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Hello Gents,

I picked up this unique little item for almost nothing, and was wondering if anyone has seen this before? The swaztika is reversed, which I know is sometimes used in TR items, but it could also be a British piece from maybe India, as this swaz is used there as well. THere are two snakes on it as well. It is made of pure silver, marked Stirling 825 on the back, which also leads me to believe it is British. Someone told me it may be a Victorian English piece, but noone is sure. If this is for another forum,please move this post but I thought this may be a good forum to post it in. Well, can anyone shed some light on this mystery piece?

Thanks,

Pat

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Hi Pat,

Not positive on this one but suspect it could be a piece of jewelry made by or for members of an indian tribe. The backwards swas has for the longest time been a symbol of good luck or good fortune to many indian tribes and even other cultures as well as those in India.

I've even seen (and may even have) some old books where the backing papers on the binding use a pattern of backwards swastikas as a form of border design.

I also have a big brass pin with one. It was a throw in with some other stuff and I've just got it stuck in a miscellaneous box.

The snakes as well as the overall design are what are making me feel it's something to do with a native American tribe, again either made by for sale as souvenirs or made for members of the tribe.

But it's definitely not a military or German piece.

Hope this helps. :cheers:

Dan

Edited by Hauptman
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  • 1 year later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Hmmm, interesting ideas. It looks like to me it could be "Sterling" after all, as I may have made a mistake in typing! It definitely looks like an E. Doesn't really help much with ID'ing it though, maybe someone else will have some definite info!

Later,

Pat

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  • 12 years later...

I think I can help on this piece. Native American tribes in the American Southwest, used the reverse swastika on jewelry from the early 1900s until the rise of Hitler when they ceased incorporating the symbol into items. This piece is unusual in that it is marked .925 which is not common on much handmade Navajo jewelry from this period. My guess is that the piece may have been Indian made but for one of the larger jewelry production companies working in Albuquerque New Mexico. Much of this jewelry was retailed in the shops of famed pioneer hotelier/restauranteur/tourism pioneer Fred Harvey. Such pins were offered in gift shops from Chicago to San Diego to tourists heading west on Santa Fe railroad trains. 

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925 silver is sterling silver-which is the minimum standard for mexican silver. mexicans have been mining silver since pre-columbian times, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if the workshop where this was made was staffed by people of mexican descent

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Sorry, I should have been more clear in my original posting. The Navajos were not required to mark items .925 or sterling so it is very common to see, from this period,  unmarked examples of their silver.  One does not usually associate either the sterling or .925 until the late 20th century.  So I am not surprised that this piece is unmarked. Similarly, maker's marks became common after the Second World War when buyers sought out particular silversmiths. This piece, in my estimation, comes from that an early 20th century period--pre Hitler--when the swastika was commonly used. I have seen the reverse swastika on not only bar pins like this but also on rugs and baskets as well. 

The topic of Mexican silver is fascinating unto itself. The Mexican government attempted at various times to regular the shops by assigning an eagle mark with a unique number to each workshop. Unfortunately there was no consistency in the issuing of the numbers so there are duplications. Items intended for export to the U.S. were, however, often marked with the maker name, sterling or .925, and to comply with requirements of the McKinley Act--Hecho in Mexico. 

In Albuquerque and Gallup (both New Mexico) there were large shops (one could describe them as sweatshops) that employed banks of silversmiths (mostly Native American) to crank out jewelry in bulk for the tourist trade. Some did get marked both with the name of the firm and either sterling or .925 but much was done quickly. They produced a fairly limited range of jewelry styles and decorations (a postcard was available to buy that gave great "symbolic" (mythical) meanings to the various emblems/symbols used on the jewelry. Today, collectors often call this work "Fred Harvey Jewelry" and there are several excellent publications on it.

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very interesting-- i'm looking forward to learning more!

i meant that it was likely that an entrepreneur such as fred harvey would have hired mexicans to organize and oversee the tourist jewelry aspect of his operation, since they had so much experience working with silver, or as you mentioned, had the pieces made in mexico and exported to the US. hence the stamps

i have a few pre-ww2 pieces with the swastica incorporated into an indian theme, but i don't think they are silver nor were made by native americans. i think they were good luck charms. i'll post them once i've dug them up

Edited by Eric Stahlhut
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Thanks Eric. Harvey and his contemporaries farmed a lot of their work out exclusively to Navajo and Pueblo makers. Harvey had a real interest in supporting Native American artisans although some of his competitors were not quite so supportive and paid low wages for their work. Interestingly, the Mexican arts were actually more expensive  and in some cases sold really well in his stores than the Native goods. In the years after the Mexican Revolution, Mexico became a really hot tourist destination particularly for those who had $$ from the West Coast. Movies were filmed there and the Spanish style of architecture really took off here in the west. As a result, Mexican curios (as the shops sold them) were in hot demand and real Mexican antiques brought premium prices. 

As you quite correctly noted, the swastika (backwards and forwards) was used by a lot of businesses in the US before Hitler. In my hometown of Harrisburg Pennsylvania, Doutrich's Mens store produced good luck tokens probably in the 1920s with the swastika on them. I suspect they were made in Philly or one of the larger cities where there was the ability to cheaply produce quantities of them. I was always surprised so many survived that one used to see them at flea markets frequently. 


The Navajos referred to the swastika as whirling logs and one still sees that referenced by collectors and dealers who sell these older wares.  The major southwestern tribes agreed to stop using the whiling logs or swastika symbol in 1940. 

 

Its a really fascinating topic for sure. I ran a museum in northern New Mexico and we had to always explain the swastikas that appeared on weavings and jewelry to the visitors who came in to see our exhibits. 

 

 

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