This is truly one of the most amazing pieces of jewelry--of any kind--that I've come across, and certainly one of the most impressive examples of Native American artistry. A LARGE cross pendant made by Navajo silversmith Joe Piaso Jr. with five chunks of highly collectible Carico Lake turquoise ranging in color from light green to aquamarine, and golden caramel-colored matrix throughout. The pendant bail is a piece of artwork itself, with raindrops of silver forming a spine through the center of the triangular shape. I've put this pendant on a beautiful sterling silver bead necklace, which although it did not come with the piece originally, repeats and enhances the raindrops in the bail and completes the set.
Joe Piaso Jr. has been making jewelry since the age of 13, born in 1957 into a well-known Navajo silversmith family. From his biography on an art gallery website that represents him: "As a small boy, Joe watched his grandfather make jewelry and this is what first sparked his interest in the art. It wasn’t until Joe was of school age and was sent to Albuquerque Boarding School that he actually began to develop his abilities. He took classes to learn how to silversmith there from a Santo Domingo Indian who greatly inspired him to further his abilities. By the age of thirteen, Joe became skilled enough to make and sell his own jewelry." Another bio that I found on him said his talent became apparent early on and that his teachers often bought pieces he made in school.
The cross measures about 4-3/8" long, from tip of turquoise to tip of turquoise, and 5-3/8" long when measured from the top of the bail to the bottom of the cross. It is 3-1/4" wide from tip to tip, and is 1/4" thick in most places, slightly thicker in some depending on the piece of turquoise. The largest turquoise chunk measures 1-1/2" long by just over 1" wide at the widest point, and the smallest piece is 5/8" long by 1" wide. The top piece of turquoise has a crack yet is still completely intact. A tiny divot of turquoise is missing from one of the smaller pieces (to the left if you're looking at the cross). And the bottom corner of the largest piece has a dark shadow, which in the photo looks like it might be missing but is actually just a darkened area. I imagine the piece was dropped at one point, accounting for both the crack and the tiny divot. Photo 5 highlights the crack and divot best. The bail has a lovely patina, which I would not polish, and the sterling silver back of the cross has small scratches normal for a vintage piece. Otherwise the piece is in wonderful vintage condition, and the turquoise will likely continue to change color over time.
Note that the graduated silver ball bead necklace, which is approximately 24" long and with the largest ball measuring approximately 11mm in diameter, is possibly Mexican or Native American made. It is marked STER on the clasp. I've had several vintage Mexican bead chains that have been light in comparison to this, although the clasp leads me to believe the necklace is more likely Mexican than Native American. Spaniards in the New World (what now includes Old and New Mexico) and Navajos shared many of the same traditions in silversmithing, having worked closely together and learned from one another in the Southwest through history. One shared type of necklace is the graduated silver ball bead necklace, which Navajos call "Navajo Pearls." Again, the bead chain pictured here, which comes with the pendant, is not likely Navajo made, but it fits perfectly with the cross. The silver bead necklace alone is valued at $195, although again it is being sold together with the cross pendant for the total price marked.
The cross pendant with silver bead necklace is a very special piece, demonstrating amazing feats--of artistry, craftsmanship, and nature.
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