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Sante Fe Museum Considers Jeweler Living Treasure

Within the United States, the Southwestern state of New Mexico is well known for its jewelry. Back in the 1700s and 1800s, the Navajo and Pueblo tribes were already known for their work with silver. Producer Zulima tells the story of an artist who is a jewel among jewelers. Jeffrey Young narrates it.

Mike Bird Romero calls himself a true silver man, more than a jeweler. He belongs to the Tewa tribe from San Juan Pueblo in New Mexico. The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe recently gave him its "Living Treasures Award".

"This piece, I was inspired by that movie by Mel Gibson, 'Apocalypto'," he says showing off some current work. "This piece is going to be sitting like this. And this is another piece I am completing out, is a little butterfly."

Bird Romero first made jewelry as a child. Now at 60, with more than 30 years of experience as an independent jeweler, he recalls his humble beginnings as a boy selling artwork with other American Indians at the Palace of the Governor's entrance in Santa Fe.

"My grandmother and I used to ride the bus from San Juan, catch the bus at the general store and come to Santa Fe to sell. She made sure we got there right before anybody got there, so we were there first. We'd sell all day and I got to put on my brand new shoes, whether big or small."

Over the years, Bird Romero has done well. He has numerous awards. His work is shown at national and international museums and collected by admirers. Alison is his business partner and wife of 29 years."We know a woman who has about 30 of his bracelets, collected over the years. That is more bracelets than I have," she says.

Alison Romero has published two books on New Mexico's history and jewelry, and collects American Indian photographs, paintings and pottery. Their 15-year-old daughter Camilla is learning from her father and now sells her own work. "I like designing a lot," she says.

Back at his shop, Mike Bird Romero showed some of the best pieces from his stone collection. "These are old pieces you won't see around. This is stormy mountain -- they are not around anymore, they are depleted out."

He carefully selects stones and designs that swing between traditional and contemporary. He adds old stamps and meaningful images to his new pieces. Collectors see him as an influential force among jewelers. He says he would like to be known as a good silver man.