Lee Yazzie (b. 1946) Biography

Lee Yazzie is one of the exceptional Native jewelers who has mastered both the art of stone inlay and the art of silversmithing. 

Lee Yazzie grew up in Vanderwagen, NM, in a family of traditional Navajo silversmiths.  He intended to study accounting but a medical problem forced him to leave college.  While convalescing he took up silversmithing to help his mother support the family. 

Yazzie worked for Joe Tanner’s trading post for several years cutting stones for jewelry, and there took on his younger brother Raymond as an apprentice.  Lee worked at his craft for twenty years, he said, before “I started recognizing the talent I was blessed with.”  Now he focuses on quality, making about 10 pieces per year based on traditional motifs refined and embellished with his own style and his skill with stone settings. 

Yazzie’s jewelry has been featured in many books and magazines and has garnered many top awards at shows and competitions.  His most recent exhibition, “Glittering World: Jewelry of the Yazzie Family,” focusing on the work of Lee and Raymond, was shown at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian George Heye Center in New York City in 2015-2016.