Arts & Entertainment

Al Jazeera: NMAI highlights jewelry of talented Navajo family

Squash blossom necklace, Lee A. Yazzie, 2012. Lone Mountain turquoise, silver. Overall length, 24 in. (12 in. hanging). Pendant: 3¾ x 2⅛ in. Collection of Jeffry and Carole Katz. Photo © Kiyoshi Togashi / Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family / NMAI

The National Museum of the American Indian in New York City is exhibiting the works of the Yazzies, a family from the Navajo Nation known for their silversmithing and jewelry:
Lee Yazzie began as a silversmith in 1968. He had to drop out of college in order to undergo surgery and began learning jewelry making from his mother to make ends meet. Originally, he had wanted to become an accountant, and said he became depressed not achieving those aspirations. “For many years I was really embarrassed to be just a silversmith because I wanted to be a professional of some sort,” Yazzie said.

But, around 1988, Yazzie made a life change. “I started recognizing the talent that I was blessed with,” he said.

The exhibit primarily features the work of Lee Yazzie and that of his younger brother Raymond Yazzie, and shows the development of their work all the way from the 1970s to current day.

YouTube: Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family

Yet, the exhibit is also a story of the family as a whole. All 12 siblings have at one time or another been engaged in jewelry making, the Yazzies said. The oldest sister, Mary Marie, combines stones and beads in her designs.

“There’s a real cultural story embedded in this jewelry. As you examine this jewelry and begin to understand what it represents, it actually gives you some feel for the Navajo Culture itself,” said Kevin Gover.

Get the Story:
Navajo jewelry glitters in New York (Al Jazeera 11/28)

Also Today:
Why is Turquoise Becoming Rarer and More Valuable Than Diamonds? (Smithsonian 11/24)

Join the Conversation