Lee Charley has been described as "The Picasso of silverwork." When you take a close look at his work, you see the perfection of every twist and turn in the silver. Each piece is unique, stunning, and incredibly detailed. This amazing sterling silver and Kingman turquoise pin is incredible; Lee has hand-formed each bezel to fit perfectly with each of his chosen turquoise stones.
- Pin handcrafted by Lee Charley (Navajo)
- Sterling silver
- Kingman Turquoise
- Pin measures L: 2-1/2" W: 1"
- Comes with a signed Certificate of Authenticity
Handcrafted works of Native American art require special care. For more information about proper care and cleaning, please read our Care Guide.
Lee Charley (b. 1968) is an accomplished Navajo silversmith who lives in Thoreau, NM. He learned jewelry-making from his mother, and his brother is well-known silversmith Ernest Rangel. Charley creates both traditional and contemporary work, and his handcrafted designs are often inspired by fish, dragonflies, and other animals.
For centuries, Native people had been fashioning beads from shells like spiny oyster, and the deep red Mediterranean coral quickly became a prized material. Santo Domingo Pueblo incorporated coral into heishi bead necklaces used for trade or adornment. Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo artists used the gem for ornament, and in necklaces worn in ceremonial dances. Coral was first set in silver in the late 19th century after the Navajo, Zuni, and Pueblo people learned silversmithing.
In the 1930s, traders encouraged its use by supplying it to Native artists, particularly the Zuni. Red is a sacred color for the Zuni, and they believe coral brings good luck and longevity to the wearer. Native Americans also consider the gem a sign of wealth and status because of its expense and rarity. Whether used alone or in combination with other valuable gems like turquoise, coral remains one of the iconic gemstones of Native American jewelry in the Southwest.
Jewelry has been made and worn in the Southwest since prehistoric times. For thousands of years Native Southwestern people made mosaic inlay and beads of turquoise, shell, bone, or stone. Metal arrived with the Spanish. Native Americans acquired metal ornaments through trade, but it was not until the middle of the 19th century that Navajo and Zuni artisans learned the craft from Mexican blacksmiths and silversmiths. Their early silver jewelry creations were plain, with simple engraved, stamped, or punched designs. Turquoise was first used in silver around 1880.
By the turn of the 20th century, silversmithing was widespread across the Southwest, and Native artists were making more sophisticated pieces like concho belts, and squash blossom and naja necklaces. The Navajo soon became known for their use of silver, emphasizing silver-heavy designs with only a few gemstones, while the Zuni focused on stone work, featuring finely cut clusters of gems in complex patterns. The Hopi and Pueblo tribes also developed distinctive jewelry styles in the early 1900s. Today, silver jewelry is an iconic image of the Southwest.Read our Native American Jewelry Collector's Guide.
At Shumakolowa Native Arts, we guarantee that your purchase is an original and authentic work handcrafted by Native American artists as defined by the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. We ask our artists to complete an extensive certification process, providing a CIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood) card and other documentation of their Native American heritage. Our team of experts carefully inspects every product to guarantee it is handcrafted using traditional, sustainable processes, and natural materials of only the highest quality. We record the place and date of each purchase, and pride ourselves in paying a fair price that allows artists to make a living practicing their craft.
Every work of handcrafted art comes with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by an artist or buyer. At a time when many commercially made products are being sold as handcrafted Native American art, our in-depth purchase process allows us to guarantee the authenticity of every unique piece of fine art we offer. For more than 35 years, we have made it a priority to visit artists in their studio or home to purchase their latest handcrafted pieces and learn about their work. We have developed lasting relationships with artists, as well as dealers and collectors, and we take pride in being a trusted destination for fine Native American art.