I love this postcard for the man and the jewelry – both what he is wearing and what he is making.
Turquoise, coral, abalone, agate, jasper probably all provided the colors on his necklace. Abalone was traded in the southwest since 1500 BC. Semi-precious stones were mined over time, coral arrived with the Spanish and turquoise was ubiquitous.
Turquoise is found in the Southwest in a spectrum of blues and greens. It is only found with copper, and was first used around 200 BC. I am interested in language which provides layers of meaning within a cultural and environmental context. Turquoise is a good example of this. According to the Navajo Word of the Day website, the word for turquoise is dootł’izh. In English turquoise means blue, but the actual mineral is a broad range of blue to green. According to the same website, the word for turquoise is the thing that is the color, not the color itself. What’s really interesting is that colors in Navajo are verbs. I like this idea – I imagine how differently the world would look to me if all colors were verbs. It took me a minute to understand.
Given the context of the desert, I imagine the connection to the sky, water and back again. The bright blue sky of the southwestern desert can be the color of the brightest blue turquoise. The paler greens and blues remind me of water – the little ponds at the edge of a desert river, to the deep blue of the Salt River. Some of the colors are remind me of sage or Palo Verde trees. This mineral uniquely reflects the desert and its life.
When I think about the artist on this postcard, I think about how his methods, used on ancient stones in ancient ways are alive and well and being made/sold/traded all over the southwest. How many cultures are alive, vibrant and using techniques from 1,000 years ago or more? To me, this is a tangible, present lifeline to the past.
The post card is postmarked June 19, 1949 and was sent from Colorado, to New Jersey. The postcard says:
“Dear Joan, We are in Denver Colorado tonight. Will see you soon. I trust you are a good girl. We bought you something very special. God Bless you. Love, Uncle Ken and Marj.” Maybe this says Marj – maybe not. I think it says Mrs. J, which leads to another story line….in 1949.
Sent to Miss Joan Ceruty, Mine Mount, Bernardsville, New Jersey.
I assume Miss Joan was a young niece, who was anxiously awaiting a lovely, exotic gift from the great Southwest. Mine Mount Road today, in Bernardsville appears to be an affluent suburb. Perhaps Miss Ceruty received a wonderful, colorful necklace like the necklace in the picture. Perhaps she was given a ring, bracelet, or the iconic squash blossom necklace.
The post card description says: “Our scene shows the primitive method of drilling turquoise, which is a semi-precious stone peculiar to the southwest and worn by all tribes of Indians of this region at the time of the Spanish invasion. Great strings of valuable stones are worn about the neck, in ears and set in various articles of hand-wrought silver jewelry.”
This is a pump drill. The string around the shaft allows the artist to pump up and down, turning the drill bit, which creates the hole in the stone.
I indulged myself with something very special, as is mentioned in this card. I have a necklace much like the necklace this artist is wearing, purchased at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. When my parents owned the Stagecoach, we had a little case, where we stocked Native American jewelry. Somehow, no matter the temperature, this jewelry always felt cool. I love the veins running through the turquoise, never the same, maps of its path to the bracelet. I wondered and still wonder how someone, anyone found these hidden deposits of stones, then realized polishing, smoothing and cutting could transform into this art form. Perhaps seeing the veins, the blue of the sky, water, algae, sage inspired all the spiritual associations so many centuries ago. Perhaps a woman or a girl a thousand years ago, held a stone and thought about cool water and blue skies. I certainly do when I wear my necklace.
Until the next jewelry shopping.