Saturday, August 29, 2009


One of the largest galleries of cottonwood trees is part of an indoor conservatory featured in Albuquerque, New Mexico's Rio Grande Botanic Garden.

The garden covers a whopping 10,000 square feet and we are eager to explore the grounds, which is encased inside a stunning glass house. New Mexico is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Ron Henry.

The distinctive silver jewelry from the southwestern region of the United States, particularly New Mexico and Arizona, is widely known for its time-honored, beautiful craftsmanship.

According to historians, Spaniards taught Mexicans silversmithing, and they in turn taught the Native Americans, including Navajo Indians, these extraordinary skills.

The Navajo, as well as other Indian tribes, carried on the trade through subsequent generations. Henry is one such artist carrying on this magnificent tradition.

Growing up on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, Henry was surrounded by artistic greatness. His mother excelled as a silversmith, and rug weaver, while his older brother taught him how to work with silver.

Henry possessed a natural dexterity for the craft handling the techniques with precision. His skills were put to the test after he and his family relocated to Rochester, Minnesota in 1975 to set up their jewelry store, Chi-Nah-Bah. At the tender age of 12, while still attending high school, Henry provided the bulk of the designs sold at the store helping to bring his family's company worldwide recognition.

A highly gifted young man, with varied talents, once Henry graduated from high school he accepted a position with IBM; a position that took him to Tucson, Arizona.

Since Arizona housed a portion of the sprawling Navajo Reservation, the energy of its rich culture and tradition seemed to call out to him and not long after he left IBM to begin a career as a jewelry maker. He named his company Tribe Azure Jewelry.

Henry's designs are simply stunning. He creates custom-made designs without the use of molds implementing inlaid gemstones, like lapis, opal, or coral, in most all of his pieces. What is so incredible is inlaying gemstones is an art within itself.

The craft of inlay requires precision, and great attention to detail as a stone must exactly fit the channel it will set in. He creates pictorial etchings featuring animal motifs like snakes, birds, and dragons in some of his pieces. In other pieces, he fashions the likeness of bears, thunderbirds, and lightning from silver.

He blends traditional Navajo aesthetics with contemporary flourishes, but ultimately the spirit of the jewelry is Navajo. You feel the intangible bond between nature and spirit, as traditional animal motifs add the power of inspiration like the Butterfly Pendant, which reminds the wearer that transformation can come when you think a situation will never change.

Henry enjoys working with his customers by creating designs that blend both of their creative visions.

He also works with integrity, refusing to compromise his craft by copying the work of another, often at the request of a customer. I am mesmerized by the artistry of his work, the color combinations, and the high gloss of the silver.

His impeccable skills manifest so beautifully in his creations, yet he continues to expand his skills. He recently began to add diamonds to his pieces having avoided them for years due to his mother's distaste for them. Through extensive research, he taught himself to set diamonds, including pavé settings.
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Coral Wonder Pendant with Inlaid Lapis, Opal, and 14-Karat Gold
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver and 14-Karat Gold Dragonfly Bracelet with Inlaid Semi-Precious Gemstones
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