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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
All About Jewels Dictionary
Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry
Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery
Clubs & Associations
- American Society of Jewelry Historians
- Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts
- Society of Jewellery Historians
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Ethnic Jewelry
Source: Google News
International Festival coming to Davis' Central ParkDaily Democrat, September 25th
Many vendors have committed to tabling on Oct. 5 from noon to 5 p.m. They are: artwork by Stuart Ratcliff, El Maya crafts from Guatemala, Shelly Hird Designs with Jesus Sosa from Mexico, Washoe Tribal Jewelry, Culture Collection African-American gifts, ...Read more
Minton Sparks And Christian Collier Perform At Charles And Myrtle's FridayThe 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 eBayDazeinfo, 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
Photograph by: John Kenney , The GazetteMontreal 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 personalityThe 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 DislocationValueWalk, 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