Santa Domingo artist Ray Lovato is known for his use of natural turquoise, which is both more valuable than treated turquoise and more difficult to work with. In Silver + Stone, he notes:
“I like to challenge myself. After buying turquoise I have to think what I can do with it. The material tells you what it can be.”
Born in 1946, Ray began to learn his craft by age eleven and would help his mother, Tonita Reano, drill turquoise. His father, Ike Lovato, made and sold jewellery and travelled across the region, and taught Ray his craft. As a young man, Ray enlisted in the army and did two tours of duty in Vietnam; when he came home, he struggled in construction before returning to jewelry:
“Then I started to do what my father taught me, my own work. Then everything was okay.”
Ray sources his turquoise from a selection of mines, and has worked with Lone Mountain, Kingman, Orville Jack, Royston, and Sleeping Beauty turquoise. He prefers to work with small nuggets, and grinds each piece flat by hand before drilling, rounding, and polishing.
Ray’s awards include those from the Santa Fe Indian Market, the Gallup Ceremonials, and the Eight Northern Pueblos.