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SANTA FE  NEW MEXICO

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A very finely made Sterling silver and high-grade

Nevada spiderweb turquoise signet ring by Frank Patania, Sr.

for his Thunderbird Shop, Santa Fe, NM, c.1950’s



Frank Patania Sr. (1899-1964) is a true and unique original in the world of Southwestern jewelry. Born in Sicily, he began his jewelry career as an apprentice there at the tender age of 6, immigrated with his family to the U.S. and became an apprentice to a goldsmith in New York. He moved out West for his health after contracting tuberculosis.



"After my first sight of the West, I never wanted to return east again.And when I saw what the Indians were doing with silver and turquoise I knew I had found the medium in which I wanted to design.”

-Frank Patania, Sr.


After his initial training as a fine jeweler working primarily in gold, he completely immersed himself in creating his own original versions of the Navajo and Pueblo jewelry he saw being made all around him in his adopted new home of Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1927, at age 28, after a short tenure working alongside Native American silversmiths at Julius Gans’ Southwest Trading Company, Patania opened his own shop in downtown Santa Fe, called The Thunderbird Shop, on East Palace Avenue (which is still in business today) where, over the years, he employed and help train numerous talented local area Navajo and Pueblo silversmiths such as Mark Chee, Joe Quintana, Louis Lomay and Julian Lovato. Patania’s fame grew rapidly and his clientele expanded to include a number of local area luminaries such as society fixture and art patron, Mabel Dodge Luhan of Taos and painter, Georgia O’Keeffe of Abiquiu. Patania also subsequently opened a second Thunderbird Shop in Tucson, Arizona.

Period business card from Frank Patania Sr.’s original Thunderbird Shop

Patania’s silverwork is a fascinating amalgam of cross cultural influences; of traditional and modern, of Continental fine jewelry sophistication and craftsmanship blended with traditional Native American design concepts and forms.


This wonderful ring is a perfect example of this, blending the old formal European tradition of a signet ring bearing a person’s initial or coat of arms with the traditional Native American treatment of setting a beautiful turquoise stone in a silver bezel on a bezel platform mounted atop a triple split-silver shank, which is all a very classic and traditional Navajo style presentation, but which in this piece all revolves around the distinctly non-traditional Modernist-style large initial English letter “S”.


And what a fabulous turquoise this particular stone happens to be. Patania, who was well-known for insisting upon always using the finest turquoise, coral and other materials possible, really outdid himself with this selection. It is an extremely high-grade piece of blue Nevada spiderweb stone most likely from either the renowned Lone Mountain or the equally famous Red Mountain or Candelaria turquoise mine. The stone also has certain characteristics one associates with turquoise from the fabled Lander Blue Mine in Lander County, Nevada but this ring predates the 1973 discovery of that mine by some twenty years, but it is certainly possible that someone could have found a nugget earlier than the officially-filed claim on the mine.



“A master artisan, Frank Patania established a style of handcrafted Southwest American jewelry

by blending European silversmithing technology with Native American design, a combination that would provide a foundation for excellence in style and artisanship.”


-Bille Hougart, “The Little Book of Marks on Southwestern Silver”,

TBR International 2011



The ring is on the somewhat larger side, measuring a size 13 on a professional graduated ring sizer, but it could fairly easily be sized downwards by a professional jeweler, if desired. Of course, the ring could also be worn around the neck on a silver chain or leather thong, if desired, in the old high-school-going-steady style. The ring’s face measures 1 1/16" in length and is 7/8" in width and the turquoise stone itself is 1/2" in height and is 5/8" in width across. The ring weighs 16 grams or 5/8 ounces. The ring is in excellent original condition with a small amount of vintage wear and it is properly signed "FP Sterling" along with Patania’s thunderbird shop hallmark on the interior of the bezel platform. There is also a third mark above the first three which appears to be a partial Thunderbird stamp.


So, attention all you Scotts, Susans, Steves, Sarahs, Sams, Sharons, Stuarts or anyone else whose first or last name starts with an “S” or everybody who loves such a person and might want to give them a unique and historic gift. The moment is upon you.



Price $1,250


   

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