Wil Vandever - Native American - Navajo Jewelry 1951 - 2018


Wilbert Vandever April 11, 1951 - October 29, 2018  Obituary at Find-a-Grave 

As I had relayed, in real time, previously, Wil had been battling colon cancer for the last 5 years or so of his life.  He fought valiantly and endured many rounds of chemotherapy.  His being diabetic only complicated issues further.

Through it all he tried to keep working. In addition to the usual discomforts and indignities that chemo brings, it made his hands numb making it very difficult to perform the intricate work, particularly the trademark coiled wire that encircles the bezels on his cabochons.

In late 2015 and early 2016 he was off chemo and starting to put out a small amount of work, some of which found its way to this page.  He thought he was over the hump. He was starting to get his feeling back, was feeling pretty good, and his life started to regain some normalcy.

Sadly, in late summer 2017, the cancer returned as a Stage 4 diagnosis and he resumed treatment. In mid September he was told it had metastasized to both his lungs and stomach.  He discontinued treatment. In the face of such discouraging news, he continued to display an admirable spirit and determination to keep going and enjoy his family for whatever time may remain. 

We were in touch frequently. Friends and family were getting him out a bit and he found solace in his faith.  Despite being extremely ill he managed to slowly complete some work in the last few months.  His son helped by doing some of the buffing. 

I last spoke with Wil on New Years Day 2018.  He was was feeling pretty badly and was more discouraged than I had ever heard. The fact he has managed lasted until October was a true testament to his courage and his desire to remain with the family he loved so much.

I consider it a privilege to have known him.

I'm fortunate to have a selection of pendants and beautiful cuff bracelets he sent me in December 2018. Honestly, I still haven't had the heart to post them.  I don't know when that will happen but eventually I'll get around to it.


Navajo Jeweler.  When first I saw Wil's work, I knew I had to find more.  I spent quite a while trying to track him down. It bordered on stalking.  Finally a mutual friend hooked us up.  We became very good friends.

He is the fourth oldest of seventeen, yes 17, children.  Life was not easy in a family of that size; the older children helped with the younger ones and ultimately, some had to be farmed out to relatives.

Wil learned silver-work from his wife, Cora.  His tribute to her is the "C" in his signature, which he adopted as his middle name. He developed his own very identifiable style. Several of his siblings took up jewelry as well.  In addition to excellent silver work, he in known for using high grade stones.

Back is the 70's he had his own shop for sometime and did do shows where, not surprisingly, he won many awards. Most of the balance of his career has been spent working for a wholesaler who distributed his output. His work was spectacularly popular in Japan and much of his work has ended up there.

I have acquired some work of Wil's brother, Walter.  I will be posting it on Wil's page. Walter's work is quite similar, he uses Wil's signature coil.  He does not use the the 3 silver dots, at least not in any of the work I have.  I'm reasonably sure all the pieces I have were fabricated in 2015. They are new stock, not pre-owned.  As of this writing (September 2023), I'm uncertain of Walter's status.