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, 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    

Vintage Navajo Old Pawn Native American Sterling Silver Pearl NecklacePre- 1948 Mexico Silver Amethyst Dangle Deco-mod Cuban Link Bracelet 100 GramsFine Vtg 40s Mexican Taxco Sterling Silver Repousse Art Deco Clamper Bracelet Art Deco Gia Certified A Grade Carved Jadeite Jade 14k Solid Gold 16" NecklaceVtg Chinese Carved Apple Green Jade Jadeite Silver Filigree Enamel Pin Brooch1950's Margot De Taxco #5644 Set: Blue Enamel & Silver Fish Brooch/pin Earrings Vintage Antique Amethyst Floral Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletVtg Carved Angel Skin Coral Gold Gilt Siver Rose Chinese Japanese Pin BroochVintage Georg Jensen Denmark Bent Gabrielen Sterling Silver Modernist Pendant197Navajo Sterling Silver Natural Cripple Creek Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceVtg Iconic Antonio Reina Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper BraceletOld Pawn Wide Navajo Sterling Silver Matrix Turquoise Cuff Bracelet Western105 Gr Natural Chinese Turquoise Round 8-16mm Bead Necklace-gilded Silver ClaspLot - 482 Grams - Vintage Native American Turquoise Sterling Silver Jewelry .925Vtg Old Pawn Navajo Zuni Sterling Petit Point Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceChinese Gold Gilded Silver Filigree Enamel 16x11mm Angelskin Coral Cabochon RingVtg Hand Carved Peaches Mottled Apple Green Jadeite Jade 14k Solid Gold PendantVintage Heavy Taxco 78 Grams Sterling Silver Necklace Mexico MexicanVtg Art Deco Chinese Gold Gilt Silver Enamel Barrel Beaded Chain Necklace 31"lBeautiful Vintage Navajo Sterling Large Turquoise Cabochon Cuff BraceletGenuine Rainbow Lustre Mabe Pearl 14k Gold Bamboo Leaf Japanese Vintage PendantVtg Hand Carved Natural Apple Green Jadeite Jade 14k Solid Gold PendantHuge Vintage Navajo Sterling Silver Bisbee Blue Turquoise Naja Pendant!! 44gr23 Pc Lot Old Pawn Sterling Silver Southwestern Turquoise Jewelry 192.4 (xr) SLong Art Deco Hand Carved Spinach Green Jadeite Jade 14k Gold Dangle Earrings-nrPre-1948 Mexico Silver Amethyst Art-deco Owl Leaf Necklace 76 GramsOld Art Deco Chinese Tibetan Salmon Coral Turquoise Woven Silver Snake NecklaceVintage 14k Gold Persian Turquoise Floral Starburst EarringsVintage Zuni A. Pinto Sterling Needlepoint Turquoise Long Dangle EarringsVintage Mexican Mexico Taxco Sterling Silver Carved Malachite Sodalite NecklaceVintage Huge Green Stone Sterling Silver Mexico Mexican BraceletVtg Mexico Sterling Silver 3-d Deco-mod Rounded Cuff Bracelet Taxco 73 GramsVintage Heavy Wide Sterling Old Pawn Navajo C/j Chester Nez Cuff Bracelet 39.8gRare Ethnographic Chinese Sterling Silver Filigree Tassel Chain Necklace 74grmVintage Art Deco Chinese Carved Lapis Stone Flower Floral Pendant Necklace ChinaVtg Signed Hilario Lopez Taxco Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper BraceletLapponia, Zoltan Popovits Vintage 1988 Sterling Silver Collier, Finland, 32.5 GVtg Rancho Alegre Mexico Sterling Silver Repousse Art Deco Bracelet Taxco 52 GrmN.e. From Sterling Silver Necklace Bracelet Earrings Set Vintage Jewelry DenmarkVtg Art Deco Chinese Silver Coral Turquoise Malachite Gemstones Bracelet BangleVtg 90g Bold Chunky Black Onyx Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver NecklaceDavid Andersen Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Bracelet & Earrings Set Norway Wide Vtg Chinese Export Sterling Silver Turquoise Filigree Cuff Bracelet BangleVintage Mexico Sterling Silver Veiny Sodalite Deco-mod Clamper Bracelet Taxco Margot De Taxco Vintage Silver Double Drop Amethyst Butterfly 5344 Necklace 16"Vintage Chinese Export Gold Gilt Silver Filigree Turquoise Bracelet Bangle ChinaVtg Melesio Rodriguez Bead Sphere Jade Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletVtg Rancho Alegre Mexico Sterling Silver Repousse Art Deco Necklace Taxco 52 GrmHuge Old Pawn Zuni Sterling Silver Turquoise Sun God Native Cuff Bracelet SignedVintage Repousse Taxco Clamper Cuff Bracelet Mexico Mexican Sterling SilverVtg 41g Bold Signed Amethyst Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletJrz Taxco Mexico Sterling Silver Modernist Collar Necklace Kultaseppa Salovaara Ky Rare 1970’s Sterling Silver & Crystal Pendant W/chainVintage Huge Navajo Old Pawn Sterling Modernist Pear Cut Bisbee Turquoise RingMexican Margot De Taxco Silver Monumental #5531 Mexico Hot Enamel Ring Size 6.75Antique Chinese Silver Filigree Framed Scrimshaw Pin W/ Crane & Tree SceneMargot De Taxco Mexico Vintage 925 Silver Estate Handmade Bracelet Size 6.5"Vintage Signed David Andersen Norway Sterling Silver Blue Enamel Clip EarringsVintage Chinese Carved Carnelian Tiger Eye Enamel Silver Filigree Bead NecklaceMargot Van Voorhies Carr/margot De Taxco #5685 Vintage 925 Enamel Clip Earrings

Recent News: Ethnic Jewelry

Source: Google News

Costume Dramas to Enjoy this Winter – No Corsets Required
Women's Voices for Change, February 1st

I'm thoroughly liberated, technically savvy, and spend most days in either black cargo pants or jeans, oversized sweaters and chunky ethnic jewelry. But after hours, I very happily transport myself to halcyon days gone by. In my mind at least, I change...Read more

PRECIOUS PIECES: Silver and gold abound at BAC's inaugural Precious Metal ...
encore Online, January 26th

has been working closely with the BAC to bring local and regional jewelry artists to the inaugural event. She suspects its success will go beyond selling jewelry. “Participating in local shows is a great way to meet new customers and to let them know...Read more

Mirraw Announces Great India Shaadi Festival Sale with a Huge Range of Dresses ...
Digital Journal, January 26th

Based out of Fort Mumbai, it brings handpicked designs in ethnic jewelry, apparels, accessories and more. Founded by Shailesh Jain and Anup Nair in 2011, offers products that can transform the look of customers. With a great fan following in ...Read more

Siquijor letter
Visayan Daily Star (press release), January 20th

Last November and December I wrote about the case of illegal drugs planting in the island of Siquijor. I found in the police report a ridiculous story-telling so filled with errors and conflicting testimonies that the prosecutor recommended the...Read more

Showroom Profile: Succarra
Apparel News, January 14th

Australian collection From St. Xavier includes tribal jewelry styles with crystals and beaded and metal handbags. Wholesale prices range from $18 to $64. Masachussetts-based Sisco + Berlutti features thick hammered-metal statement pieces with stones...Read more

From Ethiopia to Colombia: On a quest for ethnic jewelry
The Korea Herald, January 8th

Lee collected ethnic jewelry from countries where she and her husband were stationed. She has lived abroad in eight countries, including Brazil, Germany, Ethiopia, the U.S., Jamaica, Colombia, Costa Rica and Argentina for 30 years until her husband's ...Read more

Holiday Shopping: Shanti & Deva Handmade Ethnic Jewelry and Formative Designs, December 1st

Shanti & Deva Holiday Jewelry Boutique: shantinecklace Tis the season to make an impact with your holiday shopping. Shanti & Deva will host a Holiday Boutique this weekend of December 12-13th from 12 - 5pm at 2 Winslow Place,Scarsdale. Shanti ...Read more

Artnet, February 28th

“They were drawn to ethnic jewelry, as it can be deeply spiritual reflecting religious beliefs but also social values as well as economic wealth and status, too,” said Maureen Zarember, who heads up Tambaran and whose latest exhibition, “Adornment,” ...Read more