Charles Loloma

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Charles Loloma

Charles Loloma was born January 7, 1921 near Hotevilla on the Third Hopi Mesa. Over the course of his life, Loloma would become the most famous Native American jeweler of all time. Like many Hopis, Loloma was born with a tremendous artistic talent. At a young age he was asked by Fred Kabotie to assist on a collection of murals for New York's Museum of Modern Art. He served in the United States military from 1942-1945 and afterwards attended Alfred University's School for American Craftsmen in New York.

In the 1950s Loloma moved to Phoenix, Arizona and began making jewelry. At that time, Native American jewelers used only traditional materials- silver, turquoise, and occasionally coral. Loloma's jewelry was so unique that he was denied entry to the Gallup Intertribal Art Show three times. He used unusual materials such as gold, wood, sugilite, lapis, fossilized ivory, and even diamonds- with turquoise often being just an accent material. He drew inspiration from a variety of cultures, such as ancient Egyptian culture, and blended it with his own Hopi culture. He pushed the boundaries of Native American art so far, that people were reluctant to call his work "Native American".

By the early 1960s, Loloma was beginning to receive recognition. After winning first prize at the Scottsdale National Indian Art Exhibition seven years in a row, he began to attain international fame. From Paris to Tokyo, people began following and collecting his work. He was even commissioned to make a piece for the queen of Denmark.

Even after becoming globally famous, Loloma remained true to his heritage and always kept a studio in Hotevilla where he was born. Charles Loloma passed away in 1991 but he permanently changed Native American jewelry. He left behind a legacy of completely new, contemporary designs and a variety of unique materials that had never been used in Native American jewelry before him.