed by the artist.” This idea crept slowly into Southwestern jewelry. In the 1930s, Juan Dedios, one of the early Zuni silversmiths, was credited as the first to mark his work with his initials, “JD.” The signing of work soon became a standard practice among the more talented smiths.
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