Rock Your Stones!

My mother has always told me that turquoise will never go out of style. Our family is Navajo and between my grandmother, mother, and four aunts we have enough communal turquoise to sink a ship. I joke that when my grandmother crosses over, we will open her closet to discover a secret cave overflowing with turquoise jewelry like a dragon’s lair.

It turns out turquoise has been in fashion for over 3,000 years, so I guess once again, momma’s right. With a history this old, turquoise has more than just staying power, it’s part of our human legacy. In cultures across the globe, this ocean-like gem has been used in art, personal adornment, and ceremony for eons. The ancient Egyptians, whom I like to call our fashionista forefathers, were no strangers to turquoise jewelry. Native Americans are perhaps most well known for our reverence of this sky-colored stone, but our distant relatives in Asia also have a long-standing relationship with turquoise. The Chinese, whose homeland is a major source of turquoise, have used the stone in their art and jewelry for centuries.

 

 A couple of years ago, my father visited the Buddhist country of Buhtan, nestled high in the Himalayans, which in my opinion is about as far away from New Mexico as a person can get. He returned with prayer beads and a prayer wheel, both accented with turquoise, and a book that showed the smiling faces of little Buhtanese boys and girls that looked like they could be my cousins!

 Perhaps one reason this precious stone seems to connect people around the planet is that it is found in many different countries. Here in the American Southwest, we are home to the famed Kingman Turquoise known for its bright blue tone and characteristic veining, along with the vividly blue Sleeping Beauty stones, and a handful of rare stones from now-closed mines including Lone Mountain, Number 8, and our very own Cerrillos mine. The icy-blue Larimar is one of the most rare and highly sought after turquoise stones in the world and comes from the remote Barahona region in the Dominican Republic.

 Rich in turquoise, China has mined it for 2,000 years and now accounts for over 60% of stones used today. Some of the finest stones originated in this beautiful country, including the deep blue-green Cloud Mountain Turquoise with its dramatic black matrix. Historically the bluer the turquoise the more sought after, but today green stones are being given the credit they deserve for their own striking tones. Like their blue sisters, these green stones can be sourced from mines in Nevada as well as China with little very little differences in their appearance.

 At American West Jewelry we of course love our turquoise and enjoy finding new and interesting sources for it to keep our stones as unique as our jewelry. While we may be best known for our striking Sleeping Beauty Collection, we also craft a large selection of breathtaking pieces using high quality green stones. But no matter which stone you decide to take home, I think this ancient Arabic proverb sums up our turquoise mission perfectly: “Turquoise given by a loving hand carries with it happiness and good fortune.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recycling in Always in Style: Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! Here in New Mexico we draw so much inspiration from the landscape and have such a deep connection to and love for the land that this day always holds a special place in our hearts. We have a large variety of natural resources here that we feel a partial responsibility to protect. Whether it be our water or our forests, we want to make sure that our children and grandchildren have the chance to play among these natural wonders, just as we did growing up.

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We are also big on renewable energy around here. According to the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, we have some of the best wind, geothermal and solar resources in the U.S. That’s a bit of a no-brainer for anyone that has ever visited or lived here. At this moment the sun is pouring onto my desk and I hear leaves and wind chimes making music outside. These resources are dear to us, too, even when we complain about them on those dusty, blistering days.

 The large Native American population in New Mexico also keeps us mindful of the beautiful Indigenous belief that it is our job to protect the environment for the next seven generations. These are all just a few of the reasons that American West Jewelry prides itself on using 100% reclaimed silver in all of our jewelry. We recognize that metal mining is one of the most environmentally destructive types of mining out there, as well as very dangerous and low paying to the miners involved. So, we opt to cast our jewelry with recycled and refined precious metals, which still have the same high quality as newly mined metals due to the high-tech way they are reclaimed.

The use of recycled precious metals is an important part of American West Jewelry’s commitment to the earth and to the creation of ethical luxury. So as you deck out in your favorite AW pieces today, you can do so knowing you’ve chosen to decrease environmental destruction, and that is a fashion that will never go out of style!

We Put the Culture in Agriculture!

Did you know that New Mexico is home to 24,000 farms and 43.9 million acres of farmland? Me either until I started to research this blog. I grew up on a cattle ranch in Southwestern New Mexico, were we ran several head of critters across six sections of land, in a place where you could go days without having to talk to another human being (reasons I became a writer.) I always thought I was the odd girl out. Turns out there are more rural-living folk in New Mexico than there are city slickers! I guess this is why come the first warm day of the season I’m outside in flip flops and tank top elbow deep in dirt. Like so many of us in this great nation, planting, growing, and getting dirty is where I feel most at home.

This is why I am so excited to write this blog on spring agriculture in New Mexico, because this is, literally, life for me. These days I own what us millennials call a “micro-farm,” which is basically a ¾ acre lot with a swimming pool, on the outskirts of the big city. It is here that every spring I get down and dirty.

I start out with simple intentions, like going to the local Quality Bait and Pond for 100 earthworms to put in my garden plot. But I undoubtedly end up leaving with a dozen little peepers, too, because dogonit fluffy babies are irresistible (and no one complains later about those fresh eggs, either.)

 A veterinarian recently asked me why I all of a sudden decided to start dragging home stray animals, and I told him, “Doc, it ain’t all of a sudden. More like since I could walk!” You see, growing up a ranch kid in an isolated neck-of-the-woods means, for lots of us that were raised that way, that our first best friends are a critter of some sort. That animal bond follows you through life until it gets where you don’t feel right unless you’re being woken up at the crack of dawn by a rooster or a Guinea hen (of which I bough four.)

Agriculture is a way of life, yes, but I believe it is also a compulsion — albeit a good one. Whether you find yourself smack dab in the middle of LA dragging home strays and planting tomatoes in pots on the window sill, or you’re like me and walk your miniature goat to the local dairy to say “hi” to the cows and visit the pigs, a love of life forms other than human is a beautiful thing. It is a sacred thing.

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When I was four I wanted to be a veterinarian.  I ended up a writer. But I tell you what, being a part of a team like American West Jewelry wakes me up every day blessed, because we share the same roots. We love the same way of life, the same traditions, art forms, and stories that give our state (and country) so much charterer. Because we are, well, American made, just like the land, plants and critters we love. And that is just one thing about it all that makes me #AWYou.

Jody Naranjo is #AWYou  

Nothing makes American West Jewelry more beautiful than the women who wear it. The moon-like smile of your eyes, the curve of your neck caught in a laugh, the artistry in the imperfection of your hands that tell stories words could never capture. These are the real gems and jewels that give our jewelry its value. This is why we’ve created our #AWYou series to showcase the amazing women in our community and abroad that bring spirit and life to what we do. We want to tell the amazing stories that make American West, well, You.

This month’s #AWYou celebrates the work and achievements of award-winning potter Jody Naranjo. We layered Jody in some of our favorite new pieces and set her loose in her Albuquerque studio to do what she does best. Jody is a beautiful Tewa potter of Santa Clara Pueblo, NM, whose work often depicts strong female and nature based themes. Her pottery, which she has been selling since she was just 15 years old, is produced in the traditional way using clay earth gathered from various location in the area, hand coiling, and pit firing.

 As you can imagine, Jody’s hands are works of art themselves, carrying within them a layering of knowledge and skill passed down to her from her mother and other female relatives – now transferred on to her own three daughters. Jody has what I call “smiling hands.” Whether she is mixing her clay, polishing a pot, or etching in a design of one of her Pueblo girls, they do it with an eminence of joy. They are happy hands, hands that have spent their life doing what they love, hands that have raised daughters and created a million works of art that have blessed a million more with smiles. These are the hands of a creator, of a mother, of a friend.

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 When we think of the ways in which Jody embodies who we are at American West Jewelry, we think of her fearlessness in honoring herself and her gifts. We think of the many ways she has shared these blessings with the people in her life, whether they be family or strangers. We too celebrate that independent spirit that drives women to carve out their own legacy. To be their own unique, vibrant person. It is this spirit that has shaped our American west.

 To become a part of our #AWYou series, please share photos of yourself in your favorite American West jewelry to any of our social media platforms, using the #AWYou hashtag, and tell us what makes American West Jewelry unique to you! We look forward to hearing from you.

Charmed by Santa Fe’s Muse

For generations, Santa Fe, New Mexico, has inspired and moved people’s spirits in all aspects of creation. English writer D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda came to New Mexico in the early ‘20s upon an invitation from wealthy arts patron Mabel Dodge Lujan. Of his time here he sums up this enchanted place far better than most.

 “I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I have ever had. It certainly changed me forever. Curious as it may sound, it was New Mexico that liberated me from the present era of civilization, the great era of material and mechanical development,” writes Lawrence.

 “But the moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend. There was a certain magnificence in the high-up day, a certain eagle-like royalty…”

 I believe anyone who has gazed upon Santa Fe and her majestic horizon will feel stirred by the accuracy of those words. The poetry of this landscape is tangible. For it is here that so much art has been birthed — a world mecca of creation. And for this reason, it is no wonder that Santa Fe’s mysterious muse, too, has touched us. Our Santa Fe Charms Collection, handcrafted of turquoise, coral and pearl, is just one wearable expression that has come from our time here.

Designer Carolyn Pollack will tell you that an enchanted evening in this treasured city spoke to her and from this moment came this collection. “Here there is an artful approach to style that naturally balances boldness, sophistication, wit and elegance,” she says.

 “Always the perfect pair, fiery red coral and romantic blue turquoise have long been the heart of Santa Fe’s vibrant lifestyle. Cultured pearl and golden brass add the perfect glow while under the starlit sky at the opera. The reversible charms add spirit through iconic, gallery inspired symbols of the southwest. Santa Fe Charms was designed to inspire you to express your uniquely beautiful, spirited style!”

The Greenest Day in New Mexico

Dust off your green jeans and slip on your gold naja! In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we are excited to explore the history of the Irish in New Mexico.

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During the famine of the 1800s many Irish fled their motherland, arriving on our eastern shores in search of a new life in the New World. Many stayed in cities such as Boston and New York, while others headed west in search of more opportunity, such as the chance to own land – something rarely achieved in Ireland.

Also in search of religious freedom and acceptance, many Irish gravitated toward the more Catholic-friendly region of the Southwest, then owned by Mexico. It is here where for centuries to come the Irish would become an important part of history. In fact, when New Mexico became a state in 1912, its first governor was an Irishman named William G. McDonald.

 As western expansion boomed, many Irish made the trip west, becoming the largest ethnic group of workers for the Eastern Pacific railway. Irish Sister Catherine Mellon and the Sisters of Charity were the driving force behind the establishment of the state’s first hospital, St. Vincent’s, and St. Elizabeth’s Shelter for the Homeless, both still in existence today in Santa Fe. Of course throughout history, New Mexico’s two most famous Irish residents have been Billy the Kid and Georgia O’Keeffe.

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Although there is little recorded history on the matter, it seems quite possible that the Irish also lived amongst the Navajo. Many old, well-known trading posts near the Navajo Nation were named for their founders, and include Irish surnames such as John Murphy, Ellis Tanner, Perry Null, Whelan, and Bill Malone. Traders, Irish and otherwise, had a profound impact on the indigenous economy by introducing a capitalism as it was never before experienced. Because of the advent of the trading post things such as weaving, silversmithing and jewelry making became more than artistic or utilitarian crafts. They became valuable commodities that could be traded or sold for currency. It can be said that trading posts in large part created the art market in New Mexico that is still in existence today, and to which we at American West Jewelry are a part of.

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So today, for all this and more, we say “thank you” to the Irish, whom in New Mexico I think are best summed up in this lovely quote by Eilis Flynn: “We survive. We’re Irish. We have the souls of poets. We love our misery, and we delight in the beauty of strange places…”

Easter Traditions in New Mexico

Around the world spring is a season of rebirth. As the air gets warmer and the days get longer, as buds begin to show and baby animals begin their lives on earth, our thoughts and even traditions mimic this burst of energy and renewal.  In the Pueblos and all along the Rio Grande, men gather to clean out the ancient acequiasin preparation for the irrigation water that will soon fill them, flowing in rhythmic harmony into the many crops and fields that feed our valley all summer long.

In almost every New Mexico community, while the air and ground still carry a freeze that warms into pleasant afternoons, we celebrate the cycle of life with our matanazs — a tradition from Spain. During the matanza, family and friends wake up before dawn to slaughter a pig, carefully butchering it the old fashioned way and preparing every body part over an open fire during a community feast that carries on into the night.

Easter traditions in New Mexico stretch back to the first Spanish settlers

Anglo, Latino, or Indigenous, from the rivers to the mesas, we feast and give thanks for a new year as our people have always done. And then the time of Lent arrives and for many, many New Mexicans the age-old preparations for Holy Week begin, as they have for centuries reaching back to 16th century Spain and New Mexico’s first Catholic settlers. For Easter in New Mexico is more than a time of baskets and bunnies.

Thousands of pilgrims make the walk to El Santuario de Chimayo on or during Good Friday

 It is the tradition of tens of thousands of people to make a pilgrimage to one of two holy sites in New Mexico on or around Good Friday – by foot and sometimes beginning days in advance from as far as 100 miles away. The first, and by far most famous site of the annual pilgrimage is El Santuario de Chimayo in northern New Mexico where it is said that the soil itself creates miracles. Though Tomé Hill with its depiction of the crosses of Calvary in central New Mexico also draws in hundreds if not thousands of the people seeking a miracle, penance, or simply a connection to Christ. Some walk to keep a promise they’ve made to God, others spend the time praying for loved ones, and others still walk for the forgiveness of their sins.

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Tomé Hill draws in hundreds of the devout in the days before Easter

Regardless of the personal reasons one might have for this pilgrimage, it is a profound experience for participant and observer alike and one that is so beautifully representative of the essence of New Mexico – a land where beauty and pain have learned to live hand in hand, creating a culture seeped in passion and artistry in the most unexpected places.

Lady Bosses of the American West

From the strong Indigenous women that prevailed first, to the courageous Spanish wives and pioneering gals that came later – when it comes to brave and bold women, New Mexico is home. Here at American West Jewelry we are celebrating International Women’s Day as we do our own part to carrying on the legacy of lady bosses in the Land of Enchantment. Did you know that AWJ is a female owned company? That’s right, Carolyn Pollack, our cowgirl at the helm, is the creatrix behind American West’s authentically powerful designs created to embolden and honor the confident women who wear them.


When we think American West, we think of the adventurous women who blazed a trail through the New Mexico desert, unleashing their wild spirits in this remote and rugged land. Before there was suffrage or women’s lib, there were the unsung heronies of the mesas and valleys — the Mabel Dodge Lujans, the Georgia O’keeffes, and the Agnes Martins who used the freedom of the West to embrace their individuality.

In New Mexico it has never been uncommon for women to do “man’s work.” Cowgirls, such as Brita Lee and Linda Mitchell Davis grew up in the 1930s as expert ranch-hands, horsewomen and agriculturalists managing their family ranches during a time when most American women couldn’t wear jeans. Meanwhile Dona Tules in Santa Fe, and Lottie “Angel of San Antonio” Deno in Silver City made names for themselves ruling the roost as legendary gamblers and madams in famous brothels frequented by folks such as Doc Holliday.

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And before these wild women ripped through the West, there were the tough Indigenous women who not only sustained human existence here, but often fought alongside men as fierce warriors. Dahteste and Lozen are both famous female Apache warriors who fought with Geronimo. Then, in 1886, it was two Navajo women who became the first women to ever be enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving as scouts with the Army’s 20th Infantry Regiment. In 2009 during a welcome home story for Army Sgt. and Iraq veteran Sarah Kelly, the Navajo Times quoted that, “the history of our women warriors almost vanished from our memory. Their sacrifices are not written down or talked about… When ceremonial names are given to Navajo females, they are war names… Navajo women go into battle to hold their families together.”

No matter where you look in history, the women of New Mexico have left an impressive mark. As we celebrate the accomplishments of women around the planet, we couldn’t be more honored to walk in the footsteps of these and so many other inspiring women. And here’s to all of you, our sisterhood of friends, collectors, and inspirers – this day is for you!

Enhance Your Look  

You can never look too good — it’s like being too happy or being too rich, it doesn’t exist! That’s why we want to give you a collection of pendants to enhance your look and make a statement every day of the week, no matter which way the wind is blowing.

We enjoy drawing inspiration from the rugged and wild natural artistry that makes up the Southwest; so, we designed our enhancers with the spring season in mind. In other words, here in New Mexico it can be sunny one minute and rainy the next, so we created a trove of interchangeable sterling silver and gemstone pendants to help us keep up. You know here at Team AWJ we are all about giving you options, so with our collection of enhancers you and your necklace can change your look as often as Mother Nature changes her mind.

 The butterfly enhancer reminds us of a sunny spring morning along the Rio Grande. But, if it gets a little windy come noon, we’re prepared with a larger statement piece – like a naja or cross – to keep us from blowing away. Then, when it clears up at dusk we’re ready to celebrate our big starry sky with a bold diamond design.

 Mix, match, and collect your favorite designs to build a signature collection that fits your own unique weather pattern! It’s what makes #AWYou.

A Visit to Silva’s Saloon

 

 

Welcome to Silva’s Saloon, located in Bernalillo, NM, along the original Rt. 66, and the location of this month’s photo-shoot. The Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas officially founded Bernalillo in 1695, but as a Spanish settlement near the Sandia Indian Pueblo it had been inhabited prior to that. In the 1620s, Franciscans introduced wine grapes to the fertile Rio Grande Valley and so Central New Mexico’s love of libations began.

In 1933 Felix Silva went “legit” and crossed over from being a moonshiner and bootlegger to the owner of Silva’s Saloon. Prohibition had seen it last hurrah and the time was ripe for opening what would, 84 years later, be the site of one of the states most iconic bars and location for many Hollywood film scenes.

To shop the look from Silva’s, please click here!

 For more information on the history of Silva’s, visit: http://bit.ly/2DEWEfm

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