SONWAI Verma Nequatewa

(b. 1946)

"My life and my jewelry have been greatly influenced by two things. The first is by my good fortune to have grown up and to continue to live on the Hopi Reservation. This enables me to witness the grandeur of the landscape on a daily basis and to be involved constantly in the ceremonial activities that are constantly taking place here. The second major influence is that of my uncle, Charles Loloma."

This superb jeweler learned her craft as an apprentice to her uncle, the most famous Native American jewelry artist of his time. Verma joined Loloma's studio in 1969 and began to learn under his direction, becoming his stone-setter. She worked with him until the studio closed in 1988.

Since her uncle's passing in 1991, Nequatewa has brought her own special look and feminine qualities to her jewelry line. A world class jeweler who works primarily in 18 karat gold, Verma uses only the finest quality stones, including but not limited to coral, turquoise, lapis lazuli, opal, charolite, ironwood and sugilite, as well as diamonds, colored pearls and fossilized ivory. Using a variety of inlay and metal-working techniques, Nequatewa creates her elegant contemporary jewelry for private collectors and museum institutions around the world.

The most important thing that I learned was about the stones themselves, how to work the stone and study the stone. Actually, I don't create the jewelry. Its like the beauty of the stones directs me how to use them.

Now in her uncle Charles Loloma's historic studio in the village of Hotevilla on Third Mesa, she signs her jewelry "Sonwai" meaning beautiful.