Leo Feeney (????-) Even though he is identified as ‘Anglo’ rather than Native American by the sellers of his southwestern creations, Leo Feeney’s stunning jewelry has captivated buyers and collectors of his pieces for several generations. In fact, there is general consensus that Feeney is a master of his craft and he says that, “he will always evolve, improve and fine-tune his skills.”
As a result of his father’s Navy career. Leo traveled the country as a child and spent most of his early years in Key West, Florida before graduating from high school in Pennsylvania. Leo discovered his life’s work when he apprenticed to a silversmith teacher from a Keystone State community college. As the teacher’s apprentice Feeney learned to master techniques that have served him well in his life-long career as a fine jeweler.
When Leo traveled to the Southwest, he passed through shops around the Grand Canyon and in Flagstaff, Arizona. In 1971, while visiting Havasupai in the Grand Canyon, Leo met his wife, Emily, and relocated to Flagstaff to make his home among the Apache, and Navajo Reservations.
The move inspired him to study different jewelry styles including Native American designs. It wasn’t long before he opened a store in a building owned by his father-in-law and began selling his unique Southwestern style jewelry.
He had an instant passion for Native American craftwork, especially Zuni Pueblo jewelry and mixed precious and semi-precious stones to create distinctive pieces. His signature cluster-style settings feature intricate stone patterns highly regarded in the jewelry community. In his work, Leo uses traditional turquoise as well as gaspeite, spiny oyster and red coral, but also features gemstones such as peridot, garnet, amethyst, citrine, topaz, and others.
He is frequently quoted as saying, “I begin at the center and work out,” when he describes his creative process for new pieces.
“There is such variation in individual stones that when you get them laid out, certain stones are just drawn together. Once you get the right blend of stones to work with, once you determine the size of the design, you can begin the silver work,” he says.
Leo is known for mixing stones and raises their desirability by including faceted gems with them. One guarantee of a Feeney piece is that it contains the best turquoise, coral, and the best faceted colored gems. Always using the best quality natural stones and consistently combining these stones with extraordinary lapidary techniques insures that the creations are perfectly cut and polished to enhance their appearance.
Feeney generally builds several of one design at a time, altering the stone combinations to make the most efficient cuts from his sheets of sterling silver. Every piece is touched with fine detail. Feeney works seven days a week with some breaks devoted to his passion for automobiles.
“If I’m home and it’s daylight, I’m in the shop,” he says which explains the artistry represented in every Leo Feeney piece.
Leo’s work can be identified by the intricate cluster designs of the sterling silver along with turquoise, gaspeite, red coral, spiny oyster and occasionally faceted stones. One of his most compelling pieces is his Heart of the Pueblo Necklace Pendant Sterling Silver Squash Blossom.
The pendant is set with a handsome Natural Red/Orange Spiny Oyster Cabochon with a glittering multitude of real gemstones including blue and green topaz and set in Sterling Silver. Soft filigree silver and tiny baubles accent the stone’s design.
The pendant measures 2 3/4 inches tall and 2 inches wide and weighs 36 grams. It is signed, ‘ANGLO (LEO FEENEY.’)
Leo Feeney’s jewelry is an easily recognized style and can be found in higher end stores throughout the Southwest.Sell Leo Feeney All Artists