Steve's Insider Info

This is where we at Turkey Mountain Traders can take the time to give our clients and friends a glimpse into how we look at the art we sell.

Whenever possible, we'll look at one topic in depth, and readers will learn about what technical aspects are important, how we separate the good from the great, and what makes something important culturally, historically and artistically.

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This month...All the Myriad Begays

In the Navajo world, Begay is the equivalent of Smith or Jones. There are many Begays out there, and some of them were (or are) extremely fine silversmiths. We often are asked what the relationship is between one Begay and another, so in the name of clarity, we will try to sort it out for you. And the best place to start is at the top, with Kenneth, one of the finest silversmiths who ever swung a hammer.

KENNETH BEGAY (d. 1977)—the great one, loved by generations of collectors and revered by all other silversmiths. His work, much of which was done at the White Hogan in Scottsdale between 1948 and 1964, is wonderfully clean and elegant. Many of his designs are still being used by silversmiths today. Hallmark is a conjoined KB inside a cartouche.

JOHNNY MIKE BEGAY (d. 1980s)—Kenneth’s brother. Much of his work is similar to Kenneth’s, and in fact they made some of the same forms. While not known as an innovator and teacher like his brother, his work is extremely fine and highly collectible. Hallmark is a conjoined JMB.

HARVEY BEGAY (d. 2010)—Kenneth’s son. One of the great contemporary silversmiths, and well-known for his work in gold and diamonds. Hallmark is an HB inside a cartouche.

KAY BEGAY ROGERS—Kenneth’s daughter. A well-known silversmith in her own right, specializing in scultural forms similar to those of her father. Hallmark is a single K.

SYLVIA BEGAY RADCLIFFE—Kenneth’s daughter. Like her sister, a very fine silversmith. Hallmark is a script Sylvia.

DEBBIE SILVERSMITH—Kenneth’s granddaughter. Also a very proficient silversmith. Uses Kenneth’s tools in her own work. Hallmark is DEBBIE arching above a hogan.

VICTOR MOSES BEGAY—No relation to Kenneth or his family, active since the 1950s. He specialized in Zuni-style needlepoint work. Hallmark is VMB in capital letters.

DARYL DEAN BEGAY AND REBECCA BEGAY—No relation to Kenneth or his family. Husband and wife, both specializing in extremely fine cast pieces. Hallmarks are RTB (Rebecca) and DDB with an arrowhead (Daryl Dean).

MARCO BEGAYE—No relation to Kenneth or his family, and no idea where the extra “e” came from. A student of Lee Yazzie, and very highly collectible. Hallmark is MB in capital letters.

There are literally dozens of fine silversmiths named Begay; these are only those who have a direct relation to Kenneth Begay, and others who are extremely well-known. We would be happy to discuss the subject at greater length any time, so please feel free to call at (480) 423-8777 or email at info@turkey-mountain.com with questions or comments.