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    

Vtg Massive Bold 88g Snake Serpent Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver NecklaceVintage Modernist N E From Denmark Sterling Silver Chrysoprase RingVintage Taxco Mexico 980 Sterling Silver Amethyst Tribal Cuff Bracelet 62 GramsWilliam Spratling Mexico Vintage Silver Plate Tribal Linked Bracelet JewelryVintage Taxco Signed Swirl 950 Sterling Silver Mexico Mexican BraceletVintage Erik Granit Finland Modernist 813 Silver Pendant Sterling Necklace ChainRare Vintage Matl Mexico Sterling Silver Repousse Flower & Dove Paloma NecklaceVtg Massive Bold 43g Snake Serpent Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletVintage Old Pawn Native Southwest Sterling Silver Picture Agate Cuff BraceletVtg Villasana Clamper Cuff Bracelet Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver ComesVintage Fred Harvey Era Silver Bracelet With Horse And Whirling LogsVtg Kalevala Koru Mid Century Modernist Finland Sterling Silver Pendant NecklaceWilliam Spratling Taxco Mexico Sterling Silver Starfish Modernist Brooch PinVtg Villasana Sterling Silver Art Deco Oxidized Repousse Clamper Bracelet Taxco Old Heavy Navajo 10 Stone Turquoise Bracelet With Large Multiple Twist ShankHuge Vintage Casa Maya Mexico Copper Sterling Silver Brass Bird Cuff BraceletFine Colorful Antique Chinese Silver Enamel Bange BraceletDanish Design Sterling Silver Jewelry Lot(7) Georg Jensen, Anton Michelsen DaisyVintage 93 Grams Taxco Thick Chain Link Sterling Silver Bracelet Mexico MexicanPedro Castillo Mexico Mid Century Sterling Silver Modern Bracelet 42 GramsVtg 58g Bold Repousse Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper Cuff BraceletLot - Vintage Native American Sterling Turquoise Jewelry - Some Signed 186 GramsVintage Native American Navajo Zuni Sterling Silver Turquoise Jewelry Lot .Margot De Taxco Sterling Silver Blue Enamel Daisy Necklace & Bracelet SetVtg 1940's Early Taxco Mexican Sterling Silver Green Glass 72g NecklaceVintage Chinese Export Sterling Silver Filigree Sapphire Blue Glass BraceletHuge! 122g Vtg Sterling Old Pawn Vtg Turquoise Coral 24 Ring Lot! Sm615Vtg Kalevala Koru Modernist Finland Merya Sterling Silver Hinged Bangle BraceletModernist Ove Wendt Georg Jensen, Sterling Silver Neck Ring 11 A Choker NecklaceVtg Huge 54g Bold Chunky Agate 1930's Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletVintage Navajo Cast Sterling Silver Turquoise Squash Blossom Necklace WesternVintage Los Ballesteros Taxco Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet W/ Amethyst StonesOld Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Chip Inlay Turquoise Coral Wide Cuff BraceletDavid Andersen Norway Sterling Silver Folkemuseet Museum Historical Jingle Ring Vintage Zuni Jp Ukestine Sterling Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Snake Eye BraceletVtg 52g Bold 1940's Amethyst Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Cuff BraceletDavid Andersen Vintage Norwegian Sterling Silver And Enamel Necklace And EarringVintage 152 Grams Necklace Thick Chain Link Sterling Silver Mexico MexicanAlfredo Villasana Mexico Sterling Silver Ornate Linked Necklace Earring SetPedro Castillo Mexico Mid Century Sterling Silver Modern Necklace Earring SetVtg 83g Bold Turquoise Black Onyx Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletVintage 107 Grams Amethyst Heavy Taxco Necklace Mexico Mexican Sterling SilverAlfredo Villasana Vintage Mexico Sterling Silver Ornate Linked 28g BraceletVtg Mexico Sterling Silver Turquoise Square Modernist Bangle Taxco 68 GramsSterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Brooch Pin Early David Andersen Norway Vintage 108gr Coffee Cocoa Bean Sphere Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Bracelet18 Vintage Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Ring Lot Southwestern Native Western1920's Period Art Deco Mexico 980 Silver Repousse Clamper Bracelet Taxco 80 GmsVintage Margot De Taxco Sterling Silver Scroll Necklace With 2 Extenders. #5114Pre-1948 Mexico Sterling Silver Abalone Floral Clamper Bracelet Taxco 63 GramsVintage Cuff Bracelet Harvey Era Style Sterling Silver Southwestern StyleVintage .925 Sterling Signed Mb Norge 7.5" Bracelet Orange & Black Enamel 2 Pc Vintage Tribal Sw Old Pawn Sterling Silver Turquoise Whirling Logs Pin RingVtg Reh Rodolfo Mexico Sterling Silver Curb Link Bracelet Taxco 71 GramsOld Fred Harvey Era Style Sterling Thunderbird Southwest Bracelet Inscribed 1943Vtg Kalevala Koru Modernist Finland Pierced Sterling Silver Wide Bangle BraceletSigi Pineda Vtg Taxco Sterling Silver Modernist Cuff Bracelet Mexico Mexican 258Vtg 107 Gram Repousse Clamper Cuff Bracelet Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling SilverVtg Massive 124g Bold Modernist Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver NecklaceVtg Mexico Reh Rudolfo Sterling Silver Curb Link Necklace Taxco 174 Grams

Recent News: Ethnic Jewelry

Source: Google News

#RIPAmericanIdol: Remembering the Show's 35 Best Performances
Yahoo Music (blog), May 11th

I was ready to vote for this superfly guy the instant he strutted out wearing parachute pantaloons, stacks of tribal jewelry, a chubby fun-fur rave coat, and the fiercest, most fearless sex-eyed camera-stare since, well, Constantine's. And then Quentin...Read more

George Clooney Loves His Amazing Wife, God Damn It!
Popdust, May 8th

In fact, Amal's style has evolved, with more high end pieces since she met George and less ethnic jewelry, which was once one of her trademarks. She has also lost some weight, the better to look like a lanky boy young girl and fit into those size zero...Read more

Orosilber and the Cricket Connection
Digital Journal, April 28th

They have been providing us with finely designed jewelry that suits everyone's needs. Ranging from traditional and ethnic jewelry to modern jewelry and funky jewelry, Orosilber is definitely your one stop jewelry shop where you will find all your needs...Read more

The 'American Idol' Top 12 Revealed!
Yahoo Music (blog), March 11th

Quentin Alexander – Speaking of interesting (and deserving), Wild Card Quentin made the most of his second chance, taking the stage resplendent in an oversized Goth poncho and stacks of tribal jewelry. (Seriously, I want to go shopping with this guy.) ...Read more

Ottawa designers inspired by Indian heritage unveil a new line of tribal jewelry
Vancouver Desi, December 23rd

Best friends and business partners Ronjiny Basu and Tanima Majumdar have already made a name for themselves by selling colourful Indianmade scarves in Ottawa. Now, the duo are behind an eye-catching, tribal-looking jewelry line. Launched in ...Read more

Get the Look: Tribal Jewelry
AARP News (blog), July 17th

TribalJewelry1 It's officially summer and I'm ready for an exotic vacation! I've spent more than enough days indoors catching up on TV shows, fixing home appliances and fantasizing about time away from work. Recently I learned my friend Liz was...Read more

Ethnic jewelry — a priceless
Jakarta Post, February 2nd

Since the 19th century, the country's ethnic jewelry has attracted admirers of ethnography and art. They have since been hunting and collecting these valuable gems and treasures to remote areas across archipelago in order to get in touch with local...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