Kirsten's Corner

Vintage 14K Gold American Indian Portrait Buffalo Nickel Ring


The “Indian Head Nickel,” more commonly known as the “Buffalo Nickel,” was designed in 1912 by artist James Earl Fraser, as part of a campaign to make American coinage more beautiful. The nickel featured the portrait of an American Indian on the front and a bison on the back. Though American Indians had technically been portrayed on U.S. coins before, their depictions were inaccurate, appearing to look more like Greek or Roman men wearing headdresses. Fraser wanted to depict Native Americans with more accuracy, and asked three Indian chiefs to sit as models for his portrait. The picture on the coin is a stylized composite of the three chiefs: Two Moons, Chief of the Cheyenne; Iron Tail, Chief of Oglala Lakota or Oglala Sioux; and John Big Tree, Chief of the Seneca Nation (though the identity of the third chief is often debated). The nickels were introduced into circulation on March 4, 1913.

The coin was commonly referred to as a “Buffalo Nickel” because of the presence of the bison on the backside (the misconception at the time that bison were Asian Water Buffalo). The bison on the back of the coin was modeled after Black Diamond, a bison at the Central Park Zoo.

This vintage 14k gold ring is made in the likeness of the historic nickel. The portrait is a cutout appliqué of gold, placed on top of a background of white gold—a reference to the silver color of the original coin. The ring has a wide band with a bison along one side and an eagle on the other, both symbols of the United States. With a heavier weight of 23.25 grams, the ring has a substantial presence on the hand. The circular face of the ring has a diameter of 13/16” across. The ring is marked as 14k gold.

Ring size 9.5. This piece could be sized up or down.

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