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    

Native American Ring Lot 3 Turquoise & Sterling Silver Old Pawn Zuni & NavajoHeavy 94g Vtg Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Woven Thick Beaded Chain NecklaceVtg Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Repousse Beaded Flower Floral Leaf Necklace Vintage Sterling Silver Turquoise Southwestern Navajo Style Cuff BraceletVintage Sterling Mexico Taxco Unique Dna Bracelet Heavy 62 GramsVintage 76 Grams Huge Amethyst Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletVtg 73g Huge Chunky Modernist Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletVtg Bold 56g Signed Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper Cuff BraceletVtg Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Repousse Beaded Flower Floral Leaf BraceletGerardo Lopez Heavy Vtg Mexican Mexico Taxco Sterling Bracelet 96gVtg Huge Massive 147g Bold Chunky Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver NecklaceVintage Zuni Natural Coral Dot-dash Bracelet Sterling Silver Old PawnVintage Heavy Bracelet BjVintage N. E. From Modernist Sterling Silver Bracelet - Denmark11 Stone Hvy Kingman Turquoise Navajo Bracelet Sterling Silver Old Pawn MensVintage Taxco Mexico Beaded Matchneck Sterling Silver 925 Bracelet 8.5in (55.5g)Vintage Signed William Spratling Mexican Silver Hinged Cuff Bangle Bracelet OldSigned Handmade Shadowbox Sterling Silver &turquoise Navajo Indian Cuff BraceletZuni Vintage Old Pawn Sterling Fred & Elsie Lonconsello Turquoise NecklaceMargot De Taxco Vtg Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Enamel Pendant NecklaceVintage Sterling Mexico Taxco Unique Dna Necklace Heavy 108 GramsHuge Vintage Ron Wesley Pink Coral Royston? Turquoise Cluster Sterling EarringsDarryl Becenti Navajo Butterfly Royston Turquoise Necklace Squash BlossomVintage Chinese Sterling Silver Four Seasons Repousse Panel BraceletVtg Chinese Sterling Silver Filigree Turquoise Enamel Flower 1.5" Wide BraceletVintage Estate Taxco Sterling Silver Rancho Alegre Heavy Wide Link Bracelet 52grVintage Huge Amethyst Sterling Silver Bead Sphere Mexico Mexican BraceletOld 1920's Vintage Iconic Owl Frog Sterling Silver Mexico Mexican Bracelet Darryl Becenti Navajo "ava" Repousse Earrings Sterling Silver Native American Handmade Vintage Sterling Silver And Turquoise Navajo Indian BraceletWill Vandever Natural Carico Lake Turquoise Ring Sz 10 Sterling Silver NavajoBracelet=los Castillo Taxco Vintage! .925 Sterling Silver Large Dome Link ChainMike Platero Navajo Natural Turquoise Heart Cluster Bracelet Sterling SilverRicardo- Sterling Silver W/ 10k Accents & Red Stones Western Belt BuckleOld Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Cuff/braceletVintage Amethest,coral And Torquoise Mexican Silver BraceletVintage Signed Western Navajo Sterling Aquamarine & Pearls Horse Bengal BraceletOld Pawn Navajo Sterling Irridescent Mop Squash Blossom Collar Necklace 62 GramsSigned Vintage Mexico Amethyst Sterling Silver 65g Clamper Cuff Bracelet MexicanFred Harvey Era €Signed Rare Vintage Mexico Sterling Silver Beaded Mexican Modernist BraceletHuge Lot Vintage Sterling Papago/navajo Sw Native American 925 Turquoise SignedOld Pawn Navajo Silver Spiderweb Turquoise Carinated Band Cuff Bracelet WesternVintage 1930's - 40's Mexican Sterling Silver Amethyst Wide Mexico BraceletMid Century David Anderson Norway Sterling Butterfly Flower Pin Brooch Enamel130 Ct Old Hippie / Navajo Hand Carved Heart Turquoise Necklace PendantDavid Andersen Norway 925 Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Butterfly Pin BroochVintage 57g Bold Signed Taxco Mexico Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet-modernistHuge Lot Of Vintage To Now Southwest, Mexico, Native American... Costume JewelryVintage Navajo Sterling Silver Squash Blossum Necklace No ReserveSuperb Vintage Mexico Sterling Silver Chunky Dna Barbell Chain Mexican Bracelet Margot De Taxco Sterling Bracelet * 5845a * Signed Hallmarked Vintage Big Wide Mexico Sterling Silver Onyx Flower Butterfly Cuff Bracelet Western1940's Norway Sterling David Anderson Guilloche Enamel Butterfly Brooch PinLos Castillo Vtg Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Pendant NecklaceDavid Andersen Sterling Silver & Blue Enamel Earrings Norway Vintage Necklace=los Castillo Taxco Vintage! 242g Sterling Silver Large Dome Link ChainRare Antique Art Deco Maireener Shell Aboriginal Necklace Iridescent TasmanianVtg Norway Norwegian Solje Sterling Silver Pendant Heart Birds 25.51 Grams #1191A+ Albert Jake Navajo Kingman Black Web Turquoise Sz 10 Sterling Silver

Recent News: Ethnic Jewelry

Source: Google News

Minton Sparks And Christian Collier Perform At Charles And Myrtle's Friday
The Chattanoogan, September 21st

Palieri keeps the paper certificate acknowledging that nomination on his living room wall, where it is crowded in by more interesting cultural knickknacks and memorabilia he's picked up on his travels — photos, tribal jewelry and handmade instruments...Read more

How Alibaba (BABA) IPO Posing A Serious Threat To Amazon And eBay
Dazeinfo, September 21st

Alibaba basically works on the lines to make it easy for the customers to buy almost anything from manufactures in China online and that too directly. On Alibaba one can buy anything he or she has dreamt of- right from a used 747 airplane, ethnic...Read more

Wearable art
Montreal Gazette, September 17th

She started with oversized pieces inspired by ethnic jewelry. Those pieces were statements about breaking rules, challenging conventional notions of what's appropriate. But at that point, she didn't know where it was leading her, so in 1988, she...Read more

Stylemaker | Cari Tindall wears her personality
The Courier-Journal, September 12th

Chances are good if you live in the Highlands you've run across this Stylemaker. Whether enjoying her morning coffee at Heine Brothers, visiting friends in the neighborhood or shopping the Bardstown Road boutiques in her bright colors, funky glasses...Read more

Restrictions on Gold Imports To India Creates Market Dislocation
ValueWalk, September 4th

It surprised analysts and disappointed the regional jewelry industry by keeping the restrictions in place through 2014. With government restrictions in place, those purchasing gold at both the wholesale and retail level are being forced to navigate the...Read more

World traveler helps others get around
Post-Bulletin, August 27th

from a lion pride circling a herd of elephants in Kenya, to cheetahs resting after a burst of speed near Johannesburg, South Africa, to Papua New Guinea women celebrating a successful crop, all in brightly colored dresses and adorned with tribal...Read more

Thirty-third Annual Santa Cruz Greek Festival September 5, 6, 7
Aptos Times, August 26th

Our Greek Agora includes ethnic jewelry, pottery, clothing and food items. Our Kid's Korner features the popular Mt. Olympus climbing wall and face painting. Greek Dancers from all over the Bay Area and dressed in traditional costumes will perform a...Read more