Ben Nighthorse and the American Quarter Horse

By Muriel Tissonnier

800px-PetermccuewithcaudellWith a nick name like “America’s Horse,” it is clear that the American Quarter Horse is America’s most popular and beloved horse breed. They are also the horse of choice for jewelry-maker Ben Nighthorse, who uses Quarter Horses in all his designs.

The first Quarter Horses were bred during the colonial era by cross breeding the English Thoroughbred with “native horses.”  This small, quick and sturdy horse was used to work during the week and to race on the weekend.

800px-Quarter_Horse(REFON)-cleaned

As Americans moved west so did our horses.  Out West the Quarter Horse was cross bred with wild horses, Mustangs, adding a natural instinct for working with cattle to the breed.

Today’s Quarter Horse stands betweein 14 and 16 hands high, has a strong, muscled body with a broad chest and powerful rounded hind quarters.  The quarter horse wears many different hats; a show horse, race horse, ranch horse, reining and cutting horse, rodeo competitor and all-around great family horse.

The contemporary jewelry of Ben Nighthorse has been heavily influenced by his own respect for and his wife’s love for the American Quarter horse.  Ben and his wife Linda have raised quarter horses for years, including a Supreme Champion and AQHA Champion, Sailors Night.  Today the horse plays a major role in his designs.

Reversible Running Horse Pendant

Reversible Running Horse Pendant

Walking Horse Earrings by Ben Nighthorse

Walking Horse Earrings by Ben Nighthorse

Heavenly Horses Bracelet by Ben Nighthorse

Heavenly Horses Bracelet by Ben Nighthorse

Just to note a few, the Reversible Running Horse Pendant, the Heavenly Horses Bracelet and the Walking Horse Earrings.  Please come visit the gallery or our website to see more of Ben Nighthorse’s jewelry.

Fabulous New Ben Nighthorse Jewelry

By Jill Soens

As you may have heard, Ben Nighthorse recently delivered the US Capitol Christmas Tree to Washington D.C. Now back at home in Southwest Colorado, Ben is creating beautiful new designs just in time for Santa. See what the former senator has been up to!

“Double Circle” Earrings by Ben Nighthorse

Take a look at these beautiful new Ben Nighthorse gaspeite “Double Circle” dangling earrings.  Gaspeite, which comes from a mine in Australia, is now an extremely rare stone as the mines are tapped out. Ben has used this rare green stone to create a pair of earrings that remind us of Spring and Summer while the snow falls. Light weight, easy to wear, and fun!!!

“Horse Head Pendant” by Ben Nighthorse

Horse lovers will delight in this new  “Horse Head Pendant”.  Inlaid with black jade, white mother of pearl, red sponge coral, lapis and Chinese turquoise, this pendant reverses to a stippled sterling silver mélange of 6 small horses, a star, lightening bolt and a pine tree. Inlaid beauty combined into elegance!

Rectangle Island Ring by Ben Nighthorse

For our Sorrel Sky Gentlemen who like sterling silver with a splash of color in the middle, Ben just created the “Rectangle Island Ring.”   With a background of Ben’s trademark white stifled sterling silver, he highlights lapis, rosarita red, opal and turquoise set with sterling silver channels.  Handsome is as handsome does!!  And this is Handsome!

“Rearing to Go” Earrings by Ben Nighthorse

To fly us into the holiday season, these new and beautiful “Rearing To Go” rosarita and black onyx earrings shout “FUN”!  Tear dropped shaped, 2 inches long and one inch wide of dangly, beautiful earring,  perfectly fit for holiday wear.

 

What Does Your Birthstone Mean?

By Margaret Hedderman

Most of us know our birthstones – the traditional gemstones assigned to our month of birth. Surely at some point we’ve all bought or been given amethysts, sapphires, or (hopefully!) diamonds. But who knew there is a deep, historical and mystical tradition behind our birthstones? Many believe in the healing powers of wearing birthstones during their assigned month. What does your birthstone mean?

January – Garnet

Cluster Pearl Garnet Earrings by Lorraine Yapps Cohen.

A stone for the heart! Garnets benefit the heart, lungs and blood. With a deep, rich red color, garnets are also the stone of love, passion, and sensuality.

February – Amethyst

14k Amethyst Ladybug Necklace by Cherie Dori

A stone for meditation, peace, inner-strength and courage, the alluring purple of amethyst is thought to alleviate insomnia, arthritis, and circulatory issues.

March – Aquamarine

Aqua Deco Ring by Elizabeth Showers

A calming and soothing stone, aquamarine will alleviate stress and nerves, and release fear. It also aids in the health of liver, throat, stomach, eyes, ears and the jaw.

April – Diamonds

Aurea Ring by Toby Pomeroy

Diamonds seem to do it all. A clean, pure and healing stone, diamonds aid enlightenment and fearlessness. Diamonds help manifest abundance and create bonding partnerships.

May – Emerald

24kt Gold Envy Necklace by GURHAN

The stone of the Roman Goddess Venus, the beautiful, deep green of the emerald is associated with health of the skin, liver, and kidneys. It is said that if the heart is true, the emerald will remain its beautiful green color, but if the heart strays, the stone will become dull and lifeless.

June – Pearl

Multicolored Pearl Necklace by Pam Springall

Symbolizing faith, purity and innocence, pearls will help you focus and inhibit boisterous activity. It is said that pearls enhance fertility and ease childbirth.

July – Ruby

24kt gold Aurora Earrings by GURHAN.

This brilliant red stone has always been associated with the sun. Love, energy, passion and power, rubies are said to bring good dreams, courage, and enjoyment of life. It is also believed that rubies will detoxify the body and blood.

August – Peridot

Five Stone Sugilite and Peridot Bracelet by Kaizen

Another detoxifying stone, peridot is believed to relieve psychological conditions: depression and nervousness, among others. It’s vibrant and happy green color is said to boost self-esteem.

September – Blue Sapphire

24kt Gold Blue Sapphire Spring Ring by GURHAN

A symbol of the heavens, blue sapphires are a “wisdom” stone. It restores balance to the body and mind, as well as bringing lightness and joy to your life!

October – Opal

Reversible Ring – Opal to Diamonds by Gloria Sawin

Opal brings self-worth, self-esteem and confidence. It is said to be a seductive stone, yet brings loyalty as well. Opal will also strengthen the immune system and bring good health!

November – Topaz

18kt Gold Topaz Deco Earrings by Elizabeth Showers

Topaz comes in many colors. It recharges and re-motivates its bearer, helping to solve problems and express ideas. Topaz is a stone of good love and good fortune.

December – Lapis

Small Running Horse Pendant by Ben Nighthorse

So often found in Native American jewelry, lapis is a stone of protection. It stimulates self-awareness and expression as well as alleviating insomnia and vertigo.

What’s Trending in Jewelry

30mm EcoGold Cuff by Toby Pomeroy.

By Muriel Tissonnier

The jewelry trends we saw earlier this year are rolling over into the summer!  The 2012 Golden Globes introduced us to large statement pieces – beautiful chandelier earrings, bold necklaces, rings and oversized cuff bracelets. The trend continued onto the Oscar Red Carpet, as it has into the summer season.  Here are a couple of trends that can easily by incorporated into you summer look.

Simone Chandelier Earrings by Elizabeth Showers

BOLD COLOR

This summer season big, bold and chunky jewelry continues to be a favorite.  The fun, flirty feeling of summer introduces bright, bold colors.  Think “color blocking” with your jewelry. Add a bold color to your neckline, wrist or both! Have fun with it!

Skinny Frida Bangles by Elizabeth Showers

Tiffany Glass and Sleeping Beauty Necklace by Kaizen

FLORAL

Florals are everywhere this season! We have seen them on dresses, pants, bags and shoes.  Now they have also found their way into our jewelry collections. The options are endless!

Flower Ring by Maria Samora

Medium Confetti Stud by Zina Sterling

TRIBAL

It feels as though summer after summer we see the re-introduction of tribal jewelry and this summer is no exception.  Must be the vacation fever we all experience this time of year.

Painted Mesa Bracelet by Ben Nighthorse

Coral and Turquoise Drop Necklace by Carol Salomon.

ECO-FRIENDLY

As we are becoming more and more aware of the importance of sustainability, eco friendly jewelry will continue to be at the top of “trending” lists. Plus, the classics never go out of style.

46mm Eclipse EcoGold Earrings by Toby Pomeroy.

Have fun with the summer trends and always make sure you are adding pieces YOU LOVE to your collection!  Trends will continue to come and go and come again!!

Keep your eyes open for mixed metal jewelry making its way into late summer and fall.

Mixed gold threaders from Toby Pomeroy.

Wheat Rain Necklace from Gurhan.

Where the Magic Happens: A Tour of Ben Nighthorse’s Studio

By Amanda Nichols

“I’m a Route 66 man. Always on the road,” Ben tells us, showing off his collection of rare, fun road signs. But he’s not only referring to his love of motorcycles and highway paraphernalia; Ben’s referring to his start as a jeweler. According to Ben Nighthorse, one of America’s most celebrated Masters of Contemporary Indian Jewelry, that was how an artist got started. Ben described the rush of working in the studio all week, driving Friday to L.A. or some faraway destination, showing his work for two days, driving back, sometimes through the night, and doing it all over again. That was what artists had to do for weeks on end!

Where all the magic happens – Ben’s workstation at his Colorado studio.

This was back in the late 60s when Ben Nighthorse was just making a name for himself. As one of the first Indian jewelers to use gemstones, his work was received with criticism by some.  However, his extraordinary designs were noticed enough, won the right awards and were then featured in so many magazines that he became a celebrated Santa Fe Indian Market attendee. Down in Ben’s studio, he flipped through old magazines his wife Linda keeps so well organized, showing us some old designs.

We also got to see these brand new earrings as a work-in-progress.

The remarkable thing is how Ben can remember who bought so many of his pieces and who owns them now. But then again, Ben is a sentimental guy, holding onto his own style and often coming back to older designs. While showing us his machinery, tools, materials and techniques, he pulled out stencils, or cut outs of different animals, figures he had used throughout the years. Because Ben likes to come back to them, he stores all these “stencils” in little cough-drop tins. And again, thanks to Linda’s wonderful organization he still has his design drawings to refer back to.

Ben showed us many of the tools he uses to make his breathtaking jewelry.

Though Ben has some signature styles like his “Running Horse” design, he is constantly coming up with new ideas. It’s convenient for him to have his studio in his home because who knows what hour of the day he will get an idea and run downstairs to work. We were fortunate enough to see some of his sketches and new designs.  During our visit he was breathing new life into an old bracelet design that took our breath away.

Ben’s latest work in progress will soon be beautifully inlaid with semi-precious stones.

Next Ben showed us his buffing and polishing studio where all the inlay and final touches are done. Helping him with the polishing and buffing are two men, Calvin and Mike, who have been with him for 20 + years. They graciously made room for us in his studio space as Ben showed us uncut turquoise, sugilite, coral and other stones. When it comes to shells and stones, Ben is most attracted by color. However, the most interesting part about his inlay and stonework is that the three artists almost never know what shade the stone will be until after it is polished.


From his early-career weekend trips to the Santa Fe Indian Market to his work at Sorrel Sky Gallery, Ben Nighthorse’s jewelry is celebrated for its quality and contemporary Native American design. Our trip to his studio only reaffirmed how careful and precise he is with his exceptional jewelry work. We thank Ben and Linda for welcoming us to their home and studio for an inspiring morning of education, creativity and delicious pastries.

Statement Rings for Summer

By Amanda Nichols

Every year summer comes to Colorado bringing all of our favorite things: hiking, farmers markets, sun hats and barbeques, to name a few. With this oncoming summer, I couldn’t help but notice all the big, bold rings everyone has been wearing and I know our customers have noticed as well. With the Sorrel Sky Gallery door open and more and more admirers passing through, we have received many comments and questions about big rings. It looks like this summer the ladies are out to make a statement!

“Jasper Saddle Ring” by Gloria Sawin

This fun trend suits a variety of tastes. Maybe you want the ability to make heads turn or maybe you just like simple, bold designs. Large, statement rings are great because they can be coordinated with outfits or they can become the center of your fashion universe.

If you love an everyday ring, try Elizabeth Shower’s “Tree of Life Ring” which features a gorgeous faceted moonstone set in sterling silver. Ben Nighthorse, a national favorite, has a stylish turquoise and lapis inlay ring; these bright colors are a perfect summer combo. For simplicity and tradition, check out Artie Yellowhorse’s Spiny Oyster ring.

Tree of Life Ring by Elizabeth Showers

Turquoise and Lapis Oval Top Inlay Ring by Ben Nighthorse.

Everyone loves their “everyday” jewelry but sometimes us ladies want an eye-catching ring for a special night out. For those fancy occasions, consider Toby Pomeroy’s “Starry Night Ring.” This 18k gold ring with inlaid diamonds is not only elegant but it is also eco-friendly, made from EcoGold. Another winner is Don Lucas’s turquoise ring with gemstones. This large and playful ring is a unique mix of Native American style with contemporary glitz.

“Starry Night” Ring by Toby Pomeroy

Turquoise Ring with Gemstones by Don Lucas.

Then again, if you’re going big, why not take it to a whole new level with some traffic-stopping rings. Doug Magnus’ bold green turquoise ring is sure to draw compliments, as will Gloria Sawin’s Rosarita saddle ring. Both of these colorful rings are comfortable and fun to wear, as many of our visitors have told us- but if you don’t believe us, come in and try them on yourself.

“Rosarita Saddle Ring” by Gloria Sawin

The New Nighthorse Museum

By Jill Soens

Nancy N. Schiffer, author of Masters of Cotemporary Indian Jewelry, lauds Ben Nighthorse as a Master Jeweler, and in our new museum, you will see that his career as an artist is built on tradition: traditional tools, practices and ways.

The New Nighthorse Jewelry Making Museum at Sorrel Sky Gallery.

Ben explains it this way:

In a workshop, similar to our museum, in 1945, I was 12 years old when I  began to learn the  craft of jewelry making.   Most of these hand made stamps were used by my  father Albert “Blackie” Campbell between 1920 and 1945 .

Both copper and coin silver were used as a base.  Designs were either stamped into the metal with dies made from old files, chisels, saw blades and drill bits, or were cut through the metal with a coping saw.  Pieces were then shaped over an anvil or a tree stump.  Silver “scraps” or coins were melted in an iron ladle and a forge and were poured into a bar mold or a sand stone mold.

Soldering was done by mixing fine silver file shavings with borax granules and heated with a blowtorch.  Stones were ground on a hand-crank grinder and smoothed with a whetstone or sand paper.

Ben Nighthorse's inherited jewelry making tools.

Finished pieces were usually traded for food other necessities or occasionally, sold.  Ben’s “Hallmark”” or signed pieces started in 1967.

That was the beginning of Ben’s career as a Master jeweler yet the life path the Ben took has many interesting elements not directly related to his career as an artist.

In 1964 he competed in the US Olympics in Japan on the first ever US Judo team, and though injury side-lined him during the games, he and his teammates remain good friends and attend frequent reunions.  While in Japan, he studied with a Japanese sword maker to learn even more metal techniques.  And in the Spring of 2011 he was awarded the highest honor given to a non-Japanese, The Order of the Rising Sun.

Walking into the museum is a reminder of the rich traditions passed down to each of us and the need to celebrate and honor those traditions.  Art is beauty for the eye and the heart and this museum fills our hearts and we are honored that Ben is allowing us to be hosts for his collection.  Sorrel Sky Gallery is delighted to have this new addition to our beautiful gallery and invite each of you to tour this unique museum once it is officially open.

See Ben’s beautiful contemporary Native American jewelry at www.sorrelsky.com.

Inspiration from The Horse

By Margaret Hedderman

Power, grace, beauty, nobility, strength, and freedom: all are attributes embodied in the shape of The Horse. Humans have been fascinated with horses since well before written language and, in all cultures, have given them very special meaning.

In ancient Greece, it was believed that the ocean god Poseidon created the horse as part of a competition against his sister, Athena. Each God was tasked to create the best, most useful gift to bestow upon man. Poseidon created the horse and Athena gave us the olive tree.

According to Greek mythology, Athena won the contest, and yet today the horse is regarded as a primary contributor to the advancement of civilization. Every major civilization realized the horse as a herald to the spoils of war. The Celts associated horses with victory, longevity, and triumph.

But perhaps today, we see horses in a light a bit more akin to how they are perceived among Native Americans. The Horse symbolizes freedom – a wild spirit and a messenger. They are much loved and respected animals.

Ben Nighthorse

Perhaps it is image of The Horse as a free, wild spirit that inspires Ben Nighthorse to create his beautiful running horse pendants and earrings. With wind whipping through their manes, hooves flying above the ground, Ben’s horses are stunning with inlays of turquoise, sugilite, roserita… you name it!

Reversible Running Horse Pendant by Ben Nighthorse.

Running Horse Earrings by Ben Nighthorse.

His new Running Horse Earrings have inspired several new designs – including his Horse Head and Horse Pride Earrings. As delicate and elegant as the real thing, Ben’s horse earrings embrace the spirit of The Horse.

Horse Pride Earrings by Ben Nighthorse

Horse Head Earrings by Ben Nighthorse

What do horses mean to you?

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