Most of the American Indian gemstone spoons were produced by the Navajo and Zuni nations of the American southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah). Many of them were produced for resale to tourists through the Fred Harvey railroad souvenir shops in the first part of the 20th century.
The majority of these spoons have turquoise insets, because:
a. turquoise is very important to the native culture and is often called the "sky stone".
b. it looks very pretty against a silver background.
c. it is relatively easily acquired and is easy to work with
d. it comes in a wide variety of different colors (many shades of blue and green) and internal designs
The middle spoon is quite cute as the green turquoise is supposed to be the beetle's body
Note that the two left spoons are the same design, but since they are hand done, there are easily identified differences. The spider web turquoise in the middle spoon is an interesting stone.
The "stamped" designs on Indian silver were primarily for the benefit of tourists, and they were made to fit the tourist image of what an indian spoon should look like. The Southwest indians did not use silver spoons for either personal or religious use.
A wonderful hand made spoon featuring an elk tooth and two arrows. I suspect that this spoon was made by a conventional silversmith in an indian style.
Other spoons with teeth may be seen here
A very long (11.8") mixer spoon made in a combination of the "arts and crafts" and Navajo indian style with 5 pieces of raw turquoise in the handle.
Thanks to an alert reader, Jonathan M. Carr, we now know that this is the mark of Frank Patania Sr.
This mark is considered to be one of Mr. Patania's earlier marks.
Mr. Patania was an Italian immigrant who eventually opened the Thunderbird silver shop on Shelby next to the Santa Fe, New Mexico Railway ticket office . Tourists were abundant in the area as a tour bus allowed travelers to disembark directly in front of Mr. Patania's tourist shop.
The Thunderbird was known for Navajo style silver workmanship and it is still in business and is run by Mr. Patania's descendents. They are still producing silver items and have recently won several awards.
More information on the Thunderbird and Frank Patania may be found at
Very nice piece of green/blue turquoise with white minerals interspersed
Proceed to next Gemstone exhibit
Return to Gemstone index
Return to Spoon World index