Sterling silver cuff by noted Santa Fe artist Mona Van Riper. The ¾” cuff has five 18 karat gold overlay flowers with tourmaline centers. The cuff itself has a detailed silver overlay pattern. The inside measurement is 5 ¼” with a 1” gap.
Santa Fe artist Mona Van Riper is known for her unique one of a kind jewelry. She is a favorite of collectors because of her unique designs and she chooses only the highest quality stones. Day of the Dead figures and skulls are among her favorite designs. She has been designing jewelry since 1976.
About the artist
Mona Van Riper
Mona Van Riper was raised in Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. She began silver-smithing at the Mabel Dodge Lujan House in Taos in 1976. Making and designing jewelry has been a constant part of her life ever since. Mona is most well-known for her elaborate and intricate buckles, whether with a western theme, crown, fleur-de-lis, heart or with her eponymous skulls.
Most of the country’s finest buckle makers—often artisans who learned the skills from their fathers and grandfathers—ply their craft in remote locales, often in obscurity. Mona Van Riper fits that profile. She creates one-of-a-kind turquoise, 18-karat gold, and sterling silver buckles in a 10-by-10-foot utility room in her home located on a dirt road, miles outside of Santa Fe, N.M.
Mona’s early jewelry was heavy stamped Navajo style made from hand-cast ingots and coins. Over the years her style has developed into a more sophisticated and contemporary look while maintaining her signature old-world flavor. In 1992 Mona introduced engraving into her work which has given her jewelry a broader appeal.
Currently Mona’s unique jewelry is made from sterling silver in combination with 18 karat gold overlays and engraving. She often uses rare and very high-grade custom cut turquoise in her pieces. Mixing precious and semi-precious stones also gives her jewelry a timeless look.
You will find notable differences in quality between artisan-made belt buckles and those that major luxury brands’ machines churn out by the thousands. Handmade solid silver and gold buckles, sell for about the same prices as gold- or sterling-plated designer-brand buckles. In contrast to off-off-the-rack belts, custom buckles are almost always made of solid gold or sterling silver, rather than brass or nickel with silver or gold plating. Many buckles have 17 beveled surfaces—a typical machine-made buckle may have six to eight sides—and an artist can spend more than 36 hours just casting, grinding, and polishing a single buckle. After polishing the piece, the artist often will oxidize some areas of the sterling to create color variations before adding adornments such as gold wire or band edging. “I find making and designing jewelry exciting. There is always something new to learn.”
In 1993 Mona won first place in the Silver Division in the New Mexico’s Jeweler’s
Association Jewelry Design Competition. She also received the Enchantment Award
in the same competition. In 1994 Mona took second place in the Gold and Platinum
Division of the New Mexico Jeweler’s Design Competition.