Roland Begay's jewelry incorporates designs that are made with hand cut sterling silver and copper in a complex overlay design. The hand tooling gives the effect of a woven basket. Stamped Sterling and R.H. Begay.
The Navajo Wedding Basket is essential to traditional Navajo life. There are several interpretations of the Navajo Wedding Basket (also referred to as the Navajo Ceremonial Basket) one of which is:
The step designs are clouds or mountains. The red ring (in this case copper) can be described as a rainbow. The center represents the beginning of life. It is the main feature of any wedding basket design and is the pathway adopted from the Navajo creation story.
Roland Holland Begay was born southwest of Gallup in the "Checkerboard" area of the Navajo Indian reservation. It has that name because the land is interspersed with private ranches.
Roland went to boarding school in Gallup and spent summers working on a ranch. He learned about horses and raised and trained barrel horses. He competed in rodeos for several years. Roland's wife, Geneva, is a championship barrel racer.
His father, who Roland says could do anything with his hands, taught him leather working and how to make saddles. A good saddle goes for a lot of money and Roland's were in demand. At the same time he took up silversmithing. In 1974 he began working in the unique style that has made him well known to Indian jewelry collectors.
Roland creates scenes from Navajo life using an overlay technique in which he cuts out silver hogans, people, horses, corrals and other items you would expect in a traditional Navajo setting. He then solders them to a background of silver or gold. He also creates miniature Navajo baskets of silver and copper.
His work has won awards at the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial and at the Heard Museum's annual show in Phoenix.