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    

Fabulous & Fine Vintage Carved Coral Estate NecklaceVtg 1940's Early Mexican Sterling Silver Mesh Chain Collar Mexico NecklaceVtg Villasana Clamper Cuff Bracelet Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver ComesAntique Old Pawn Silver Bead Navajo Indian Squash Blossom Turquoise Naja PendantVintage Sterling Silver Clamper Cuff Bracelet Fish Amethyst E.d.p. Taxco MexicoVintage Men's Chunky Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Bisbee Turquoise Ring Size 11Wide Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Foliate Turquoise Cuff Bracelet WesternVintage Antique Swirl Wing Sterling Silver Mexico Mexican BraceletFred Harvey Era Navajo Turquoise Bracelet With Arrow And Horse Or Dog MotifVintage Apple Green Jadeite Jade 14k Solid Gold Carved Fish Necklace PendantAntique Chinese Sterling Silver Carved Amethyst Shou Bead Gourd Pendant NecklaceVintage Pale Green Jadeite Jade 14k Solid Gold Carved Dragon Necklace PendantVtg Massive Bold 88g Snake Serpent Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver NecklaceAntonio Pineda Sterling Mid-mod Industrial Link Bracelet Taxco SignedVtg 45g Bold Chunky Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Chain Cuff BraceletAntique Imperial Green Peking Jade Glass Mandarin/chinese Court NecklaceVintage Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper Cuff BraceletFine Antique Coral Bead Necklace With Carved Center Bead 10k ClaspVtg Bold Beaded Chunky Turquoise Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Bracelet2 Gorgeous Old Chinese Coral Bead Necklace&1 Carved Coral Pendant-great Colors! Chinese Tibetan Turquoise Coral Carnelian Silver NecklaceVintage Antique Amethyst Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletVintage Mexican Silver E Barena Taxco Shadowbox Half Barrel Wide Bracelet Vintage Navajo Vincent James Platero Wide Repousse Stamped Sterling BraceletVintage Men's Chunky Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Blue Gem Turquoise Sea Foam RingHigh Worth!-norwegian Silver-anne Marie Odegaard "800 Amo"-pill Box-gold Plated!Vtg Massive 113g Alicia Modernist Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver NecklaceFabulous Antique Chinese High Relief Beautifully Carved Coral Pin.Art Deco Vintage Mexico Mexican 950 Sterling Silver Big Red Jasper Necklace N/rVintage Signed Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Bracelet & Spiderweb Ring LotVtg Imperial Green Jadeite Jade Natural Diamond 14k Solid Gold Necklace PendantThe Best Vintage Native American / Western Sterling Silver 31 Charm BraceletVintage Long Chunky Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Navette Ajax Green Turquoise RingDavid Andersen Forget Me Not Blue Flower Guilloche Enamel Sterling Pin NorwayMatl Matilde Poulat Mexico Sterling Silver Turquoise Pin Registered PatentedEstate Vintage Mexico Mexican 950 Sterling Silver Inlaid Aventurine Necklace N/rOld Pawn Navajo Wide Stamped Rails Cuff W/old Stamp Work 66 GramsVtg Massive Bold 43g Snake Serpent Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletGia Certified Carved Pale Celadon Green Hetian Nephrite Jade Bangle BraceletArt Deco Vintage Mexico Mexican 950 Sterling Silver Big Red Jasper Bracelet N/rChinese Scholars Necklace Old Unique160 Gram Vtg Taxco Statement Necklace Mexico Mexican Sterling SilverSoviet Ussr Russian Vintage Rose Pink Gold 583 Gorgeous Earrings Cubic ZirconiaDavid Andersen Norway Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Owl Salt & Pepper ShakersVtg Southwestern Sterling Silver Bead Turquoise Stamped Squash Blossom NecklaceNavajo ~huge ~vintage ~muti ~ Stoned ~ Sleeping Beauty ~sterling ~signed ~cuffVintage Turquoise Jewelry Lot Stunning!Antique Chinese Sterling Silver Apple A Jade-pink/green/blue Tourmaline BraceletMargot De Taxco Mexico Silver Sterling 5105 Pin Brooch Vintage Soviet Ussr Russian Vintage Rose Pink Gold 583 Gorgeous Earrings Cubic ZirconiaVintage Sterling Silver Taxco Mexico Tilo Modernist Geometric Heavy NecklaceVintage Heavy Sterling Silver Navajo Native American Animal Fetish NecklaceSuper Vintage Sterling Silver Taxco Mexico Tribal Beaded Hinged Cuff BraceletVintage Chinese Carved Cinnabar Necklace Bracelet Earrings Plus Bone EarringsVtg 52g Bold Chunky Signed Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver NecklaceVintage Mexico Mexican 950 Sterling Silver Turquoise Southwestern Necklace N/rVtg Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Wide Woven Braided Basket Cuff Bracelet Vtg Mexico Sterling Silver Teardrop Malachite Necklace & Earings Taxco 35 GramsVintage Zuni John Lucio Sterling Silver Multi-stone Eagle Dancer Pendant-pinVintage Southwestern Sterling & Turquoise 2 Row Petit Point Cuff Bracelt 29 Gr

Recent News: Ethnic Jewelry

Source: Google News

Junya Watanabe Used Cultural Appropriation In African Inspired Spring 2016 ...
Bustle, June 29th

Paris Fashion Week almost passed with little controversy until Junya Watanabe used cultural appropriation at his spring/summer 2016 menswear show that was supposed to make a statement about colonialism. Instead, the designer incorporated tribal jewelry ...Read more

Movie review: Filmmaker's swan song, subject are works of art
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 25th

No head-to-toe “name” label ensembles for Iris. Instead, she might combine a plain haute couture blouse with pants made from vintage church vestments, heavily adorned by African tribal jewelry and flea-market treasures — sublime or silly, real or faux...Read more

Forever Bleeker Street, Forever Young
Huffington Post (blog), June 15th

The small Bleeker Street shops were stocked with goods from other folksy artists, either designing beatnick clothing, African ethnic jewelry or middle eastern patchwork home furnishings, including mirrored pillows and bongo drums. The Look was changing ...Read more

Street vendors, June 12th

•Kids Kloset. Children's merchandise: Fantasy dress-up, tutus, skirts, hair accessories; Mexican wrestling masks. •Baraka Ethnic Jewelry. Jewelry from Thailand, India and Nepal. •Vanguard Supply. T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts and sunglasses. •City of...Read more

Political Correctness Is Ruining Fashion
The Federalist, June 5th

But the cries of “appropriation” are omnipresent of late, determined to chase away every whiff of outside cultures from your wardrobe—whether it's Native Americans insulted by the popularity of “tribal jewelry” or black women offended that white women...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