November 16, 2020
During our nearly fifty-year history, Native American jewelry has been the number one product line that we have had to offer. We have built a reputation for having the largest selection in the entire state of Nebraska. Over the years that we have carried Native American jewelry, we have developed close relationships with many of the country’s most well-known artists, including Tommy Singer, Calvin Begay, and Les Baker. However, for the last fifteen-plus years, one artist has stood above the rest. David Rosales is our most popular jewelry artist and we cannot get enough of his amazing work. You can see our collection of David Rosales Jewelry here. This is constantly updating so be sure to check back from time to time!
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to David and his daughter, Sheree. I was able to ask them some questions to provide you with a more complete profile of what they do, their history, and their beautiful jewelry. In this article, you will learn all about David Rosales and what makes his Native American jewelry so special. All of the information provided here comes from a combination of the information that they provided me with, our own experience working with them, and a few other written sources. I will do my best to combine their insights with our personal thoughts and stories from working with them. David, his family, and their workers have all become good friends and we want to do our part to help teach others about what they do. I hope after reading this today you will come away with a better understanding and appreciation for their beautiful jewelry.
This ring features the Shalako Collection. It has turquoise, sugilite, and cultured opal. There is also a large amethyst stone set in the center.
The History of David Rosales Designs
When I spoke to Sheree I asked her how David got started designing Native American jewelry. She explained that in 1982 he had recently left trade school and had gotten a job at a mechanic garage. He always enjoyed working on vehicles and thought that was where his future would lead. At some point, his skills caught the eye of the shop’s bookkeeper who just so happened to own a jewelry manufacturing business. She asked if he would take over as the manager and David accepted. Suddenly, David Rosales was overseeing around 50 silversmiths in an entirely different industry. The experience he gained here was vital to eventually managing his own group of jewelry artists. It’s funny how your path in life can be so unexpected, isn’t it?
While managing these silversmiths David Rosales began to notice trends throughout the industry. It was here that he began thinking like a designer. David Rosales eventually ventured into the world of Native American jewelry by working for a very prestigious Navajo artist who had become an icon in the industry. This artist's inlay work was always very clean and he had his own unmistakable style, just like David Rosales does today. I imagine this artist played an enormous role in helping David Rosales become the jewelry designer that he is today.
It is at this point in the story when we begin to notice David Rosales’ work. My parents first met David when he was working with this very well-known Native American jewelry artist. They had been purchasing Native American jewelry from him for several years and had the pleasure of meeting David a few times. Whenever they called to place an order it was always David who they spoke with. Unfortunately, this artist left the industry to follow other pursuits, most notably a career in Hollywood. My parents were sad to see this because the artist was such a pioneer in the Native American jewelry community and his absence left a hole in our store that would be tough to fill.
Sometime after this, my parents began to hear talk of a new outfit, called Supersmith, that was creating some top-level inlay work. Supersmith was quickly making a name for itself and several people suggested we look into them. My parents were pleasantly surprised when they called and David Rosales answered.
It was in 1997 after the other artist had left the business, that David decided to venture out on his own. He, along with his cousin John Delgado, assembled a talented group of American Indian jewelry artists in Gallup, NM. They named their business Supersmith and began creating the amazing jewelry that we see today.
During the early days of creating the business, David’s daughter Sheree would often go to work with her father. She was twelve years old when they started Supersmith. She told me that a number of the workers can still remember her rollerblading around the facility delivering different supplies. This is a testament to how long some of these Native American jewelry artists have been working with David Rosales. Sheree spent a lot of her childhood there but eventually left to pursue nursing at New Mexico State University. After a decade in the nursing industry, Sheree and her family decided to move back to Gallup to be closer to her family. A little over three years ago she joined her father in the Native American jewelry business.
Since the early days, David Rosales and his team have continuously evolved their styling to keep Supersmith fresh and modern. It is a triumph that they have remained one of the most innovative and distinctive creators of Native American jewelry for all these years. Sheree has brought a lot of new elements to Supersmith that should help them continue to grow in the future. I think David Rosales would be the first to say that much of Supersmith’s success can be attributed to a great group of people all making important contributions.
What Makes David Rosales Jewelry Special?
As I previously mentioned, David Rosales is the most popular artist that we showcase at Stagecoach. What is the reason for this? What separates his Native American jewelry from others in the industry? I believe it comes down to several factors that they excel with. First, let’s talk about what David Rosales' jewelry is.
David Rosales specializes in inlaid Native American jewelry. Inlaid means that the stones are cut and set within a pre-made channel. They set down inside this channel and are normally flush with the metal that they are housed in. Typically, several different stones are fit tightly together, similar to a jigsaw puzzle. Native American jewelry is not the only place where you find inlay work, but it is perhaps the most prominent.
This stunning Red Moon ring has opal and turquoise inlaid along with black jade. There is a brilliant CZ set on top that makes this ring shine.
Inlay work takes a special skill set and a lot of practice to hone. While it is not entirely uncommon in Native American jewelry, the precision that you find in David Rosales’ inlaid jewelry certainly is. I believe the skill and care that David and his team put into their work is one thing that sets them apart. Looking at their jewelry it can be hard to believe that it is made up of many tiny stones that are cut by hand. At Stagecoach, we have had people tell us that these stones must be cut with a computer program running some sort of laser. Actually, these are all cut by hand with the artist grinding each stone down until it is a perfect size. As you can imagine, there is a lot of work and time involved in this process. Run your fingers over this work and you will feel (albeit barely) the stones fit together flawlessly. The jewelry by David Rosales is always so clean and refined. Other Native American jewelry artists make similarly high-quality pieces that might cost several times as much. Some of the reason for this comes down to their highly efficient crafting process that they do better than anyone.
Another defining aspect of David Rosales is his contemporary designs. In Native American jewelry, you tend to see a lot of old-fashioned styles. This can include large, bulky designs with a vintage patina. There is nothing wrong with this and a lot of people love these vintage looks. David Rosales, on the other hand, has reached a whole new demographic with his modern designs. He has many pieces that appeal to a younger crowd that may not be specifically interested in Native American jewelry. David Rosales is continuously creating new designs and colors to stay relevant. I believe he is one of the very best artists, inside and outside of Native American jewelry, at creating stunning new designs that appeal to a wide array of people.
There is another neat component to David Rosales Designs that I think is worth mentioning. They take great care in crafting their Native American jewelry so that it can last for many years. For example, it is not uncommon to see artists use thin ring shanks to cut costs. You will not see this sort of corner-cutting from David Rosales. The shanks on their rings are heavy and robust so that they will not bend easily. This also means that your David Rosales ring will not wear through with normal use. I have rings from them that I have been wearing for years and, with proper care, they still look like new. The great thing is that in the unlikely event that you do have a problem with any of their pieces, they will often fix it at no cost to you. You can simply send it to Supersmith and they will take care of it for you. David Rosales goes to great lengths to ensure that you can enjoy your Native American jewelry for years to come. See this post if you would like to read more about Caring for Your David Rosales Jewelry.
David Rosales Color Collections
In my opinion, the greatest characteristic that sets David Rosales’ jewelry apart from other artists is his color collections. David creates a collection and then any of his inlay jewelry can be made with that particular look. Over their twenty-plus year history, David, Sheree, and others at Supersmith have created more than fifty color collections. Some of these are pretty basic, like the Arizona Blue Collection, which is simply inlaid Kingman Turquoise. Others, like Indian Summer, are made up of five or six different stones. You can read about the Indian Summer Collection here. One of his more recent collections that I think is very pretty is called Blue Sky. It has a lovely combination of Lapis Lazuli, Denim Lapis, and cultured opal. Anyone who is a fan of blue would seriously love this collection. You can read our full article about the David Rosales Blue Sky Collection here. Of course, some of these collections are more popular than others, but David Rosales is never afraid to experiment with new stones and see what works.
This David Rosales Blue Sky Bear Pendant has beautiful colors and an astoundingly intricate inlay design. It is truly a work of art.
Some of David Rosales’ collections have grown beyond their walls with an almost viral nature. Perhaps the best example of this is Native Earth, which is one of David’s very first collections. This is made up of tiger eye, picture jasper, and black jade. This combination of browns and black is now seen throughout the Southwest in jewelry, art, and even architecture. David Rosales can proudly say that he was the first person to create this definitive Southwestern look. I have seen other Native American jewelry made with what is very clearly a copy of some of Supersmith’s collections, albeit not quite at the same skill level. You know what they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Having so many different collections means that there is one to fit almost anyone. Some have a very Southwestern look and others not so much. Furthermore, David Rosales has certain collections with a feminine appeal while others may be more befitting of a man. Many, however, are attractive to both men and women. We have had couples pick David Rosales rings with matching collections for their wedding rings. They have all turned out simply gorgeous and the couples are always very pleased to have Native American wedding rings that are so different and colorful. I am confident that there is at least one David Rosales collection that you would fall in love with.
David Rosales sticks to his different collections fairly strictly, more so than other artists in his category. This might lead you to believe that his creativity is dampened by staying primarily within these collection walls. However, David and his team have a couple of ways of making each piece creative and unique. Both of these are advanced techniques that only some of the most talented and skilled Native American jewelry artists can utilize well.
One of these advanced techniques is inlaying in cobblestone fashion. Normally once a Native American jewelry artist has inlaid all of their stones he or she will cut or grind them the tops off all at once. This makes the stones feel flush against the silver that they are sitting in. When using the cobblestone technique, in contrast, the artist allows the stones to stick up from the base metal, a look that closely resembles a cobblestone road. This technique takes even more time because the artist must individually shape each stone instead of cutting them all off at once. This is a style that you do not see as often simply because it requires more skill and precision.
Another way that David Rosales separates his work from others is the incredible degree of detail that his artists often add to their Native American jewelry. While many of their pieces are made with the more common “block” inlay style, David Rosales also uses what they call the “fancy” style. This is where they cut the stones into many tiny intricate pieces. David Rosales allows his artists to have the creative freedom to inlay these stones however they like. Sometimes they are even able to create pictures, such as landscapes or starry night skies. Even after seeing this work for many years, this fancy style still amazes me. As you can imagine, cutting and fitting all of these tiny stones together so perfectly takes an incredible amount of time. I can point to many of Supersmith’s fancy designs as some of the most marvelous jewelry I have ever seen at any price. The level of artistry that they employ is simply astonishing. There are not many artists, in or out of Native American jewelry, that can inlay stones with such marvelous detail and precision.
This David Rosales Indian Summer Pendant has stones inlaid to look like a sunset over a landscape with adobe buildings.
Along with their beautiful color collections, another notable feature of David Rosales Designs is that they allow us to go beyond their preset collections. If you have specific colors in mind we can ask them to create any of their pieces using these. For instance, we had a customer who liked the Harley Davidson black and orange color scheme. We were able to have David Rosales make a piece using orange spiny oyster shell and black jade. It turned out superbly and the customer was very happy. It does have to be stones that they routinely use and have access to but this degree of customization is a great quality that we take advantage of from time to time. I will note, however, that we always suggest allowing David Rosales to inlay the stones as they see fit. I am a big proponent of letting artists be artists and I know that this creative freedom is part of what makes their job enjoyable. I always trust that David Rosales and his team are much better at designing how stones should be placed than I am. That being said, if you have specific colors or stones that you want to be utilized then there is a good chance that we can make this work for you.
Other Forms of David Rosales Jewelry
David Rosales has a few other ways that he separates himself from the crowd. One is that he will make any of his pieces in either yellow or white gold. He once told us quite a few years ago that gold was a very significant part of the Native American jewelry that they created. I believe this has decreased somewhat, mostly because the cost is quite high. However, I have seen some of their gold jewelry and I can attest that it looks amazing. With the right stones, gold Native American jewelry is quite stunning.
The price is a big consideration when working with gold. Not long ago, I had a customer inquire about having a pendant made in gold. I contacted Supersmith and they had to figure out how much the pendant would weigh in gold, considering that gold weighs roughly 20% more than sterling silver. Then they needed to check either the price that they paid for the gold or the current price since it does fluctuate every day. At the end of the day this pendant was going to cost close to $7000 as opposed to less than $1000 in silver. This gives you an idea of how much more this Native American jewelry costs in gold. Needless to say, we haven’t done too many of David Rosales’ pieces in gold but are always willing if someone wants a beautiful showpiece.
I should also mention that David Rosales designs some other Native American jewelry that is not inlaid. I won’t talk too much about this because we typically stick to his inlaid jewelry simply because it is so popular and that is where we prefer to put our investment. It is worth mentioning though because it further shows how creative and diverse David Rosales is. They have a line of turquoise jewelry where they use cabochons instead of the inlaid stones. I would call this a more traditional look except that most of these pieces still use their bold, contemporary styling. Do notice that David Rosales does not do ordinary jewelry. He puts a unique twist on all of his work.
David Rosales also has two lines of rodeo-style jewelry that they call “Silver Country” and the “Temptress Collection.” What makes these different is that they do not have any stones. Instead, they have very intricate silver designs that are quite striking. We have carried a few of these in the past and they are very beautiful. There are even a few designs that I am interested in for myself. Unfortunately, most of this jewelry is a little too Western-looking for the area that we are located, which is why we typically stick with David’s inlay work. That said, if you are ever interested in looking at these lines, feel free to stop by and we would be happy to show them to you.
This Temptress Bracelet has a lovely swirl design with a black patina that sets it off nicely.
How Does David Rosales Find Inspiration?
It is worth repeating that David Rosales creates some of the most spectacular Native American jewelry that I have ever seen. From the magnificent color collections to their highly unique designs, the Supersmith team never fails to impress us. These days David Rosales gets some help from his daughter Sheree in designing their various jewelry. From my perspective, Sheree has done a wonderful job bringing in some daintier designs that may appeal to a younger audience. So where do David and Sheree draw inspiration from for all of their beautiful creations? For this particular question, I think it may be best to let Sheree explain in her own words. Here is what she had to say:
My dad has always had an eye for design. From very early on he has always had a hunch for what women wanted to wear and then eventually what men wanted to wear. He looks at colors in fashion, his surroundings, and the landscapes. Some designs are even influenced by his hobbies. I come up with things that I would want to wear myself. I love the contemporary Native American look that is so popular around the country today and I try to put my own spin on it and make sure it fits into the Supersmith look that has been around for over 20 years. (Sheree Rosales)
It is true what Sheree says about some of her father’s designs being influenced by his hobbies. I have a ring with a particularly neat textured area on either side of the center inlaid stones. David Rosales told me that he got the idea for that textured design from the grill on an old muscle car. Remember how David started his career in a mechanic garage? Today he still loves working on and rebuilding old cars right there in the Supersmith facility. He certainly is a jack of all trades.
What Does The Future Hold For David Rosales Designs?
I asked Sheree what she thought the future would hold for their team of Native American jewelry artists. She told me that she is very hopeful for the future. She plans to take over for her father one day and continue the wonderful work that he has started. Her goal is to expand David Rosales Designs into a wider audience with the help of her unique eye for design and the increased use of social media and advertising. Sheree emphasized that she wants to continue making this Native American jewelry so that her children will someday have the opportunity to take it over from her.
In my mind, David Rosales, his family, and his team are well suited for the future. Native American jewelry has a long history as one of the only completely original forms of jewelry from the United States. There is even a large following outside of the country, in places like Japan. As American turquoise, coral, and other stones become more scarce you may see Native American jewelry artists becoming more creative to meet these demands. David Rosales is well positioned in this regard because he is constantly pushing his designs to new levels and they appeal to such a large range of people.
I hope this has given you a new understanding of the jewelry that David Rosales creates. Even after working with them for so many years, the level of creativity and artistry that they put into every piece of jewelry is still amazing. Over this time they have become good friends and we cherish everything that they do for us. They are without a doubt our top company in terms of their level of quality, service, and how easy they are to work with. They are always accessible to us and we appreciate all that they do. We cannot wait to see what comes next from David Rosales and his team.
Let me leave you with one more quote from Sheree:
It was about a year ago when I realized this, but our jewelry is so much more than a piece of silver or gold. To our customers, it is a memory, a keepsake, a special gift from someone they loved or lost. It is cool to hear those stories from people occasionally. It makes my heart happy and that’s when I realized that we don’t just make jewelry here, we make memories.
Do you have any questions or comments about our David Rosales jewelry? Let us know in the comments below!
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