Thursday, October 11, 2007

Albert Tolino

I finally met up with Albert Tolino. A few weeks ago his sister recommended that he show me his work so today I met him at the Rocket Cafe here in Gallup where we had about a 45 minute chat about the business over tasty plates of stir fry vegetables and ice tea. Albert, a very soft spoken gentleman, told me about going to high school here in Gallup with the late Harry Morgan. He said Harry was very talented with leather. Albert was later surprised to hear that Harry had given up his leather work to become a famous silversmith. Albert's own reservations roots go way back to his great-grandfather who learned silversmithing from the Mexicans and frequently traded for his work, made mostly from coins in those in days, for white horses. His grandfather carried on the tradition and built his own livestock holdings in trading silver goods. Albert's father did not silversmith; he did not really comment on his own father. Albert himself got started as a teen in silversmithing. He spoke fondly of the days when he went to Hollywood to sell to the stars. That was in the 60's when natural turquoise was readily available and silver was $1.59 an ounce. He said the jewelry sold like hotcakes. He particularly loved the times when he would set up a display and a buyer would come along and take all he had to offer. Albert says it's hard to get untreated turquoise now and he repeated what I so often hear, e.g. silver has become too expensive for many of smiths.

He said mass production of the silver goods along with imports have driven the once-rich market down. No Gallup merchants, besides myself as of today, are representing his work. He said in recent past months most of his work has been done as gifts for friends and relatives. Of note, Albert retired as mental health worker from Indian Health Service a few yrs ago.

After lunch, we went out to his pickup truck he is proud to keep running at 400,000 miles to have a look at his silver proucts. He had a few bracelets, bolo ties, and ranger belt buckle sets. I ended up buying 6 ranger sets from him and I now have them all posted. For an example see item see item 180168836586 on Ebay.