Jesse Monongya is a Navajo/Hopi Indian jeweler whose name means green lizard. His exquisite pieces are highly regarded as the finest inlay work accomplished today.
Raised in New Mexico in the famous Navajo rug center of Two Gray Hills, Jesse learned early the perfection of the Native American jewelry craft from watching the weavers and their pursuit of balance and technical perfection. The beautiful songs the women would sing as they wove and the soothing sound of the loom would stay with him as he began his work at the jeweler’s bench years later. The stars the elders talked about as they looked up into the beautiful black sky of the Southwest would eventually be used in stunning array in the classic bracelets and pendants he is so well known for throughout the world.
There were many influences on Jesse’s work: Preston, his father, who he did not know until he was a grown man; his Hopi and Navajo background; (his grandfather being the much respected Hopi Elder David Monongya); his Navajo grandfather who taught him the respect for his environment and the old Navajo ways of discipline and the Beauty Way.
For Jesse, the Bear has always symbolized the Strength and Power of his “Dine’ ” culture. He tells the story of when he was a very young boy with his grandfather and they came across a bear out in the mountains. His grandfather spoke to the bear in Navajo, acknowledging his strength and power, asking for blessing and to pass safely. The bear retreated from his standing position and walked away into the woods. It was a very strong experience for Jesse.
Jesse’s Native American jewelry work ranges from the use of silver and simply cut turquoise and coral to highly intricate designs of the galaxies and heavens in lapis, jade, malachite, and diamonds set in gold. While his work has evolved over the years, the superb color combination and balance of design are consistently present. He has won many awards at the major American Indian art shows throughout the Southwest. Through Jesse’s skilled hands we can also share in these cultural and spiritual experiences.
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