Fine jewelry is not only found in major cultural centers such as New York and Paris. It has been produced by artisans and designers around the globe, using techniques steeped in local traditions and materials that are often as indigenous as the craftspeople sitting at their jeweler’s workbenches.

The earliest examples of Native American jewelry are usually called "old pawn," a phrase taken from the days when Native Americans would hock personal pieces of jewelry to make ends meet. Lots of Native American silver and turquoise pieces are routinely sold as old pawn, but only examples from the 1800s deserve that label. Silver was the base metal for most of these pieces, and one of the first styles seized upon by Navajo artists was the squash-blossom necklace.

Navajo artisans were also the first Native Americans to work with turquoise, which was common to the Southwest before it was mined out. The best Navajo necklaces and bracelets were labeled with the name of their source mine, just like a fine wine is labeled with the vineyard that has supplied its grapes. Due to the scarcity of local stone, it wasn’t long before high-quality turquoise was being imported, while softer, poorer-quality turquoise was often treated with resin to make it hard.

Other tribes worked with different materials to develop their own signature styles. The Pueblo, especially members of the Santa Domingo tribe, were highly skilled when it came to shell necklaces and mosaics. The Zuni added turquoise to the Navajo squash blossoms, and they also pioneered the use of red coral. As for the Hopi, their specialty has long been pins and other objects with patterns and treatments that suggest a textile heritage.

Farther south, in Mexico, silversmithing had been practiced for centuries. Indeed, Mexican silversmiths were the ones who taught the Navajo their trade. An American named William Spratling saw an opportunity to build on this legacy when, in 1931, he established a retail outlet for Mexican jewelry near the silver-mining center of Taxco.

Spratling’s designs borrowed liberally from pre-Columbian motifs, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that as his shop succeeded and imitators sprang up nearby, his designs themselves appropriated. Some competitors were actively encouraged. In fact, the Taxco School, as it is known today, was formed largely from former Spratling employees such as the Castillo brothers, Héctor Aguilar, and Antonio Pineda. Naturally, these artisans and their shops became incubators for still more generations of silversmiths.

The other great region for fine jewelry is Scandinavia. Copenhagen’s Georg Jensen is probably the best-known practitioner there. Founded in 1904, his firm built upon his fondness for the organic embellishment of Art Nouveau to create stunning pieces that heralded a new tradition of silver craftsmanship. His jewelry featured flowers, bunches of grapes, birds, and other animals. Though he briefly flirted with gold and silvers of varying fineness, in 1933 sterling silver became the rule at Jensen, which gives collectors of his early work an easy way to date a vintage piece...

Jensen was not the only producer of the Scandinavian Modern style. The Hans Hansen silversmithy produced jewelry by the likes of Karl Gustav Hansen, Bent Gabrielsen, and Anni and Bent Knudsen. N.E. From specialized in organic-geometric pieces, while Jørgen Jensen (no relation to Georg) staked his reputation on pewter.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s JewelHistory blog have been treated to her weekly (sometim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Chinese Carved Jade And Coral Necklace Set In Silver Filigree, OrnateVtg Old Dead Pawn Navajo Large Turquoise Row Cluster Wide Sterling Cuff BraceletVtg Chinese Export Green & White Jade Jadeite Carved Gourd 14k Gold Earrings WscGia Certified-natural Type/grade A-apple Green Jadeite Jade Bead Necklace-8.8mmVtg Antique Chinese Silver Filigree Coral Turquoise Silver Bracelet Three StrandC. 1910s Marius Hammer Norway Sterling 930s, Guilloche Enamel Pansy Brooch As IsVintage Georg Jensen Denmark Sterling Silver Cufflinks 08 Tie Bar B52,orig. BoxVtg Old Pawn Navajo Squash Blossom Bear Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Bolo TieMargot De Taxco Vtg Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Necklace Design #5105Old Pawn Navajo Round Footed Sterling Turquoise Trinket Jewelry Box 54 GramsVtg Navajo Old Dead Pawn Spider Web Turquoise Wide Huge Sterling Cuff BraceletVintage Natural Carved Apple A Jade/jadeite Custom 14k Solid Gold EarringsHector Aguilar Coro Vtg Taxco Mexican Sterling Silver Repousse Pendant NecklaceGeorg Jensen-chopard Mechanical Movement- Luc - Watch Stainless Steel - VintageLarge Navajo 925 Sterling Silver Turquoise Pear Sunburst Cuff Bracelet Signed NrMexican Chinese Indian Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Bracelet Pendant BroochAntique Meditating Bhra Buddha Luang Poh Kaew Reliquary Two Part Bronze Medal Vintage Mexican Pineda Jensen Sterling Silver Jewelry Lot Earrings Bracelets PinEstate Navajo Zuni Hopi Turquoise And Silver Squash Blossom Necklace Petit PointVintage Ivar Holt Norwegian Sterling Silver Red Guillouche Enamel NecklaceVtg Old Pawn Navajo Kingman Turquoise Row Cluster Wide Sterling Cuff Bracelet MOld Pawn Navajo Sterling Natural Turquoise Cluster Ring Size 7Vtg Chinese Export Sterling Silver Filigree Flower Rose Quartz BraceletMargot De Taxco Vtg Mexican Sterling Silver Enamel Fish & Bee Pendants NecklaceVintage Margot De Taxco Sterling Pin # 5214Exceptional A+ Darryl Becenti Navajo Turquoise Bracelet Sterling SilverSolid 22k Gold East Indian Turquoise Pearl Tear Drop Dangle Pierced Earrings NrVintage Georg Jensen Denmark 120 Sterling Silver Modernist Ring,5 1/2Vtg Old Dead Pawn Navajo Lot Turquoise Coral Cluster Wide Sterling Cuff BraceletOld Early Harvey Era Navajo Stamped Silver Turquoise Snake Arrow BraceletVtg Antique Chinese Enamel Dangle Bead Collar Charm Necklace ChokerFabulous Bent K Knudsen Denmark #5 Amethyst Sterling Silver Crossover BraceletVtg Old Pawn Spider Web Hopi Overlay Wide Sterling Cuff Bracelet Clement HonieVintage Sterling Guilloche Enamel Hand Painted Flowers Bracelet Norway Ivar HoltEarly Vintage Navajo Harvey Era Turquoise Silver Cuff Bracelet W/snake StampingLarge Old Pawn Early Navajo Sterling Silver Storyteller Arrow Turquoise RingDavid Andersen Norway Sterling Silver Enamel Shamrock Ladybug Brooch PinBeautiful Vintage Southwestern Silver Mercury Dime Bead NecklaceVtg Navajo Old Dead Pawn Handstamped Fred Harvey Era Wide Sterling Cuff Bracelet Estate Vintage Zuni Cuff Knife Wing Turquoise Onyx Coral Mop BraceletVntg Heavy Mexican Squared Turquoise Silver RingVintage Mexican Sterling & Enamel Margot De Taxco Signed Wave Mosiac BraceletOld Pawn Stamped Sterling Silver Navajo Turquoise Concho Belt Necklace Link 37"1930's Vtg Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Repousse Sculptural Bracelet Eagle 22Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Coral Art Deco Scroll Design Necklace Hand Made ChainHans Hansen Vintage Modernist Sterling Link Chain Necklace Denmark # 315Rare Sigi Pineda Vtg Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Jasper BraceletOld Pawn Handmade Early Navajo Indian Sterling Silver Turquoise Pin BroochLarge Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Cluster Turquoise Ring 19 Stones WesternVtg Hand Stamped Multi Stone Inlay Wide Heart Concho Belt Link Sterling BraceletHans Hansen Vintage Modernist Sterling Link Bracelet Denmark # 230Vintage Old Pawn Sterling Navajo Buffalo Thunderbird Turquoise Cuff BraceletVintage Japanese Sterling Toshikane 7 Seven Immortal Gods Porcelain BraceletVtg Needlepoint Zuni Sterling Silver Native American Turquoise Necklace CenterEmilia Castillo Vtg Taxco Mexican Sterling Silver Peacock EarringsHector Aguilar Vtg Taxco Mexican Sterling 990 Silver Pendant Necklace Book PieceIncredible Southwestern Sterling Silver Bolo W Flush Stone & Shell InlayVintage Melesio Rodriguez Sterling Silver & Blue Glass 16" Necklace Taxco 5270Vintage Modernist Taxco Designer Enrique Ledesma Agate Sterling Collar NecklaceWide Vintage Mexican Aztec Sterling Silver Bracelet, Mexico ~ 41.8 Gr

Recent News: Ethnic Jewelry

Source: Google News

Prairie preservation banquet April 27
Ogle County News, April 18th

Items donated in the past include books, prints, food items and gift certificates, a canoe trip gift certificate, antiques of various kinds, ethnic jewelry, seeds, bird houses, honey, etc. To donate to the silent auction or attend the banquet, call or...Read more

Ongoing & Upcoming Attractions: Week of April 16-22, 2014
The Rock River Times, April 15th

Examples: Books, prints, food items, gift certificates, antiques, ethnic jewelry, seeds, bird houses, honey, etc. If you wish to donate to silent auction or attend the banquet, contact Lin at ppsoc.org@gmail.com or call 815-973-4926. Registration for...Read more

The Top Five Most Iconic Watches of the Modern Era and the Distinguished ...
Virtual Press Office (press release), April 10th

CIRCA's Authorized Purchasing Agent Program extends the company's buying services to an invite-only network of established regional jewelry retailers through buying events and a mail-in program. CIRCA Commerce provides manufacturers, distributors ...Read more

Bracelets: 4 Style Choices to Help You Build Your Jewelry Wardrobe
My Fashion Life, April 8th

Ethnic jewelry encompasses a large category that can be best described as bohemian-inspired and handmade. A signature, ethnic bracelet will include woven fibers, beads, stones, metals, leather and suede – any material or object that a jeweler can mold...Read more

Most Stylish Politicians
The Indian Republic, April 3rd

A simple, crisp cotton sari with quarter sleeve blouses completes Brinda's look with some ethnic jewelry and of course a large red bindi on the forehead. Simple yet graceful, Karat's fashion sense is an inspiration for many women across the country...Read more

CIRCA Opens Short Hills New Jersey Office
PR Newswire (press release), March 27th

CIRCA's Authorized Purchasing Agent Program extends the company's buying services to an invite-only network of established regional jewelry retailers through buying events and a mail-in program. CIRCA Commerce provides manufacturers, distributors ...Read more