In 1973, Jeanette Dale was working at Fairchild Electronicsplant in Shiprock, New Mexico, cutting out computer chips with a diamond saw. She was the fastest cutter at the plant with the best quality record, producing nearly four times the number of chips as her fellow workers.
When the plant shut down that year, she lost her minimum wage job and didn't know what to do. Her mother, Juanita Begay, had been a well-known silversmith for years and offered to teach Jeanette the craft. Jeanette found that the precision she had shown cutting the computer chips helped make her work stand out.
"It just came naturally to me," says Dale, "Soldering was just like I was born to it. I showed my first ring to a dealer and he hired me to make jewelry for him. I like to work in either gold or silver, but mostly silver."
She also fell in love with beautiful stones. "I like to work around the shape of the stone," she says, "to bring out its natural beauty. With unique one-of-a-kind stones, you can make unique, one-of-a-kind jewelry." Dale prefers the traditional Navajo style with heavy, deep stamping and high polishes. She also follows her first employer's advice on one other matter even though she has worked for herself for years.
"He used to tell me to leave some mark, a saw mark or something, to show that the jewelry was handmade. So, I always leave something."