Mystery Belt Buckle

As you might have read in my “Understanding sandcast belt buckles” thread, I have studied hundreds of cast buckles and most of them have exact duplicates - give or take added embellishments (i.e. stones, stamp work, etc.) The buckle in my photo below seems to be unique. I have never seen another one just like it with the exact same design.

When I purchased this buckle, I assumed it was a traditional Navajo sandcast buckle, but now I’m not so sure. The other night, I was reading Arizona Highways, August 1974. In that edition, there is an article on the famous Hopi artist, Charles Loloma. The article also features photos of his work and one of the examples is a traditional style ketoh. For me, the ketoh’s similarities to my buckle are intriguing and hard to ignore.

As you can see in the photos below, the ketoh and my buckle are basically the same design, same rough finish, and same vintage. One interesting detail is the way the top edge on the outer border and the four inside legs is centered on both pieces, but the top edge on the inner design is off-center on both pieces.

Could my buckle be an early, unmarked Charles Loloma piece – one that was made in the same era as the ketoh before he settled into his more unconventional style? From what I have read, Charles didn’t seem like the type to duplicate his work, which might explain why I have never seen another buckle like mine.

I suppose someone could have copied his style and if that is the case, they sure did a superb job.

Any thoughts? Thanks!

That would be awesome. I am including a couple of pictures of early Charles Loloma work, you will notice that he has a hallmark on the pieces. Your bow guard appears to be better silver work then these pieces. Also, you will notice on how he focuses on the materials he uses with his silver in the magazine article. All of the work showcases his stone work. The three pieces of turquoise in the bow guard are very nice rocks and are highlighted by that heavy handmade bezel.


Thank you for your thoughts. I think you meant “(my belt buckle) appears to be better silver work than these pieces.” Correct?

My belt buckle is not signed, but did Charles sign all of his silver work from the beginning? If he did, then we know that my buckle was not made by him. The question is then, was my buckle Navajo or Hopi made?

Yes, your piece looks like nicer silver work than those early Loloma pieces. Makes it likely then he is signing his pieces by the time his work has improved to this level? It is always a mystery of who made what when you don’t have a hallmark, could be anglo made. I would call the Loloma piece Navajo if I didn’t have the information of the article. This style is traditionally Navajo.

I agree. My common sense says Navajo on my buckle, but the article and Loloma’s ketoh through me off.

Found an other buckle with similar design elements to my buckle in my “new” book, Indian Jewelry of the American Southwest. The book buckle is attributed to “White Eagle”, whom I assume is Carlos White Eagle of Mescalero Apache–Navajo descent .

Not saying my buckle was made by White Eagle, just adding substance to the thread. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Interesting! The Loloma ketoh that I referenced in my first post was sold at auction in 2014. When I read old books, like Arizona Highways, that feature the best of Indian jewelry, I always wonder who owned those pieces and where have they been.

Auction link

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