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A Navajo or Pueblo 3-strand necklace made of natural Number 8 Mine Nevada spiderweb turquoise nuggets of exceptional quality and beauty, possibly from Charles Loloma’s personal collection



THIS WONDERFUL NECKLACE has an equally wonderful story, a bit of a Southwestern mystery, but all the various pieces seem to point strongly in the same direction. We acquired the necklace from a longtime colleague of ours several months ago and knew nothing more about it other than the obvious fact that it is an exceptionally beautiful historic Navajo or Pueblo three-strand turquoise nugget necklace composed of around 550 beautiful matched natural nuggets of high-grade #8 Mine Nevada spiderweb turquoise, one of the world’s greatest turquoises. The number eight mine is highly-renowned for its pure, clear, bright, sky-blue color and deep dark grey-black spiderweb matrix. This subtype is informally known as “#8 blackweb” and it is the most desirable variety of stone from this storied mine which can also sometimes be found with a light brown or even a reddish spiderweb matrix.


The necklace contains approximately 400 carats of beautiful, Number 8 blackweb stones. The price of Number Eight blackweb has increased dramatically in recent years as demand for top-quality turquoise from top-quality mines has skyrocketed. Just last summer, as a good example, we were paying $30.00 per carat wholesale for the high-grade Number 8 rough stones pictured here. The necklace measures 12 1/2” in length from the top of the silver clasp to the bottom of the nuggets measured while lying flat. It is 25” in circumference end-to-end when completely opened up and it weighs 86 grams or 3 ounces. The turquoise nuggets are approximately 1/4” in diameter, with some smaller and some larger. The necklace is in completely excellent original condition.


Visually, this necklace is a knockout; the stones are absolutely positively luscious. The necklace is beautifully finished at the ends with two very finely hand-fashioned stamped silver cones and a handmade silver wire hook and eye clasp. The three turquoise strands were deliberately strung to be somewhat unequal in length giving the necklace a very rich and luxurious appearance and elegant “hang” on the body. Turquoise necklaces such as this one were and are very highly prized among the Navajo and Pueblo people as a prestigious display of family and personal wealth to be worn proudly on all important occasions, ceremonies and celebrations.

Specimen rough nuggets of high-grade #8 black spiderweb turquoise which we purchased in August, 2017 from Nevada turquoise dealers for $30.00 per carat wholesale.

Charles Loloma, c. 1970’s, wearing a  very similar-looking 3-strand spiderweb turquoise nugget necklace.


Photo source and copyright: “Loloma, Beauty is his Name”,  Martha H. Struever, Wheelwright Museum 2005.

Museum of Northern Arizona Photo Archives, negative number 72.992

Now it was time to go back to the original source of the mystery, our colleague from whom we originally purchased the necklace. Incidentally, it helps to know that this individual happens to be one of the most experienced, knowledgable and tasteful people in our business. Might he have any further details about the necklace’s history which might shed any further light on the mystery? As it happens, he did and they were significant and fascinating details indeed. It turns out that he purchased this particular necklace along with a number of other pieces around ten years ago from the personal collection of one of the Indian Arts businesses most prominent longtime dealers, Virginia (Sue) DiMaio, who for many years owned and operated the famed high-end Galerie Capistrano in the exclusive Southern California enclave of San Juan Capistrano. Sue DiMaio represented some of the most important Native American artists of the time, including most prominently, Charles Loloma, with whom she was good friends and for whom she held major gallery shows regularly.


It is entirely possible that over the course of their long friendship and professional relationship that Sue DiMaio purchased or traded this necklace from Charles or that he gave it to her as a gift. So that’s what we know of this interesting mystery for the moment; is it one hundred percent slam-dunk conclusive that our necklace used to be Charles Loloma’s personal necklace? No, but it’s pretty darn convincing and it’s a fascinating story involving a cast of several prominent and compelling characters, all the elements of a great mystery revolving around a great object, an Indian Arts “Maltese Falcon” of sorts, if you will. Where’s Sam Spade when you need him?



Price $5,750



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“Number 8 turquoise is one of the most valuable stones that can be collected. High-grade Number 8 turquoise is by far some of the finest turquoise to ever have come out of Nevada.”

-Gene Waddell, turquoise authority and Nevada mine owner


Now let’s get back to the mystery. Soon after we purchased this necklace, we happened by chance to show it to one of our most knowledgable and experienced longtime Santa Fe art colleagues who formerly operated a distinguished Indian Arts gallery here for many years and who also formerly represented Charles Loloma among other top Native artists. The moment he saw the necklace, he remarked that it looked extremely similar to one that he remembered bringing out to Hopi to trade to Charles Loloma around 1973 because he knew that Charles always appreciated good turquoise. Well, we can tell you that his statement sure set off some alarm bells in our heads so we immediately started investigating further and came upon this historic photo above from the 1970‘s which clearly shows Charles wearing an extremely similar three-strand spiderweb turquoise nugget necklace. The size and proportions of the necklace and the shape and size of the nuggets in this photo and their distinctive variegations of light and dark all look remarkably similar to our necklace. Going yet a step further, we next inquired personally of Charles Loloma’s niece and former apprentice, the renowned Hopi jeweler, Verma “Sonwai” Nequatewa and her husband and partner, Robert Rhodes who was also formerly Loloma’s Business Manager. They both also remembered Charles having and wearing a similar turquoise nugget necklace, but in Verma’s recollection Charles’ necklace had a string wrap instead of silver cones and clasp closure. Of course, over time this is a very small detail which could very easily have been changed.