Large Fred Harvey Era Silver and Turquoise Thunderbird Pin [SOLD]


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Jeweler Once Known

The Legacy of Fred Harvey:

A Glimpse into the Artistry of Navajo Thunderbird Jewelry

The thunderbird jewelry pin, a classic representation of the Fred Harvey style, is a testament to the timeless allure of Southwestern aesthetics. The Fred Harvey style is distinguished by its delicate silverwork, meticulously stamped and occasionally adorned with nuggets of natural turquoise. The designs imprinted on these pieces often depict motifs synonymous with the American Southwest, including animals, crossed arrows, and celestial objects.

This particular thunderbird pin is a remarkable example of the craftsmanship that mirrors the precision of artisans from over a century ago. The pin features small crescent-shaped stamps arranged to emulate the expansive feathers of a bird, with a cabochon of natural turquoise gracing the center. Crafted from a heavier silver stock than the traditional Fred Harvey jewelry, this unsigned piece stands as a testament to its enduring appeal.

Interestingly, the Diné silversmiths of the Navajo Nation frequently crafted replicas of the copyrighted Fred Harvey thunderbird logo. Despite this infringement, the company turned a blind eye, recognizing the profitability of these exquisite pieces. This practice underscores the mutual benefits of cultural exchange and the enduring influence of the Fred Harvey style in the realm of Southwestern jewelry.

When the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad came through the American Southwest, the Fred Harvey Company opened a series of hotels and gift shops to cater to the people traveling on the railroad. The gift shops sold various souvenirs, one of the most popular was Indian jewelry. Margery Bedinger states in her book Indian Silver: Navajo and Pueblo Jewelers, that:

"In 1899, Hermann Schweitzer, of the Fred Harvey Company's curio department operated in connection with the Santa Fe Railroad, began to exploit the Navajo silver workers to supply items for sale to tourists, who were using the railroad in increasing numbers. Up to this time, the only jewelry available to tourists had been dead pawn turned in by traders to the large mercantile houses in the railroad towns. Schweitzer noticed that while tourists were attracted to Navajo silver, many felt it was too massive and heavy to wear when they returned home. So, he conceived the idea of providing metal and stones ready for setting and having the smiths make them to his order in thin lightweight pieces. He tried the scheme first at the trading post in Thoreau, New Mexico. It was so successful there that posts at Sheep Springs, Smith Lake, and Mariano Lake were included. The smiths were paid by the ounce for rings, bracelets, and beads made from silver and stones supplied by the neighborhood traders. The articles were then sold on the Santa Fe trains and in the stations along the route."

Condition: the pin is in excellent condition.

Provenance: this Large Fred Harvey Era Silver and Turquoise Thunderbird Pin is from a Santa Fe collector.

Reference: Indian Silver: Navajo and Pueblo Jewelers, by Margery Bedinger

Recommended Reading: Fred Harvey Jewelry 1900-1955 by Dennis June, Schiffer Publishing. 2013

TAGS: Southwest Indian JewelryDiné - Navajo Nation

Alternate side view of this pin.


Jeweler Once Known
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