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    

Vintage Handmade Navajo Sterling Silver & Turquoise 25" Squash Blossom NecklaceVtg Antique Chinese Sterling Silver Carnelian Agate Enamel BraceletEarly Mens Navajo Cuff Bracelet Ingot Coin Sterling Silver W/natural Turquoise Vintage Mexican Silver Sterling 980 Taxco Art Deco Wide Cuff Bracelet Pair Vtg Huge Massive 182g Bold Chunky Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver NecklaceVtg Zuni Turquoise Multi Stone Micro Inlay Wide Sterling Cuff Bracelet BooquaVintage Sign 124g Taxco Mexico Black Onyx Sterling Silver Snake Necklace MexicanVtg Navajo Old Pawn Fred Harvey Era Thunderbird Turquoise Row Wide Cuff BraceletVtg Signed Leaves Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Bypass Clamper Cuff BraceletMargot De Taxco Rare Vintage Mexico Sterling Silver Enamel Snake Head Cuff Links55g Vtg Bold Repousse Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper Cuff BraceletVintage Art Deco Mexican Sterling Silver Amethyst Bracelet3 3/4" Vtg Repousse 71g Huge Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Clamper Cuff BraceletVintage Unisex Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Stirrup Horseshoe BraceletVintage Anton Taxco Sterling Silver 925 Mexico Necklace Earrings Bracelet SetVintage Chinese Gilt Sterling Silver Filigree Turquoise Butterfly Brooch Vintage Southwestern Silver & Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceVintage 1940's Mexican Sterling Silver Turquoise Wide 57g Mexico BraceletVintage Navajo Sterling Peyote Flower Disc Beads Necklace 86 Grams 29 InchesLos Castillo Taxco Mexican 4.67 Ounce Sterling Silver Rare Cuff BraceletVintage Massive Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Jade Green Onyx Flower BraceletVintage Sterling Old Pawn Navajo Square Turquoise Dangle Clip EarringsEarly Ingot Silver Navajo Bracelet With Swastika And Multiple RepousseVintage Chunky Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Wide Shadowbox BraceletExtraordinary Heavy 120g Signed Tg-79 Xlong Taxco Sterling Profile BraceletVintage 1980's Mexican Sterling Silver Amethyst Turquoise Coral 116g NecklaceAntique Hand Carved Faux Ivory African Tusk Elephant: Floral Motif Antique China Chinese Silver Cloisonne Carved Oxen Bone Jewelry Set 1930's NrVtg Bold Chunky Red Coral Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Bracelet Wonderful Vintage Southwestern Silver Bead Necklace W Turquoise PendantsVintage Taxco Mexico Sterling Silver (3.19 Ounces) Cuff Bracelet In A+ ConditionWilliam Spratling Silson Owl Brooch PinVintage Old Pawn Navajo Tubule Bead Concho Turquoise And Coral Silver NecklaceVtg Articulated Bracelet Sterling Silver Bead Sphere Taxco Mexico MexicanVtg 62g Bold Signed Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper Cuff Bracelet Vintage Sodalite Bold 86gram Necklace Taxco 950 Sterling Silver Mexico MexicanVintage Art Deco Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletHector Aguilar "circle & Lozenge" Sterling Silver & Malachite Bracelet Nr!Vtg 171g Bold Chunky Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Beaded Chain NecklaceBeauty! David Andersen Norway Sterling Enamel Purple Pansy Pendant!!Vtg 74g Chunky Bold Multi Stone Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletBeautiful Sterling Enamel Norway David Andersen Butterly Brooch PinVintage 1940's Sterling Silver Onyx Modernist Antonio Pineda Taxco Cufflinks NrVintage Don Lucas Multi Stone Pin Awesome Combo DesignSpectacular Antique Chinese Carved Jade Dragon Bangle BraceletBeautiful Southwestern Carol Felley Sterling Silver & Turquoise NecklaceVtg Early Chunky Purple Glass Amethyst Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletFine Old Pawn Navajo Indian Sterling Silver Green Turquoise Stone Cuff BraceletOld Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Natural Morenci Turquoise Cuff Bracelet WesternRare Vintage "indian Chief" Head-lucky Horseshoe Sterling Custom Men's Ring 15gVtg Early 1930's Calcite Floral Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletVintage Native Southwest Sterling Silver Purple Glass Stone Cuff BraceletBig 55gs Navajo Old Pawn Silver 1921 Libery Coin Nickel Cuff Mint Harvey Era 20+Antique Vintage Natural Untreated Butterscotch Egg Yolk Amber BeadsVintage Art Deco Mexican Sterling Silver Collar NecklaceVtg 47g Chunky Bold Repousse Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Swirl NecklaceBig Vintage Navajo Sterling Double Morenci Turquoise Bracelet Cuff 90 GramsVtg Repousse Signed Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper Cuff BraceletMid Century Modern Abstract Signed Juhls Norway Sterling Silver Magic Ball No 10Old 1930/40's Mexico Taxco Sterling Amethyst Jumping Fish Screw Back Earrings

Recent News: Ethnic Jewelry

Source: Google News

Women's Mount Everest record holder to speak at Tahoe
Tahoe Daily Tribune, July 30th

Doors open at the Chateau at 5:30 p.m. for an opportunity to preview the silent auction and raffle items, which range from ethnic jewelry and textiles, high-performance outdoor clothing, ski tickets and more. Hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar are available...Read more

Inside the Fascinating, Frenzied World of Art Collecting
Sarasota (blog), July 30th

Five years ago, Wilberding made an unusual donation to the Ringling Museum: a collection of just under 70 pieces of Turkeman tribal jewelry, which he terms “one of the better collections of its type in the world.” It will go on permanent display there...Read more

22 Questions for Iranian Artist Shirin Neshat
Artinfo UK, July 28th

Iranian, New York-based artist Shirin Neshat is well known for her work in film and photography, which often addresses the experiences of women in the Islamic world. With pieces in the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art's upcoming show, “The New ...Read more

You Complete Me: Leila Janah's Travel Tote
StyleBistro, July 25th

For example, I like to pair classic items such as blazers from Zara with my grandmother's old tribal jewelry. My grandmother is one of my greatest influences and wearing her jewelry reminds me of the grit needed to make a difference. She even hitch...Read more

Refurbished 'Utkalika' showroom inaugurated in Odisha capital
Odisha Sun Times, July 23rd

The outlet of Utkalika in the Market Building has a grand collection of traditional arts and crafts. The collections range from applique works, hand woven clothes, 'dhokra' (metal casting), palm-leaf prints, 'pattachitras' (traditional Oriyan paintings...Read more

Jewelry theft ringleader pleads guilty in Portland
Corvallis Gazette Times, July 22nd

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The ringleader of a group that stole jewelry from more than two dozen stores across the country pleaded guilty in federal court in Portland. The Oregonian reports (http://is.gd/C53oYR) that 42-year-old Michael Young admitted that...Read more

Southwest Passage provides tribal jewelry, regional fare
Seacoastonline.com, July 15th

PORTSMOUTH — A little bit of the Southwest just came to town. Southwest Passage recently opened its second store, at 214 State St. in the city's downtown. Gayle Gertler is the owner, with her daughter, Stacy Garland, managing the Portsmouth store...Read more

Made in Ukraine festival showcases local goods
Kyiv Post, July 2nd

Etnicas is an online shop of ethnic jewelry that brought such an attention. Nataliya Godlevska its owner and the only producer says she did expect her place to be popular. She is a specialist in ancient Ukrainian culture and started producing her...Read more