Well - they were (in my mind). I shared a small home in inner city Cleveland, Ohio with 3 other families - but it was.
In a new world, displaced. Away from my friends (many of my Hungarian jew friends were never to be heard from again) I became obsessed with all things Native American.
My father read to me about the trail of tears. Injustice that (in a way) mirrored the injustice of my early youth.
They were a people I could relate to. The love of all things Native American never left me.. I felt a connection to their way of life, their outlook on the world, and (especially) their jewelry and art. There was something so "raw, " so pure about the things in which they made.
A close friend of mine was living in Santa Fe, and for a birthday had sent me a gift that - floored - me. A belt buckle, COVERED in pristine, beautiful red coral - up against a stunning hand tooled solid silver background. WHERE in GOD'S NAME did you find THAT? " His answer quite literally resulted in a move, "it's everywhere out here man.
I'm telling you - you gotta at least visit. And then - I stayed. At 79 years of age, Santa Fe in the'70s - some of the best years of my life. Within the first 6 months of my move, I was approached by my close friend who had sent along that beautiful belt buckle chalk full of coral.Have you been to an expo yet? Back in the day, in the'70s in Santa Fe, 3 times a year there was held a MASSIVE Native American Cultural Arts and Jewelry Expo.
There are equivalents out there today, but back then??? No vendors - inside - the building that were not of Native American lineage. If you were simply someone who admire the style, and output (often beautiful) "inspired" Native American goods - you had to be - outside - the venue.
I went to four of these, in a 2 year period - before I came across THIS piece..... This is one of those items that I'd never imagined I would part with. I'd actually given instruction to my wife, I want to be buried with this around my neck. " Things change, however, as you grow older.
Too heavy for my neck now, I look at this - stunning - work of art, and think to myself "it has to have a life outside of my jewelry box. " Quite simply, I can't "swing it anymore.. I can't hoard what deserves to be seen - just to be able to say it is mine. This is (for those unaware of the peculiar, beautiful thing they are looking at) an ancient - fossilized bear tooth. But not just any tooth, this tooth belonged to the fabled and (still to this day) feared Cave Bear.A short bio of the magnificent age old beast to follow: Public Domain. Name: Cave Bear - Ursus spelaeus - "Cave Bear". Taxonomy: Class: Mammal - Order: Carnivore - Family: Ursidae - Genus: Ursus - Species: spelaeus. The cave bear lived during the Ice Ages. It was one of the first Ice Age animals to die off around 24,000 years ago.
Discovery: Johann Friederich Esper, 1774. Although cave bear remains have been found throuought most of history and Ice Age humans even painted living cave bears, the cave bear was first scientifically described in 1774 by Johann Friederich Esper. Cave bear fossils are found throughout Europe and parts of Eurasia.
Male cave bears weighed around 1000 lbs and were similar in size to today's Alaskan kodiak bear. This is about 30% larger than the brown bear. Their skulls are distinctively wide with a steep forehead. Analysis shows many cave bears were mostly herbivorous, feeding on plants and roots.
However, they did sometimes eat meat. Meat sources included fish, insects, and small mammals. Cave bears did not hunt and stalk large animals or humans.Cave bears did not live in caves. They used caves to hibernate during the long and harsh Ice Age winters. Since cave bears would sometimes die during hibernation, their bones are now commonly found in caves throughout Europe. So you may be asking yourself, why would a Native American artist - in the'70s, take such extreme measure to showcase what is an EXTRAORDINARY fossilized Cave Bear specimen, when "Cave Bears" did not mingle with even their oldest ancestors. The answer: "bears" in general. To many Native American peoples in the Americas, the bear represented (and still does to this day) symbols of wisdom: often featured as guardians, teachers, leaders, and healers in Native origin stories, myths, and legends. Known for their ability to keep fighting, even when they are wounded, bears are closely tied to healing and medicine. Many believed that bears were able to heal their own wounds. The bear (to Native Americans) is a revered, god-like figure - even in modern times. The culmination of that revered figure. Where a grizzly bear comes in at 300 to 800 lbs (with the largest weighing in at 1600 pounds) - the "Cave Bear" averaged 770 to 1,320 pounds, with a max weight of around 2,200 pounds. The Cave Bear was between 4 and 5 feet at the shoulder, while most grizzly bears are about 3 to 3.5 feet tall at the shoulder. All of this to say, what we fear - what we look at and say "thank GOD this thing doesn't exist anymore, let's forget it ever did" the Native Americans look at and think how beautiful, if it doesn't exist today - we will pay homage to that existence. I highly encourage you to do your research, look around. Visit those sites that - specialize - in well preserved fossil specimens (specifically Cave Bear canines). If you find an example as stunning as this - in hue, striation, contrast, solidity, let me know.. This is (and I've become somewhat obsessed with the Cave Bear) possibly the most well preserved specimen I've ever seen.. It has ALL of those identifiers of a "collectors" piece. The work that the Native silversmith has done to make this piece a functional, wearable pendant cannot be ignored - yet, on its own - this tooth is something to be reckoned with... In all my years dealing in Native American jewelry, one takeaway: they use as their base only something that is "worthy, " this ancient fossil??? This is no "slim" prospect, the tooth measures in at 6.1 cm long by 2.4 cm wide!!!! HUGE when it comes to the "norm". It weighs in at 43 GRAMS! The process of natural aging has left this piece with an impeccable, otherworldly coloration and contrast. The fissures - rises and dips in the surface of the tooth - give this piece an unparalleled sense of depth and character.. No "chipping away, " solid through and through. Since the day I bought it. It is so smooth, glossy, firm. It almost looks "liquid-like" in its naturally smoothed complexion. Not "brittle" in any way, shape, or form. And look at the THICKNESS of this ancient fossil.. The long, protruding, ominous fang tip. While the star of the show is - no doubt - the exemplary specimen chosen for this pendant display - the masterful, hand formed, hand tooled, hand hammered solid sterling and yellow gold placeholder is something to behold.
THICK solid sterling silver done in traditional native form - an intricacy there in the semi precious and precious metals that are immediately recognizable as Native American mastery. Look for a moment at the above photographs athe the patterning in the chunky solid sterling..I've never quite grown accustomed to the beauty of the silver work when it comes to this pendant, also pondering just how many hours went into its completion. And what SKILL it must have taken to bring the native artist's vision to physical form.
The metals top of this pendant - seamlessly - matches up with the body of the fossilized tooth. No awkward, jutting angles - just seamless precision. Across the top, a THICK heavy bodied hand formed "roped" silver ring that wraps around the entirety of the piece. Below it - triangular extensions that are adorned in complex, intricate traditional Native american etched carvings.
Again, take a moment to truly examine these triangular extensions. The sheer detail that went into their careful creation. At the true top, a MASSIVE soldered bail (again roped silver) that would accommodate virtually ANY chain. The top is beautifully oxidized - the dark black hue creating a mesmerizing aura of contrast when juxtaposed to the bright cool tone sterling silver and the warm, soft yellow gold glow of the 3-Dimensions soldered gold dual rounded bezels.
I have but one regret in owning this piece through all of the years.. I have - in my old age - forgotten the name of the Navajo man who first put this piece into the palm of my hand many, many decades ago. I have two other pieces from him (actually, one from him - one from his wife).
The amount of hours I have spent trying to ascertain who this Navajo artist is (was)? It irks me, day in and day out, that I no longer have a name to assign to the beauty of this cherished, one of a kind masterfully composed ancient ensemble..My wife tells me we have a receipt! " - yet, we've been through 6 big UHAUL style boxes of receipts (yes. Old folk aren't so organized it seems) and we've not yet "hit it. You'll not only have a piece unlike any other, you'll have the name of its creator. I give you my word. This past Easter, I had all of my grandchildren sorting with me! Just a matter of time.. Ultimately, this is a piece of my heart.
A piece of my soul. This is a piece of the heart and soul of the old Navajo man who made the piece.. To think of how many hours this piece took to compose??? I get goosebumps to this day..An homage paid (so perfectly) to a beast of old. A beast that has always been (and will continue to be) innately tied to the Native American way of life. CAUTION: This is a HEAVY piece (weighing in at 43 GRAMS) - please be sure that you can tolerate a heftier pendant around the neck. My wife has always found the piece to be too heavy. I will get back to you promptly.
Tooth Itself: 6.1 cm (2.40 inches) long by 2.4 cm (0.9 inches) wide. With the Pendant Top: 7.4 cm (2.91 inches) long by about 2 cm (0.78 inches) across the sterling/gold top (one side to the other). Gold Bezels: the two gold bezels on the pendant top measures about 5mm. This item is in the category "Jewelry & Watches\Ethnic, Regional & Tribal\Necklaces & Pendants".The seller is "uniqueluxurygoods" and is located in this country: US. This item can be shipped to United States, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Wallis and Futuna, Gambia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Poland, Oman, Suriname, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Argentina, Guinea-Bissau, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Bhutan, Senegal, Togo, Ireland, Qatar, Burundi, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Equatorial Guinea, Thailand, Aruba, Sweden, Iceland, Macedonia, Belgium, Israel, Liechtenstein, Kuwait, Benin, Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Swaziland, Italy, Tanzania, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Panama, Kyrgyzstan, Switzerland, Djibouti, Chile, China, Mali, Botswana, Republic of Croatia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Portugal, Tajikistan, Vietnam, Malta, Cayman Islands, Paraguay, Saint Helena, Cyprus, Seychelles, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Australia, Austria, Sri Lanka, Gabon Republic, Zimbabwe, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Norway, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Kiribati, Turkmenistan, Grenada, Greece, Haiti, Greenland, Yemen, Afghanistan, Montenegro, Mongolia, Nepal, Bahamas, Bahrain, United Kingdom, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Angola, Western Samoa, France, Mozambique, Namibia, Peru, Denmark, Guatemala, Solomon Islands, Vatican City State, Sierra Leone, Nauru, Anguilla, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Cameroon, Guyana, Azerbaijan Republic, Macau, Georgia, Tonga, San Marino, Eritrea, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Morocco, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Mauritania, Belize, Philippines, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Colombia, Spain, Estonia, Bermuda, Montserrat, Zambia, South Korea, Vanuatu, Ecuador, Albania, Ethiopia, Monaco, Niger, Laos, Ghana, Cape Verde Islands, Moldova, Madagascar, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Lebanon, Liberia, Bolivia, Maldives, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Central African Republic, Lesotho, Nigeria, Mauritius, Saint Lucia, Jordan, Guinea, Canada, Turks and Caicos Islands, Chad, Andorra, Romania, Costa Rica, India, Mexico, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Lithuania, Trinidad and Tobago, Malawi, Nicaragua, Finland, Tunisia, Uganda, Luxembourg, Brazil, Turkey, Germany, Egypt, Latvia, Jamaica, South Africa, Brunei Darussalam, Honduras.