Double Sided Tobacco Canteen with Sunface Design, c. 1970
Santo Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico
Spiny oyster shells, inlays of turquoise, mother of pearl, and jet, sterling silver
16" long x 5" wide x 2.5" deep
This incredible Santo Domingo Pueblo Tobacco Canteen is made with two whole spiny oyster shells that have been inlayed with a mosaic of cascading turquoise. In the center of each shell is an inlay of sun faces with rays. On the bottom right corner is a spirit line of alternating turquoise and jet mosaics. The upper half of the canteen is hand stamped with designs. The border of the shells is hand cut scalloped sterling silver that has been hand stamped with design, and silver braid added to finish. The chain it hangs from, as well as the stopper, is hand made. This is a rare object, and should hang on the wall or have a shadowbox made for it.
According to John Adair’s classic book Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths, the origin of tobacco canteens was Mexican. Mexican tobacco containers were made of rawhide and had a round shape with a wooden stopper. Mexican plateros (metalsmiths) also made copper and silver canteens, but the shapes were different. Adair also mentions that tobacco canteens are not very common because they are difficult to make and require more technical skill than other silver objects.