Charles Loloma

I thought it was great to see this article highlighted in a recent Ganoskin email, about Charles Loloma, the Hopi jewelry artist… I think Loloma’s influences go beyond Native American jewelry, and that he strongly influenced contemporary jewelry as a whole. Loloma’s approach to lapidary as a sculptural art form, pushed boundaries past traditional cabochons and faceted gems and traditional setting techniques. Our generation of jewelry artists owe Charles Loloma a debt of gratitude.

If you get a chance, check the article out.
Charles Loloma

There is a lot of information not just about Loloma’s jewelry work, but also about his life history as well.




There are many Native Americans who had great influence on today’s jewelry business. Many people don’t know a th8ing about them.

I took a sculpture class with my son in 2003. It was in East Bay Junior college outside of San Francisco. the teacher was half my age, and really didn’t know much about what she was teaching. One assignment was to do an essay about a famous sculpture and do a presentation on that person in class. Before we could proceed We had to submit who we wanted to do our assignment on. I wanted to do mine on Alan Hauser. I was told no, “No one has ever heard of him, he is not even an artist!” was the reason given to me. Being older and knowing who I had picked personally, I decided to give out a random name, and do Alan Hauser when the in class presentation was called for. Alan was Chiricahua Apache. Just the year before he had been the highlighted American artist featured at the Salt Lake City Olympics of 2002. He has his work in the Smithsonian. He has been honored by presidents. I could go on but his honors are long. When you see his work you will also see how it has not only influenced sculpture, but has gone on to influence jewelry. He was a great man and I was privileged to know him.

When you see his work, you see many images that have been translated into jewelry. He only made jewelry for his family.,+artist&tbm=isch&source=univ&fir=5njRu_haVsKYWM%252CX7wm_DHaipbDDM%252C_%253Bp0vJx2L8FXUYBM%252C9EAZlsAORWppsM%252C_%253BtfYS6iNZE_KWtM%252C9EAZlsAORWppsM%252C_%253BNNdllrVRhX5gbM%252C9EAZlsAORWppsM%252C_%253BltC0UDFkRRJX9M%252CA7ywg3suTwWGFM%252C_%253BZNVNVmt8bqgtVM%252C9EAZlsAORWppsM%252C_%253BNm2SQ7LO6mf9hM%252CX7wm_DHaipbDDM%252C_%253BjrRhr9l2PKkLxM%252CSxQ2CtGAvBIRjM%252C_%253BYHtf3npd1nOSiM%252CA7ywg3suTwWGFM%252C_%253B4tIzJqQP0PCkCM%252C9EAZlsAORWppsM%252C_&usg=AI4_-kQMbsdfRXzMRHrL6NvgjRJo4pkX8Q&ved=2ahUKEwiv7p7fqtn9AhUUSzABHUR4BIU4ChCMmQR6BAghEAI&biw=1367&bih=730&dpr=1.65


I have studied Native American jewelry. I’m interested in some of the techniques, such as tufa casting, but wouldn’t want to infringe on the Native American patrimony, symbolism, etc., so in addition to enjoying looking at their work, I wanted to look at the designs they used so as to develop something different. I’m not sure exactly when it took place, maybe starting in the 60s and 70s, but several NA jewelry artists started working in gold and also using techniques culled from the European traditions. Some of them worked in jewelry stores and learned from craftsmen there, maybe some of them actually studied jewelry at colleges…it seems that some of the NA men went to college on the GI bill after serving in WWII. So, not taking anything away from Charles Loloma as an innovator and artist, he was not the only NA craftsman to appropriate techniques outside the tradition of earlier NA silversmiths. These progressive NA artists used gold, non-traditional techniques, gemstones besides turquoise and coral and new designs while still using typical NA forms (such as squash blossom necklaces, concha belts and bowguards) and NA symbols. Many of them were/are Navaho rather than Hopi. There are some coffee table books which showcase this art, but the exact titles escape me at the moment. It’s fascinating to look at how this art evolved. At present you can see all kinds of traditional and more modern hybrid (if you could call it that) NA jewelry being made. -royjohn

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Native American/Indigenous jewelry making is such a huge topic. I just Googled it to make sure I had the correct number. There are 574 Indigenous tribes and nations in the US and those are just the federally recognized tribes and nations. Within those tribes and nations are almost countless different perspectives about art and jewelry making. I’m so happy to hear that you both, royjohn and aggie.p, have explored this very important topic. Thank you for sharing!!


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I haven’t tabulated, but I’ll accept that there are 500+ Native American tribes in the US and Mexico. However, AFAIK, there are only three who have a tradition of metal jewelry making going back into the 19th century (beadwork would be another matter…): the Navaho, the Hopi and the Zuni. I think it was Navaho tribesmen who were originally taught silver jewelry making by Mexicans and they originally used coin silver from Mexican pesos. They initially used primitive tools…hammers, stamps and dies made from whatever bits of iron and steel they could find, blacksmith forges or wood or coal fires and anvils made of tree stumps and railroad track. Later they used gasoline torches, and still later acetylene torches became available, along with sterling alloys, solder and more modern tools. It’s an interesting history to research, but by no means as ancient as beadwork and their agricullture.

Easy for me to know more about Native American art, I raised a beautiful young lady who I shared parenting with her actual parents. Sandy is full blood Navajo. Rather than force her to live a non Indian existence like the forced schools, kids like her had to attend, she spent the school year with us, and we learned a lot from her. Her family is heavily into jewelry. There are a couple of members who do weaving.

There are many many more tribes who have jewelry artists. Zuni do more of the petite point turquoise work. Hopi have a different form of the designs. They do a lot of the double sheet work with the top layer being sawn designs. Pueblo have a distinct difference. The Apache have yet another view. They all draw from their traditions and emergence stories. The more you delve into their traditions and religious beliefs, the more beauty you see. Drive through the 4 corners are of the USA and you think it is a desolate barren area. Have a Navajo or Hopi show you their view of their world. To them it is the most beautiful place in the world. It’s a matter of perspective. Their art is part of them. On the personal note, Jewelry was also sign of wealth they would wear. When needed the Jewelry would be pawned to help pay for needed expenses.

As to how they learned, it began back in the 1800’s. As people made their way west, they shared their work. The first jewelry was made from old silver dollars. The tufa casting was a result of the limitations of equipment they had. Sand and tufa casting was what they had. As more techniques were learned, more innovative looks came about. In 1962 the IAIA in Santa Fe was founded. That was the real leap forward for the metal artists. Like any artists, they learned the techniques and basics like we do. We all imitate processes we like. I, in my own little opinion believe it is up to us to use techniques, but make the form we use them in to be a statement of our own, not just a copy of someone else’s work.

I love this discussion. It highlights a struggle and tells us a story of a peoples who’s lives we should all know about. When I taught a program called Upward Bound at SUSC, Now SUU (Southern Utah University) back in the 70’s We had kids from both the Navajo and Hopi tribes. The most memorable time for me was on an two day field trip to Provo Utah. Each child was given an allowance. The director wanted to teach a lesson to the kids. Most of the kids spent their money on crappy food. Those who saved their money were taken to see a movie the first night. I as one of the teachers escorting the trip, was relegated to staying with the kids in the large field house we were camping out in on the BYU campus. We were all bored since there was no allowed activities. Think about 20 teenagers sitting and twiddling their fingers. So I and the other two teachers hiked the mile and half from campus to my parents home. My great Uncle was visiting from Denmark. All the kids were excited to meet and try and talk to him. He spoke no English. They thought it was fun and talked to him in Danish. One of the classes they were taught that summer was Jewelry arts. So Jens had my mother gather up some of our jewelry and special pieces from Georg Jensen. We had a great time mixing ethnic ideas and broken languages. Everyone learned from it.


I first saw Loloma’s work in the old publications of Arizona Highways back in the '60’s. I swooned then and I swoon now when I see his masterful designs.

What a fantastic story and very valuable info aggie.p! Thank you so much for sharing it!!

Just slightly related to what we’re talking about, Google “Indigenous use of native copper.” Tribes around the Great Lakes have been working with copper for over 6000 years. In most of the ancient world copper had to be smelted and alloyed in order to be workable. In the area around the Great Lakes in the US and Canada, copper can be found on the ground that can be forged and shaped directly without mining or alloying. (strangely it’s called native copper, but the name has thing to do with Native Americans) Example of native copper objects can be found all over the US through Indigenous trade networks. This predates the arrival of Europeans by thousands of years. It’s fascinating.

Again, thank you so much for sharing!!