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#63: Been Plunderin’

May 3, 2009

You’ll have to excuse, nay, forgive what I’m about to do, but I’m totally going to do it: There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west, and my spirit is crying for leaving… (thus quoteth Stairway). I just got home from the latest trip out west and as usual am already starting to plan a followup. No sleep for the weary. I admit it’s very good to be back in Brooklyn, but I’m outdoorsy at heart, and may or may not have been a Native American princess in a past life. Lots of ground was covered and serious treasures were plundered, and I will flaunt them willy nilly.

Of paramount purpose on this trip was to find myself knee deep in “pawn” jewelry. Much of antique Native American jewelry is referred to as “pawn” or “dead pawn” because in the early and mid 20th century struggling Native Americans without bank accounts would bring their valuables and handmade heirlooms into pawn shops of the west in hopes of bringing home bread. Sad, yes, and so I hardly use the word “plunder” lightly…

During the earlier part of the 20th century, one man did more for the turquoise jewelry trade than any other: Fred Harvey. Harvey was an Entrepreneur from the east who made it big in the railroads of the west. He set up hotels, restaurants, and dining cars on trains throughout California, Arizona and New Mexico. After his death in 1901, his kids and grandkids kept the business going through the 60’s. He created “Indian Detours” meant to depict an authentic Native American experience to tourists. Harvey commissioned Navajo artists for massive rugs for his hotels (traditionally not larger than blankets), and jewelry for his tourist shops, the first of its kind to be crafted by Native silversmiths for commerce.

Fred Harvey
Fred Harvey

“Harvey Era” Navajo silversmith at work

“Harvey Era” pieces are my favorite (read: compulsive and obsessive purchasing patterns). The detail and workmanship in the silver takes my breath away. Below are two Harvey era bracelets, spoils from this most recent steeplechase, both glorious in detail. Both are c. 1930 or so.

Could you not go blind from carving such tiny arrows?

Thank you to the wonderful Trish at Garland’s in Sedona, AZ for this little lady.

This darling actually features a jade stone, not the traditional turquoise. A smoother, shinier quality.

Picked up from one of my favorite vintage gurus, dear sweet Harriet at Frontier Plunder.

More where this came from!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Daddy permalink
    May 3, 2009 9:17 pm

    “The west is the best
    get here an we’ll do the rest”

  2. abcd permalink
    May 20, 2009 7:47 pm

    isn’t it stamped???

    • indiansummervintage permalink*
      May 20, 2009 7:58 pm

      it is, I didn’t photograph the stamp. Sterling JW MS (suggesting maybe Wilson had some help on this one).

  3. John Jaramillo permalink
    March 10, 2010 1:57 pm

    You have a very interesting website. I wanted to ask you if a lot of the fred harvey indian jewelry had a harvey stamp/hallmark that was used? If so when, and was it the post with a sign hanging from it with an arrowhead in it? Thought maybe you could give me some answers. Thanks so much for your time, John J


  1. #109: Signs « Indian Summer Vintage

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