Silver lining

Wearing southwestern jewelry, along with my NorthFace fleece jacket and driving a SUV in the snow. Does it get any more cliche?

Let’s talk  Native American-made jewelry. Its got its own special kind of magic. It’s huge and small, ornate and incomplex, fundamentally storied and mystical.

Even when the symbolism is overt, these pieces demand explanation. Made of sterling silver and often inlaid with brightly colored stones, the pieces bear witness to the quiet strength, pride and beauty of the United States’ indigenous peoples.

Despite the vast variety of imagery, design and craftsmanship, each piece seems to bear a shared humanity, carrying with it a bit of the person who gave it life. I like to imagine the artists honing a skill passed down for generations, their fingers blackened with tarnish, polishing the pieces to a perfect glow to be displayed on blankets, black velvet or inside cases heavily laden with treasure.

s-l1600I particularly enjoy the use of finely detailed patterns like the ones that mark the pottery pieces (of which I’m most fond) on this vintage bracelet I bought on eBay (left).

I love how these pieces revere and honor nature, animals and folklore. I would argue that no other genre of jewelry makes the simple more beautiful than pieces rooted in our country’s ancestry.

Living in Colorado, these pieces aren’t just for special occasions, solely paired with denim or reserved for days when cowboy boots are a must. They’re for everyday wear and I take advantage of the opportunity frequently. Today I’m wearing a pair of pendants I bought at the gift shop at the Colorado Convention Center, home of the blue bear.

20170210_165327Many shops that set their sights on the tens of millions of tourists who visit our state annually are a gold mine for these pieces. (Just be careful not to pay too much.) Some of the shop owners will haggle while others hold a stiff line.  Another reliable source is the many antique and consignment shops across the Metro Area. I purchased the bulk of the bracelets pictured at the top of this post at the  Hampden Street Antique Market.

Adding these pieces to your jewelry stable is a wise investment; their value and application doesn’t ebb and flow like many other styles do. Much like the turquoise stones so regularly employed by these pieces, no matter how long they’ve been worn, they remain cool. (A quick test of the authenticity of turquoise is it will be cool to the touch, even while in direct contact with the skin for several minutes.)

20170213_150630Case in point: During a recent visit to my favorite Denver consignment shop, I marveled at a beautifully bulky hinged cuff bracelet, forged of solid sterling silver in the image of a saguaro cactus.  “Isn’t that amazing?!,” the shop owner exclaimed, adding “It’s from the 40s.” I’d never have guessed it was born in the same decade as my parents. Aside from its size, it blended right in with the dozens of other pieces she had for sale that day – some new and some vintage.

I encourage you to blaze your own trail and to make your own statement with bright stones, Hopi overlay, Navajo Conchos or Zuni fetishes, to name just a few. This jewelry gives true meaning to the term “conversation piece.”


Roy G. Biv

In 2013 when I 13124663_10154271808838755_6238862855837539800_nlearned the baby in my belly was of the female variety, my 6-year-old niece declared that the theme of her nursery should be “rainbow zebra.”

Despite my opting not to go that route (her nursery is periwinkle and green), that saturated steed has been a mainstay in my daughter’s 3-and-a-half years of life.

1896840_10152978645848755_3723640402400884733_nAt a craft fair the year after her birth, I happened upon a pairing of the Rainbow Zebra cloth book and accompanying stuffed toy. Soon enough, “Rainbow BEEZA!” became part of our nightly routine. I can recite it by heart. Meanwhile, her aunts, cousin and of course, yours truly, added to her polychromatic pony collection with toys, clothing and artwork.

My girl’s interest in Rainbow Zebra has currently waned in favor of Minnie Mouse and Every. Single. Disney princess. But I won’t let our favorite multicolored mammal fade into the past. I cherish memories of reading (and reciting) that story with her nestled in my lap so many times. Maybe, royfor me, it’s a way to cling to her babyhood a little longer.

Two weeks ago, I painted her this painting at a class with my sister.  (You may have seen this painting featured on Undercover Boss.)

And, thanks to Links of London, I have my very own Rainbow Zebra, to honor my precious princess. It arrived in the mail this week, all the way from the U.K.  s-l300

Maybe even more than clinging to every bit of my girl’s childhood I can keep, I  believe the message the story bears is one particularly important right now for every child, every person: It’s OK to be different and always love who you are.

For those interested, the full text of the story is below. I’ve as yet been unable to determine who wrote the book, but to him or her, I say thank you for the brightly hued happy memories.

Once in a jungle far away, a herd of zebras spent each day. They grazed on grasses in the sun. They pranced and played and had great fun. They all wore stripes of black and white, which to the zebras seemed just right. “Black and white’s the way to be,” they all agreed contentedly.

They were quite happy with their lot, except for one. His stripes were not black and white but a brighter hue…yellow, green and red and blue. This little zebra said with a sigh, “I want to be like you…oh why can’t I be black and white too, not yellow, red and green and blue?”

He tried to scrub his stripes away! He tried to fade them in the sun! He tried to cover they with clay! But nothing worked. No way. Not one. So finally one dismal day he waved, “Farewell!” and went away. He told the herd, “I must go see if somewhere there’s someone like me.”

He walked until he came by chance upon a place called Jungle Ranch. “Here,” he said, “I hope maybe to find someone who looks like me.” He met a leopard wearing lots of splendid orange polka dots. A silly green gazelle was there and a sleepy lion with red hair. He met all sorts of jungle creatures with bright colors and pleasant features. “You’re nice,” he said, “as nice as can be, but none of you are striped like me.”

And so he walked for hours and hours until he came to the Land of Flowers. Their smiling faces were green and blue and red and pink and yellow too. “But none of you are striped like me,” the zebra sighed unhappily.

And now quite tired, he lay his head upon the fragrant flower bed. He woke again to thunder and lightning and rain so heavy it was frightening. A dreadful storm had come to pass. It shook the trees. It shook the grass.

And when at last the storm passed by. A rainbow arched across the sky. The zebra smiled with great delight at seeing such a wondrous sight. “A rainbow’s beautiful to see. And it is striped…just like me.”

So from that day he took great pride, in his own multicolored hide. Back to the herd he brought a glow, the beauty of his own rainbow.