Adore & Adorn: Vintage Native American Silver Jewelry

Native American Jewelry Sterling Silver Turquoise Squash Blossom At Mark Lawson Antiques, we appreciate and enjoy style, artistry, and craftsmanship. Though we are fortunate enough to see an array of beautiful antique items every day, we take special delight in evaluating and buying Southwest Native American jewelry. This traditional type of jewelry developed in part through contact with Spanish Colonials of Mexico and trade with early European fur trappers. Of course, Native Americans always hand-crafted bodily adornments, but it was not until the 1850s that they began to really work with silver as a medium to create jewelry.

A Brief History of Native American Silver Jewelry Production

The earliest known artist was a Navajo man named Atsidi Sani (c1830 – c1918). He was a noted ironsmith who also learned how to work with silver. Atsidi Sani realized the potential of the jewelry industry and taught his sons the trade. It was a popular livelihood because it fulfilled the desire to create beautiful objects while also financially providing for families. The profession remains very much a family or community based industry today.American Indian Jewelry Native American Turquoise Engraved Cuff Bracelet Sterling Silver

The introduction of the railroad in the American Southwest in the 1870s/80s allowed for a rise in tourism. Soon, Native American jewelry became a very desirable souvenir. Trading posts and souvenir shops sprang up all over the Southwest to keep up with the tourist demand. Silversmithing was suddenly a thriving industry on many reservations. The collectible value and demand for the jewelry has waxed and waned over the years, but Native American jewelry remains an outstanding example of handicraft and skill.

Common Examples of Styles & Makers

The majority of the Southwestern jewelry that folks bring in for us to buy are products of the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, and the Santo Domingo Pueblo (Kewa Pueblo). Native American Jewelry American Indian Stone Inlay Turquoise Onyx Mother of Pearl Bolo Tie HopiThe lion’s share of silversmiths are Navajo, but each group has their own style and design motifs.

For example, the jewelry of the Zuni tribe is characterized by their fine lapidary work, which includes cluster pieces, mosaics, and inlay. The Hopi are known for their overlay work, and the Santo Domingo Pueblo most notably for their stone and shell beadwork and mosaics. The silver work of the Navajos focuses more simply on the silver itself and engraving rather than on other features such as stones or inlay. Even though each tribe is noted for a certain design style, the use of motifs was fluid and could have been crafted by any one of the Southwestern groups. Signatures certainly help in terms of identification of artist. Additionally, signed pieces sometimes add a premium to the overall value of the jewelry.

Some of the more famous vintage Native American jewelry makers include:

  • Charles Loloma (1921-1991), Hopi. Hallmark: Impressed stylized signature “Loloma”
  • Kenneth Begay-Navajo. Active from 1948-1962. His nickname is “Father of Modern Navajo Jewelry”. He worked for almost 20 years at the famous White Hogan Gallery. Hallmark: KB
  • Ruth Ann Begay-Navajo. Hallmark: RB
  • Richard Begay-Navajo. Hallmark: RB
  • Tommy Singer-Navajo specializing in chip-inlay jewelry. Tommy learned the craft from his father. Hallmark: T. Singer
  • Raymond C. Yazzie-Navajo

American Indian “Pawn” Jewelry

“Pawn” is a subset of collectible American Indian silver jewelry. The term “Pawn” dates to the 1880s. It refers to a system within the reservation through which silversmiths could pawn their personal jewelry at trading posts in exchange for cash or goods. Sometimes the original owner was not able to buy back the pawned jewelry within the agreed time. American Indian Pawn Turquoise inlay Belt Buckle Signed SIn those cases, the trading posts were free to sell the pawned goods. For many Native Americans, the pawned jewelry was of more value than just personal adornment. It was a form of portable wealth and an amulet to protect health. This trade system was a sad testament to the often economically lean times of Native American life on the reservation. It is rare to come across a true piece of documented pawn jewelry.

The types of Native American jewelry that we typically see and buy include cuff Vintage Sterling Silver Navajo Signed BY Bracelet American Indian Native American Jewelrybracelets, necklaces (often Navajo Squash Blossom motif), rings, bolo ties, earrings, concha belts, and belt buckles. The most common decorative accents are turquoise, coral, shell, and spiny oyster shell. It is important to remember that some vintage and modern Southwestern style jewelry is not always Native American in origin. If you think you have pieces of vintage Native American jewelry and would like to find out their value, we would be happy to help.

If you have any questions, or would like to schedule an appointment for a free evaluation, call us today at (518) 587-8787. We have offices in Saratoga Springs and Colonie, conveniently located for our clients in the Albany, NY and surrounding Capital Region.


Additional Resources:

Examples of Native American Silver Jewelry in Museum Collections, Smithsonian Institution of the National Museum of the American Indian

Resource for Common American Indian Maker’s Marks/ Signatures, Native American Jewelry Artists
& South West Shop Hallmarks

Malta Community Center speaking event

Antiques Appraisal Event at Hearthstone Village September 15, 2017

Mark Lawson of Mark Lawson Antiques will be hosting an Antiques Appraisal event at Hearthstone Village in Latham, NY on Friday September 15th, 2017. Register in advance to claim one of 40 spots to have your family heirloom or mysterious attic find evaluated. This Antiques Roadshow-style event will publicly evaluate and discuss the antiques, art, and other objects of interest provided by the audience. Our previous events have turned up some unexpected treasures – who knows what we’ll find this time? Even if you don’t have anything you’d like to bring for appraisal, this event is open to the public and you’re welcome to come and enjoy the show!

Register today by calling Hearthstone Village at (518) 867-4050.
Only 40 spots are available and they’ll go fast!


Where: Hearthstone Village 4000 Florence Dr, Latham, NY 12110

When: Friday September 15, 2017 at 10am

Registration: $10/item. Preregistration is required – call Hearthstone Village at (518) 867-4050 to register. Please call Hearthstone Village for any questions or additional details.

Details: All proceeds from the event will be donated to Hope House of Albany.

Toys on the Move: Mechanical Tin Lithographs

Antique c1900 German S.G. Gunthermann Tin Litho Wind-up Toy Car & Driver



Wind-up tin lithographs are wonderful examples of the type of collectible toys that clients bring to Mark Lawson Antiques. The most common kinds that we see are automobiles, motorcycles, amusement park rids, popular entertainment characters, and robots. Wind-up mechanical toys have surprisingly uncomplicated inner workings but their form and decoration are incredibly variable. It is this variability and their amusing charm that make tin lithograph toys so desirable and collectible.

A Brief History of Tin Lithograph Toys

Tin toys were first introduced in the mid-19th century and were decorated in detail by hand. Eventually, the technology developed to the point where offset lithographs were used to print the decorations onto rubber rollers, which was then applied to the tin surface. TheVintage 1920s/30s German Tippco Tin Litho Wind-Up Two Seated Motorcycle Toy colorful, and durable toys were a great deal less expensive to produce and ship than those made from cast iron and wood. Given this improvement, by the 1920s, manufacturers were able to mass produce the toys for an eager audience.

At the turn of the century, Germany led the field in mechanical tin lithograph toy production. France and England also had major manufactures, but were unable to reach the meteoric levels of those in Germany. Across the pond, American companies had a slow start, but, due in part to anti-German sentiment following World War I, eventually became major players in the market.Rare Antique c1900 German Lehmann Tin Windup Toy Bicycle Motorcycle

Companies on both sides of the Atlantic advantageously produced toys based on popular characters and celebrities of the day. Newspaper comic strip and movie characters were especially popular inspirations. Walt Disney related toys may be the most prominent example of media influencing the direction of mass toy production. World War II was a turning point for most European tin lithograph companies, as the raw materials were diverted to the war effort. These companies never regained their foothold in the business and Japan eventually surpassed all to become the largest selling country of manufacture.

Collectible Brands

Vintage 1930s Marx Merrymakers Wind-up Mouse Band Tin Lithograph ToyWe are happy to see all kinds of mechanical tin lithograph toys, but these are some of the more collectible brands to look for:

  • Ernst Paul Lehmann (German)
  • Louis Marx Toy Co (American)
  • Girard (American)
  • Chein (American)
  • Courtland Manufacturing Company (American)
  • Strauss (American)
  • KO (Japan)



Vintage 1950s Tin Friction Japanese Toy Sci-Fi Space Adventure RobotThe collectible value for tin litho toys depends on maker, condition, type, and relative rarity. If you have the original box, the value goes up exponentially. Generally, the hand painted tin toys are very rare and will get premium prices. Wind-up robots will also garner much collectible interest. We make no secret of it: we love to see (and play with) tin lithograph toys so feel free to call us at 518-587-8787 or email at to set up an appointment today.


Additional Resources

Civil War Era Tin Wind-up Horse Drawn Carriage, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History

Charles Lindbergh Spirit of St. Louis Tin Toy Airplane, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum

1950s Red Rosko Spaceman Astronaut Tin Toy, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum


William Aiken Walker painting

Malta Community Center Spring Antiques Appraisal Show

William Aiken Walker paintingMark Lawson of Mark Lawson Antiques will talk about antiques, appraisals, and the ins and outs of downsizing at the Malta Community Center on Saturday May 6, 2017. Learn more about the constantly changing trends in the antiques world, and watch a live appraisal of antiques and other items of interest provided by audience members. This promises to be an exciting event; you never know what treasures will come to light at this highly anticipated yearly appraisal show. Previous finds at the Malta event include an uncommon original oil painting by William Aiken Walker.

Where: The Malta Community Center One Bayberry Dr. Malta NY 12020

When: Saturday May 6, 2017 at 10am

Details: Pre-registration is required. Contact the Malta Community Center at (518) 899-4411 for additional details.

Mark Lawson Antiques Hosts Landmark Saratoga Springs Estate Sale March 10-12 2017

Mark Lawson Antiques announces an historic Saratoga Springs estate sale taking place March 10, 11, and 12. This untouched on-site estate sale is a landmark event, with a wide variety of items collected over the years by the long-time Saratoga Springs residents.

The gentleman of the house was a true captain of industry, an avid amateur woodworker with an interest in antique and modern tools, and an advanced collector of militaria, painting his own toy soldiers and creating small dioramas. He also acquired memorabilia from the Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations, including some Civil Rights related letters signed by Robert Kennedy during his term as Attorney General. He was also an automobile enthusiast with scattered automobile collectibles including signs, old framed advertisements, and a 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.

The lady of the house was a successful artist exhibiting in New York galleries in the 1970s. she was known for her framed collage and mixed media assemblage works, a number of which are featured in the sale. Her works can be found in private and public collections around the world.

The contents of the estate are fresh to the market and include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Saratoga Racetrack objects, memorabilia, artwork, and photographs (antique, vintage, and modern)
  • High quality antique, vintage, and modern furniture, rugs
  • Large amount of framed artwork – including antique 19th and 20th century oil paintings, drawings, and limited edition prints
  • Military collectibles – Civil War swords and leather, porcelain figurines, many lead soldier sets and small dioramas
  • Presidential memorabilia including photographs and signed letters
  • Antique tools and woodworking equipment, including many antique cabinets with lots of drawers
  • Modern tools – lathe, table & band saws, drill press, radial arm saw
  • Designer clothing, hats, shoes, belts, and bags
  • Custom window hangings
  • Good quality household & kitchen items – fine porcelain and glassware
  • 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow Sedan, Color: Ivory, Miles: 92K

Dates and Times:

Friday March 10, 9am-4pm

Saturday March 11, 9am-4pm

Sunday March 12, 10am-3pm


View additional details, including photographs and terms of sale, by visiting the listing on

Mark Lawson Antiques Saratoga Springs Estate Sale March 10, 11, 12 2017Mark Lawson Antiques Saratoga Springs Estate Sale March 10, 11, 12 2017


Settling an Estate Sale Saratoga Springs Albany NY

Thoughts on Settling an Estate

Settling an Estate Sale Saratoga Springs Albany NYSettling an estate or thinking of having an estate sale? Here’s some of what we have learned:

We have helped literally thousands of people over the last 25 years taking care of or resolving issues related to settling an estate. Figuring out how to find new homes for things that have come down through families or friends can be a difficult and overwhelming job. It may involve emptying a house full of stuff that has not been maintained because of declining health, or a house simply stuffed to the rafters by prudent well-meaning people who lived during the Depression years and did not want to waste a single thing. The situation is complicated by having to cope with a big project at the same time as you are experiencing a major loss of a loved one or family home, so it’s not just a big logistical job, it’s a big emotional job as well!

I know how this can be. In 1998 my grandparents both passed away over the course of the year. They had been living in the Embury apartments here in Saratoga Springs; after the memorial and funeral was done, my aunts and uncles were over at the apartment sorting out what to do with what, to get the place cleared out. I went over thinking that I would be a big help with all my experience helping families navigate this situation. I knew there was probably not enough to have an estate sale but was confident that I could help steer things in the right direction. I walked in the apartment and froze. I was so overcome with the reality of my grandparents really being gone, it was unexpectedly so upsetting to me, that I was unable to even stay, never mind help sort things out. That was a very sobering experience for me. That day really helped me to understand how difficult it can be for the families that I am called on to help.

Downsizing Estate Saratoga Springs Albany NYOne thing that I know is that every situation is different. It may be a house full, perhaps an apartment. Maybe it’s a safe deposit box. Sometimes there are wonderfully valuable and amazing things that nobody had any idea were there. Other times there may be a one or several things whose value has become legendary as they have been passed down and cherished. Each time they are pointed out in the china cabinet or brought out at get-togethers to look at, they become more and more precious and valuable in everyone’s eyes. Sometimes they are truly exceptional and valuable. Unfortunately, sometimes the value today does not reflect the hopeful and well-meaning information that has been passed along.

While many prices have changed over the past 10-15 years because of changing lifestyles and collecting trends, there are always things that have good value that need to be sold and given a new home. Some things sell much better in one way than in another. An estate sale is only one option. Our experience is that a blended approach can give families the best result.

Selling Estate Sale Near Me NYThe first step is to talk with someone knowledgeable about the types of things you have and your situation. It may make sense to schedule a meeting to have them look at everything with you and your family. You may be able to get enough information to move your process forward just by a phone call. It may be difficult to proceed with anything until all the legal requirements have been met. You may need to obtain a formal written appraisal first (which can cost thousands of dollars and is sometimes required by the courts or well-meaning lawyers) but make sure if you can that you don’t spend more on a written appraisal than the items are worth – this happens all too often. A conversation with someone knowledgeable can help guide you here.

How do you know if a person or firm is someone that you want to trust to deal with? I am asked this often at our speaking events and I believe that you know within the first minute of talking with someone whether or not you want to do business with them – trust your gut! I am also a fan of good referrals and recommendations from friends or others who have had an experience dealing with the firm you are considering hiring.

Every family and type of house contents is different. Some people love the idea of doing a yard sale themselves and/or find it helpful to spend some time with the items sorting or organizing before things are sold. Other people need to just move on because of personal preference or because the house needs to be emptied as soon as possible. Each situation may need a different approach. Certain types of things might sell best at an in-house professionally run estate sale – this can be particularly true for good quality furniture and the sometimes thousands of $1-$5 items that otherwise might just be donated or discarded. An estate sale can be a good choice if there is enough to sell of the right types of things.

Some higher value items may sell best when consigned for auction or sold directly to specialist dealers. Coins, sterling silver, and gold jewelry items are generally purchased by professionals with a 5% to 20% margin, e.g. a dealer might pay $80 for something they can sell for $100. Estate sale commissions are typically 30%-50%, so if that same item is sold for $100 at the estate sale , it will only bring the family $50-70.

Estate Services Near MeAuctions and auction services are another option. Keep in mind that auction commission rates today range from 10% to 30% depending on the value of the item you are consigning. However, this does not reflect the true cost of selling at auction. Most auction houses today charge a “buyer’s premium”. This is an additional charge (usually 15%-25%) on top of the “hammer price”. For example, if you consign an item to auction with a 20% commission and it sells for $100 (the hammer price), you receive $80. But if the buyer has to pay a 20% “buyers premium”, they actually pay $120. Any buyer at auction figures this into their bidding so the true sale price is $120. On a payment to you of $80, that means you really paid a 33% commission on that consignment! The ins and outs of selling (and buying) at auction are at least several other posts; it is complicated. Don’t get me wrong, auctions can be incredibly successful for the right kind of thing, especially things that are rare and sought after. The psychology involved when two people that want something start bidding against each other can often result in unexpectedly high prices (and very happy consignors!). What is important to know is that it makes sense to sell on a consignment basis sometimes depending on the nature and value of what you are selling. You need to know the specific details in order to make the best choice for your family.

To summarize, make sure you do your homework (as best as you can in a difficult time), find reliable people to help through good referrals or talking to some professionals to get a feel for who does what and how. Beware of a “one size fits all” method, very often a mixed approach will give the best results for the estate. Find an experienced expert who you get a good feeling from and who other people say good things about. I love Antiques Roadshow, it’s great to see the woman who purchased the table at an estate sale for $40 that’s worth $250,000, but I can’t help but think of the poor soul watching the show that sold the table for $40 at their estate sale! Don’t make that mistake.



Saratoga chip serving spoon - Whiting sterling silver, Empire pattern

Serving Up Local History: Saratoga Chips

The holiday season is upon us! As our thoughts turn towards warm gatherings of friends and families around the table, let’s take a look at Saratoga Springs’ most famous family recipe: the Saratoga chip. The history of Saratoga chips is controversial, passed down word-of-mouth through local legend and lore, embellished by some sources, disputed hotly by others. Although many of the specifics about the Saratoga chip’s invention can’t be verified, it can certainly be said that the thin crispy slices of fried potato were made famous in Saratoga Springs in the mid 1800s.

During the early and mid 19th century, potatoes were often served in what was popularly known as the French style: cut into thick slices and fried. These pommes de terre frites à cru, or “potatoes deep-fried while raw”, were served by President Thomas Jefferson in the White House. By 1813, many popular American cookbooks had recipes for fried potatoes. By 1859, the The Economical Cookery Book for Housewives, Cooks, and Maids-of-all-work by Eliza Warren used the term “French fried potatoes” for the first time in published history.

Saratoga Chips - Moon's Lake House, Saratoga Springs NY

Legend has it that the Saratoga chip was invented around 1853 by George Crum, an African-American cook at Moon’s Lake House, a restaurant on the shore of Saratoga Lake. One day, a wealthy patron came in and ordered the house specialty: Moon’s fried potatoes. But, when he received his order, he sent them straight back to the kitchen, claiming they were too thick and soggy to eat. Crum sliced a thinner batch of potatoes, fried them, and sent them out to the customer only to have them sent back again, this time accompanied by the imperious one-word demand, “Thinner!” The story goes that George Crum did not appreciate criticism of his cooking abilities and decided to teach this demanding customer a lesson. Crum sliced the potatoes paper thin, salted them heavily, and fried the heck out of them until they were crispy and brittle, too brittle to be eaten with a fork without shattering (and since no polite gentleman would have eaten with his fingers in public, this was the cherry on Crum’s spite sundae).

Much to Crum’s surprise, the picky customer loved the brittle, salty, deep-fried potatoes. According to lore, the customer even requested a second batch! (However, the stories do not relate whether the gentleman ate them with his fingers after all.)

And so the Saratoga chip became the new house specialty at Moon’s Lake House. In 1860, no doubt inspired by the success of his invention, George Crum opened his own restaurant in Saratoga Springs, located on Malta Ave near Saratoga Lake. His restaurant was widely patronized by the wealthy elite of the day like the Vanderbilts, Jay Gould, and Henry Hilton. It is claimed that Crum placed boxes or baskets of Saratoga chips onto each table, marketing them as “take-out” boxes. The Saratoga chip rapidly gained in popularity and spread across the nation. Eventually they were re-named by the generic term “potato chip” as new businesses emerged, building factories to mass produce the now beloved snack.

Saratoga chip serving spoon - Whiting sterling silver, Empire patternThe widespread popularity of the Saratoga chip in the mid and late 19th century was reflected in the silverware of the day. The wealthy elite of the Gilded Age embraced conspicuous displays of excess, and loved to set a lavish dinner table with sterling silver flatware covering every inch. Silversmiths of the day obliged by creating unique serving pieces for each type of food: asparagus tongs, game shears, grape shears, nut picks, butter picks, butter knives, berry spoons, clear soup (bouillon) spoons, cream soup spoons, breakfast coffee spoons, dinner coffee spoons, and many more. The Saratoga chip was so popular that it earned its own dedicated serving piece: the Saratoga chip server. The serving piece features a wide flattened bowl with pierced detailing to drain any excess grease. Pictured above right is a 19th century Saratoga chip server from Whiting, in sterling silver, in the Empire pattern.

The American Pure Food Cookbook and Household Economist, published in 1899, provided the American public with a recipe for making Saratoga chips, as well as suggesting several different menus for breakfast, lunch, or dinner that incorporated the chip as a side or appetizer. One suggestion for breakfast pairs the Saratoga chips with fried chicken, sliced pineapple, steamed oatmeal, mushroom omelet, and coffee. The cookbook’s menu suggestions were tailored “[to] be within the reach of the average household at all times. These menus have also been prepared with another idea in view; namely, that of affording the variety which the latest scientific investigations in dietetics have shown to be necessary for the best nourishment of the human body.”

Saratoga Chips recipe - Saratoga Springs NY

It’s always a pleasant surprise when a client brings in a group of sterling silver flatware for evaluation and we discover a Saratoga chip server. Saratoga’s rich history and unique past makes for some very interesting finds and historical memorabilia. As we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner and contemplate the upcoming holidays, we can be thankful for the multifaceted history that surrounds us here in Saratoga Springs and the entire Capital Region.

Do you have any Saratoga Springs historical memorabilia? If you would like to sell Saratoga Springs memorabilia, and would like to schedule an appointment for a free evaluation, call us today at (518) 587-8787. We have offices in Saratoga Springs and Colonie, conveniently located for our clients in the Albany, NY and surrounding Capital Region.


Additional Resources:

The American Pure Food Cookbook and Household Economist, David Chidlow, 1899 (full text)

The Economical Cookery Book, Eliza Warren, 1859 (full text)

Chips, Crums & Specks of Saratoga County History, a local historian’s blog about George Crum

Buy Sell Gold Silver Jewelry Coins Diamonds Antiques Amsterdam NY

Appraisal & Buying Event at the Amsterdam Century Club

Come see us Saturday, November 5th, 2016 at the Century Club of Amsterdam for an Appraisal & Buying Event.

Discover the value of that family heirloom, the mysterious painting that has always been on the wall or the old sword your grandfather said came from Japan. Receive top professional prices for those old pieces of jewelry you never wear, the silver coins that have been sitting in a drawer for years, or that diamond that somehow got chipped. Our appraisers will be on-site from 10am to 2pm to evaluate and purchase:


(click on any link for more information about the kinds of things we purchase)


Appraisals are 1 item for $3, or 3 items for $5.

Appraisal fee proceeds to support the Century Club.


When: Saturday, November 5th 2016, 10am-2pm

Where: 130 Guy Park Ave, Amsterdam NY 12010 (link to map, opens in new tab)