From our collection of vintage jewelry comes this dramatic channel-inlay snowy owl pin/pendant. The large bird measures 2 1/2 inches tall and 1 3/4 inches across at its widest point. The owl is inlaid with thick slabs of top-grade pinkish-white mother-of-pearl, natural teal-green turquoise that we believe is Blue Gem, and deep-red coral. The caliber of materials is superior to that used in most inlay jewelry. The very chatoyant (iridescent) shell has pink, rose and teal highlights and an appearance of depth.As the saying goes, the photos do not do it justice. The turquoise and coral shades were carefully chosen to complement the highlights in the shell. The stamped edging, channels between pieces of inlay, and back of the piece are silver, and the back is hallmarked for sterling. The pin finding is in excellent condition, and its "C" clasp works as it should. There is a ring at the top with an interior diameter of about 5 mm that easily accommodated a 3 mm chain we tried with it. The back has some spots of light tarnish, dried residue from an old label, and some scratches that are consistent with age and normal use. Something was etched very lightly into the silver at the bottom, but it appears to be a trading post code, not a signature. It is indecipherable, at least to us. There's a small, arc-shaped line just above the owl's left eye that is most visible in photo 3. It looks like an eyebrow.
Perhaps there was to have been one over the other eye as well, or it could just be a natural feature of the shell. Porfilio and Ann Sheyka are famous for their depictions of all kinds of birds, including owls. Their snowy owls were depicted in exactly this perching position with the pupils of the eyes turned sideways, as in this bird. The most obvious difference between this pin and those signed by Porfilio and Ann is the absence of texturing on the shell--though this mother-of-pearl is so beautiful we don't know how carving would have improved it. The shaping of the inlay surface is also different.
Porfilio and Ann slightly domed the top of each piece and ground it down at the edges to meet the height of the silver channels. Here, the edges of each piece are carefully rounded, but the tops of the pieces are flat. The silver channels are much lower, and are almost invisible in some spots. The shape of the pupils in the eyes is also slightly different, though the overall facial expression is nearly the same. Lastly, the stamp work is not as ornate as Porfilio and Ann's.
So it appears that someone else made this piece. Zuni Pueblo is a small community and, perhaps in the interest of good neighborly relations--or more likely a desire to express one's own style--artists don't copy the designs of other artists. But within a family, designs are often shared. Sometimes it's hard to tell whose work it is, in the absence of a signature. And sometimes, as here, the family resemblance is strong--but with a difference.
We believe that this owl was made by a member of Porfilio and Ann's family. Really, there are too many similarities in design, execution and quality of materials for anyone else to have created it. An imitator would have used lesser materials but copied the Sheykas' exact designs and techniques. Note the identical pose and the nearly identical number and shape of the inlay pieces.
This jeweler had a real gift, used the best materials and, evidently, received excellent training in the family business. It's a shame that he or she didn't sign the piece so we could give credit where credit's due! But the bottom line, maybe the part that counts the most, is that this is a stunning piece, outstanding in size, design, execution and materials, that would be a great accent worn on a chain or pinned to a shirt, jacket lapel or sweater. This is Zuni craftsmanship at its best. Be sure to read the description and view the photos, so you'll know what to expect.
Don't miss our other items! The item "Vintage Porfilio Sheyka Family Zuni Large Snowy Owl Pin/Pendant Mother-of-Pearl" is in sale since Saturday, April 13, 2019. This item is in the category "Jewelry & Watches\Ethnic, Regional & Tribal\Native American\Pins, Brooches". The seller is "canyonechoes" and is located in Branford, Connecticut.
This item can be shipped to United States.