Frank Patania Sr.

Frank Patania Sr. (1899-1964) was born in Sicily and immigrated to the United States at an early age. He began working as a jeweler at age 6, first apprenticing in Italy, and later with a goldsmith in New York. He moved out to the West after contracting tuberculosis and settled in Santa Fe.

Frank had always worked in gold, but was profoundly inspired by Native American jewelry. In 1927, he opened the Thunderbird Shop in Santa Fe, and employed local Native American silversmiths. "After my first sight of the West, I never wanted to return east again. And when I saw what the Indians were doing with silver and turquoise I knew I had found the medium in which I wanted to design." These materials were new to him, but he quickly became one of the most innovative and skilled jewelers of his time. His style grew more refined and his fame grew, attracting important patrons such as Georgia O'Keeffe and Mable Dodge Lujan. Several of his assistants became renowned silversmiths in their own right, most notably his son Frank Jr. and Santo Domingo jeweler Julian Lovato.