Harvey’s Jewelry: A Continuing Legacy
Art has always been a legacy in my family. With my grandparents and relatives (both maternal and paternal), art was a natural-born skill. I’ve come to find silversmithing as the most significant of the arts performed in my family. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, my mother, Violet H. Nez, is a silversmith and how she learned the trade is a story I hope to keep alive within my family for generations to come.
From as far back as I can remember my mother has always been in her shop. She would work endless hours and days to produce fine silver pieces. She is amazing at what she produces, and she was taught by her late father, Leo G. Harvey.
My grandfather’s gift for making fine jewelry could not be imitated. Today, his jewelry pieces are found in various trading posts and jewelry stores across the country. His ability led him to establish a family-owned business in 1972, during the historical Native American jewelry boom of the 1970s.
My grandfather named the family business “Harvey’s Genuine American Indian Jewelry.” The oldest son of the family, Larry Joseph Harvey, was the head manufacturer and shop manager alongside my grandfather, who traveled all over the country to deliver the products. My late grandmother, Louise Harvey, was the accountant and secretary. My aunt, Beulah Harvey, my uncles, Anslem and Aaron Harvey, and my mother were the crafters of the business. Other workers from throughout the Navajo Nation and the Lukachukai community were also hired to help out.
Harvey’s signature jewelry pieces had a mosaic inlay style consisting of a cardinal, blue jay, or humming bird. These designs were combined with the “cluster work” of Zuni-Pueblo. Behind each work was the signature stamp, “LH Sterling.”
The business had a good 28-year mark and buyers ranged from California all the way to New York. When my uncle Larry passed, the family business slowly ended, leaving my grandfather and mother to produce jewelry individually. Today, Harvey jewelry can still be found in various shops and there is a collection displayed at Bumblebee’s in Bryce Canyon.
My mother began silver work when she was 12 years-old. She said some late nights she could not sleep because she could hear my grandfather working. One night, the pounding of a hammer against silver, made her get out of bed and go to my grandfather’s shop where she watched him work all the way into the morning.
“I was not taught by my father, I learned through observance,” my mother would say. “Your grandfather told me, ‘If you want to learn, you have to observe, I cannot teach you step-by-step. Use your God-given tools—your mind, eyes, hands, ears, heart and K’e.’”
My mother mastered the cluster design type of work, stamping behind each item “VN Sterling.” She did not anticipate that her work would become well-known. Learning to silversmith was not just a way to make income; it was also a way to honor and respect my grandfather, who passed in March 2010.
The last three years of my grandfather’s life, he stopped making jewelry. My brother, Sheldon Harvey, who is a painter and sculptor, grew up with my grandfather and observed the business. He remembers a time when he found my grandfather sitting in his shop: “He would sit there at his table, and just stare at all his tools and I knew he missed silversmithing, he never wanted to stop working.”
As my mother continued to produce jewelry, her work began to shine. Her work can be found in shops throughout Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada. She has her personal contacts when she conducts business, and has remained close friends with them since. As I travel with her, she always tells me little skits about the family business or how she learned the trade.
I hold this family history dear. To tell this story is to honor my grandfather, my mother, and my family. A small record of this will enable the next generation to know what our family achieved and inspire them to keep the legacy of Native American art thriving.
Shaina Nez if from Lukachukai in the Navajo Nation and a graduate of Diné College.
Harvey, A. (2014, February 16). Personal communication.
Harvey, S. (2015, July 28). Personal communication.
Nez, V.H. (2014, February 16). Personal communication.