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An exquisite set of elaborate and fancy

Navajo silver and turquoise decorative collar bars by McKee Platero, c. 1990’s

Let’s talk about the absolute height of Southwestern fashion! You will most certainly look like a gorgeous

desert supermodel wearing these amazing Navajo silver and turquoise beauties.

The world-renowned Navajo master jeweler, McKee Platero (b. 1957) has really knocked this one out of the park

here making the absolutely exceptional seem effortless. This is characteristic of his unparalleled work, an ambitious combination of total technical excellence fused with an astonishing level of creative artistry. He takes the normal

to exalted heights of beauty no one else can reach as he has quite clearly done here. He has pulled out all the decorative stops here covering the bars with rows of no less than 14 repeating matched repousseed ovals and

filling the other areas with beautiful ornate stampwork and chisel work designs. As a final finishing touch, at the Vee-shaped junctions of the bars, Platero has set a small turquoise cabochon stone in an old-style silver bezel.

These bars are particularly large and in charge, fashioned in a deep Vee-shape measuring a full 3 1/2" in one direction and 3" in the other. They are 3/4" wide and they each weigh a considerable, yet comfortable 28 grams or 1 ounce each. The bars attach to the collar points of a jacket or shirt with two long silver pins each so that they will lie flat up against the material. The bars are in completely excellent original condition with some degree of age-appropriate wear, but no visible damages at all.

Not only did this serve a fashionable function, but a practical one as well. When the lady went on her regular visits to the local area trading post to purchase necessities for the family, she would remove as many silver coins or buttons as necessary to cover the cost of her purchases. Soon Navajo silversmiths had evolved this decorative idea

of a row of silver coins or buttons and stylized it into angled continuous silver collar bars like this one, sometimes setting a turquoise or two into the bar as a decorative accent just as Platero has done here.

If there were such a publication as Navajo Vogue Magazine this set would almost certainly be a candidate for the cover page photo. They are simply eye-poppingly beautiful, completely distinctive; stylish to the extreme. They convey a unique and attractive fashion sense, making a timeless haut-couture Southwestern statement which is both traditional and modern. Of course, the set can be beautifully worn on the collar points, but they could also be worn singly or doubly just as pins elsewhere also. And even if you never choose to wear them but simply to display them on a shelf or table as the fine and unique decorative objects they are, they work every bit as well and are every bit as beautiful.


Three Native American ladies wearing Navajo silver collar bar decorations made of silver coins and buttons.

Left photo source and © Alamy. Center photo source and © "The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths" by John Adair, University of Oklahoma Press, 1944.

At right, Teal McKibben in front of her La Bodega Gallery, c. 1996. Right photo source and © Fine Arts of the Southwest, Inc.

“Platero comes from a family of silversmiths, his grandfather and his uncles were known for their heavy silver jewellery with deep and precise stampwork, and Platero continues this tradition.”

-The British Museum

The set is properly signed “MP” in Platero’s characteristic capital letters initials on the back of one of the bars plus his customary three-dots insignia. The third dot appears to have been partially covered up by solder by attaching one of the mounting pins he put on the back of the bar after applying his signature as seen below. According to their previous owner who is one of our most experienced and knowledgable longtime professional colleagues, these bars were purchased out of pawn in a Gallup, New Mexico trading post sometime in the 1990’s. At this time, McKee Platero’s work was exclusively represented by the renowned Santa Fe dealer and collector, Teal McKibben (1928-2006) in her famous “La Bodega” Gallery on Canyon Road. A selection of other very similar silver collar bars and other ornaments by McKee Platero can be seen below in these circa 1998-99 photographs of La Bodega Gallery’s McKee Platero jewelry display cases.

These modern-day decorative ornamental pieces are grounded in century-old Navajo tradition and custom. Beginning

in the latter decades of the 19th century, Navajo silversmiths would attach copper loops to the back of silver coins or buttons made from these silver coins; quarters, dimes, Mexican pesos etc. and Navajo women would sew them in rows around the borders of their blouses as seen below in these historic photos and a modern-day photo of Teal McKibben wearing an old-style Navajo velveteen blouse decorated in this manner.

"My inspiration comes from seeing Navajo people

beautifully dressed in silver, turquoise and red coral."

-McKee Platero quotation source and © "Southwestern Indian Jewelry" by Dexter Cirillo, Abbeville Press, New York, 1992, pp. 131

The remarkable McKee Platero jewelry case at Teal McKibben's La Bodega Gallery in Santa Fe, c. 1998-1999. At the lower right of the close-up photo at right can be seen several similar somewhat less elaborate Navajo silver collar bars.

Photo source and © Fine Arts of the Southwest, Inc.