Native Jewelry Maker- Charles Laloma
Innovators such as Hopi jeweler Charles Loloma (1921-1991) ignored the expectations of traditional silver jewelry
and explored a range of designs and materials. Loloma's early artistic work as a muralist and potter, trained at the
School of American Craftsmen at Alfred University in New York, influenced the jewelry he would later make. A
self-taught jeweler, Loloma successfully combined architectural forms with complex patterns and myriad colors.
Experimentation with jewelry making techniques, some of which had been used for decades in the Southwest, also
marked Loloma's creations. Among other methods, tufa casting was a specialty of Loloma. In this process, an image
is carved into split sections of volcanic rock, or tufa; the carvings are then matched and the sections joined.
Molten metal is poured through a sprue hole to fill the depression created by the carving. Following this process,
Loloma varied the finish by maintaining the texture created through the tufa casting, rather than polishing the
One of the first southwest jewelers to use gold instead of silver as his primary medium, Loloma also inset polished
woods with unusual stones such as charoite from Siberia, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and fossilized ivory from
Alaska. Another unique feature of his jewelry, initiated around 1962 or 1965, was the placing of decorative
surfaces on jewelry interiors for the intimate pleasure of the wearer. Loloma's concept was that all people have
hidden beauty, which he referred to as inner gems. Many contemporary jewelers have since adopted this technique.
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