Saturday, October 30, 2010


Located in New Mexico, United States a number of well-preserved 12th century Pueblo structures, known as the Aztec Ruins National Monument, were constructed by the ancient Puebloans, the Anasazi people. New Mexico is also home to featured jewelry designer Maria Samora.

I think that Native American jewelry is stunning not only visually speaking but also in its inherent expression of spirituality, unity with nature, and ancestral exposition expressed through carved metal and gemstones.

The work of Michael Roanhorse (Navajo), Denise Wallace (Aleut), and Ron Henry (Navajo) each embody these characteristics.

I was surprised to see, however, that Samora’s work did not follow the traditional aesthetic although nature is a recurring theme throughout many of her collections.

This in no way lessens the impact of her gorgeous designer jewelry that is composed of 18-karat yellow royal gold, and gemstones like green beryl, aquamarine, lavender chalcedony, and citrine.

As a matter of fact, the Taos, New Mexico native was uncertain that her modern, streamlined design approach would gain a following when she attended her first Sante Fe Indian Market.

“I had so much apprehension because my jewelry isn’t what you would call Native American-looking,” she says. Since then, Samora has returned to the annual Sante Fe Indian Market five times showcasing her jewelry to eager patrons.

Interestingly, the jewelry artist had never fancied herself as an artistic type although her mother, Chien Motto, was a jewelry maker. She actually studied photography and Spanish before a friend coaxed her into taking an elementary course in jewelry making.

It was not until then that she began to uncover the creative energy within consequently taking advanced courses and finally entering into a 10-year apprenticeship with Taos-based goldsmith Phil Poirier.

“Taos is simple and beautiful and I believe that my jewelry is a personal expression of this simplicity. I don’t sketch or draw as my training has given me the technique to actually produce what is in my head. I play with the techniques to allow the metal or stones to build itself into a design.”

One of the many striking qualities of her jewelry is the “royal” yellow gold. It is beautiful possessing a somewhat deeper, coppery color that adds a sense of weightiness while also evoking bygone days of ancient royalty and leaves in the fall.

Her jewelry reinforces just how lovely simple outlines are. I think understated designs with their sleek contours allow one to see the fluidity of a piece. I think Samora’s adept capacity for simplicity of form also allows one to focus more on the smaller minutiae of ridged, crinkled, and hammered surface textures, oxidized metals (including the Keum-boo technique), lattice patterns, and matte finishes.

I cannot say enough how lovely the collections are. There are hints of German, Asian and Turkish influences as well as trendy jewelry staples like gold stud earrings, cross pendants, and gold hoop earrings.

“The purpose of my art is to accentuate the body and capture the movement of the human form enhancing one’s personal beauty and grace with sophistication and elegance.

However, I don’t stop there. I wear it. I test it. If it does not lie right, feel right—if it is not durable—people do not wear it. That is the ultimate rush for me, to see my jewelry out there.”
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow Royal Gold Bead Chain Earrings with Chinese Turquoise from the Summer Rain Collection
Photo 2 (center): 18-Karat Yellow Royal Gold Lattice Bracelet with Black Diamonds from the Cosmos Collection
Photo 3 (bottom left): 18-Karat Yellow Royal Gold Seashell Ring with Diamond from the Seashell Collection
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