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by Halley Sanford February 06, 2021 2 min read 3 Comments

With Oscar Betz making his much-celebrated return to the Southwestern jewelry scene, we’ve developed a crash course on identifying old school Oscar from his contemporary creations.

Oscar’s story is a complex one, and one we’ll be telling more in depth over the coming months, but as he resumes production of his signature style chandelier earring, we’re skimming the surface of the evolution of his hallmarks to help you determine at a glance whether the Oscars you’re eyeing (or own) are retro or recent.

Oscar’s initial ascent to international fame occurred in the 1970s and ‘80s, as his lightweight Southwestern chandelier earring took the world by storm, catching the eye of A-list celebrities and world-renowned designers alike. At that time, he (and the workshop producing work under him) etched the earrings “Oscar Betz, Potosí, Sterling” in script. Though he was living in the turquoise-rich region of Jerome, Arizona, San Luis Potosí is a state in north-central Mexico where Oscar’s mother was from. He retired this hallmark in 1989, so any pieces bearing the word “Potosí” are at least 30 years old.

And then he took a bit of a hiatus. He created sporadically and did some collaborations, including with us, which are stamped with “Sterling, Oscar Betz” and our signature circle D. This was a very limited production and these pieces are extremely rare and highly coveted. It wasn’t until decades later that Oscar re-emerged, debuting a new stamp that is a nod to the place he now calls home.

“The Santa Fe stamp was incorporated in 2016,” Oscar said. “In between [those hallmarks], there wasn’t much made by me, but others were copying like mad!”

Well, despite everyone’s best efforts, Oscar was often imitated but never duplicated. And the demand for his signature style never declined. Fortunately for all of us Southwestern jewelry lovers, the master craftsman is back in his workshop and the real deal Oscar earring has returned to its rise in popularity, now sporting a stamp of “Oscar Betz, Santa Fe, N.M.”

Like we said, we’re just barely scratching the surface of the vast career of Oscar Betz and we intend to educate y’all more thoroughly on both the artist and the earrings, but now you’re armed with a little nugget of knowledge to keep in your back pocket as you start to see his signature chandeliers making a comeback.


3 Responses

Robert Clarkson (Senor Bob)
Robert Clarkson (Senor Bob)

February 09, 2021

So interesting….I believe I know of an Anglo southwest artist like Oscar…. Haven’t seen much from him in awhile…Don Lucas…I remember him from the small colored stones he used in his earrings, just like Oscar…I am once-upon-a-time from Albuquerque and am a long time collector of this stuff….and it is part of my bones….and I have a lot of this stuff—all tribes…well maybe more than a lot….

Right now I have a particular problem, I have a red coral Concho belt made by Anglo “Kenny Bracken” (Taos) and am having trouble finding out what is its value ??…I’ve had it maybe 10 years…back when, I think it retailed for maybe $15,000.00 and since Kenny is a Gringo, he is not in the Southwest Jewelry books…gone to heaven and can’t find out about his story…? Any help or ideas would be very appreciated….Help, help…! Thanks…A long time customer…

Paula M Hausvick
Paula M Hausvick

February 09, 2021

So excited to hear about Oscar.Many times he tried to make a comeback but failed and he disappeared each time. I believe I have 20 pairs in my personal collection plus I sold dozens of pairs in my gallery at the same time I carried DD clothing. I also remember being at a party during Indian Market one year and he was playing the piano. Am hoping he creates wonderful pieces. I also have a beautiful turquoise/pink coral pin he made. Good luck and am looking forward to seeing pieces on your website.

Linda S Chorney
Linda S Chorney

February 09, 2021

This was a lovely article! Thank you!
I’m going to forward this to Bille Hougart so that he can update Oscar’s mark in an upcoming book.

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