Saturday, May 19, 2012

Who Gets Credit for This Reversible Bear Pendant?

Bear Pendant by Silversmith Calvin Begay and an Unnamed Navajo Inlay Artist, circa 2012
ANSWER:  Calvin Begay whose work is very well known. "Calvin Begay" is a widely distributed brand name like "Tommy Singer."  In fact, Calvin Begay's name is the second most widely recognized name in the Native American Indian Jewelry business today.  What is not commonly known to consumers and even many retail sellers is that virtually all pieces credited to him that have stone inlay work (like the bear above that has "Calvin Begay" stamped inside the bale) are not inlaid by Calvin.  He is a highly accomplished Navajo silversmith who rightfully should be credited for the metallic art aspects of his brand of jewelry.   However, the major captivating appeal goes to a Navajo stone inlay artist who almost always goes unnamed.  I frequently advocate for greater recognition of inlay artisans, but in reality adding a second name is usually problematic and especially so on small works or double sided pieces.  Besides space limitations, placing a good hallmark on metal is a technical art and it is not uncommon even on high end jewelry pieces to find compromised hallmark stamp imprints.