Navajo artist Ernest R. Begay Sr. was born and raised in Kayenta - Chilchinbeto, AZ. In 1975-76, Ernest took a silversmithing class at Monument Valley High School. “We used copper in the class, but that’s where I got my start. I took the class because it looked like something fun and easy to do. I used to watch my brother-in-law, and his father make jewelry, they used to give me scrap silver to work with,” recalls Ernest.
Ernest’s career in jewelry making didn’t really take off until he entered some rather distinguished pieces into the Navajo Nation Fair and the Gallup Intertribal Indian Ceremonial. Here, he received many awards and ribbons, which helped him begin his career as jewelry artist.
Over the years, Ernest has slowly built a reputation for coral and turquoise cluster work on heavy gauge silver with deep custom-designed stamp work. Ernest gets much inspiration from traditional and old jewelry styles. “Concho belts, squash blossoms, bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, and belt buckles, I do them all in my own signature old style series. This old style jewelry always caught my eye. I used to go to the Trading Posts just to look at some of the old pawn on display. The ones that caught my attention were always the pieces that used the thick silver, and the stamp work on them,” says Ernest. Ernest now lives in New Mexico with his wife, Readda, and twins Ernest Jr. and Faith Begay.