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    

Huge Vintage Los Castillo Necklace * Heavy 161 Grams Of Silver * 1 1/3" Wide Antique Chinese Gilt Export Silver Carved Jade Amethyst Brooch Pin 2 5/8" ChinaGorgeous Margot De Taxco Mexico Sterling Silver Black Enamel Bib Necklace 42.7gVtg Antique Chinese Sterling Silver Flower Wood Bangle BraceletAntique Chinese Sterling Silver Jadeite Jade Dragon BraceletAntique Chinese Silver Export Carved Pierced Jade Jadeite Brooch Must See 16.4gVintage Chinese Sterling Silver Indochina Repousse BraceletRare Antique Silver 830s Dragestil Celtic Brooch David Andersen Norway Ca. 19001930's Vtg Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Repousse Cabbage Rose Cuff BraceletPre-1948 Mexico Sterling Silver Turquoise Repousse Fish Bracelet Taxco 80 GramsAntique Chinese Carved Gilded Bronze Buckle Jade, Natural Pearls & Pink GemstoneAntique Carved Natural Coral Multi Chrysanthemum Flower Brooch Pin 12.8g14k Gold Antique Carved Coral Bird And Nest Exquisite Brooch Pin Must SeeVintage Chinese Silver Filigree Panel Bracelet Brooch Earrings SetVtg Mexico Modernist Sterling Silver Chevron Bracelet Taxco 108 GmsVtg Mexico 950 Sterling Silver & Malachite Puzzle Link Necklace Taxco 74 GramsPretty Vintage Natural Coral Carved Rose Pin 1 3/8" By 7/8" 4.9gAnitque Chinese Bamboo & Sterling Silver Repousse Fish Bangle BraceletVintage Deeply Carved Coral Flower Sterling Silver Brooch Pin Beautiful SettingVtg Mexico Sterling Silver Wide Statement Curb Link Bracelet Taxco 59 GramsMargot De Taxco Vtg Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Enamel Quetzalcoatl NecklaceAntique Sterling Silver Kylin & Chinese Rider Necklace Pendant Superb DesignVintage Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Ml Turquoise Squash Blossom Bead NecklaceOld Pawn Navajo Zuni Sterling Turquoise Squash Blossom BraceletVtg 110g Massive Elna Amethyst Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver NecklaceA+ Darryl Becenti Navajo Natural Lapis Bracelet Sterling Silver Old Pawn StylVntg Hopi Lawrence Saufkie (d.) Slvr Overlay Bear Claw BucklePre-1948 Mexico Artdeco Sterling Silver Amethyst Repousse Statement Bracelet 87gVtg Antique Japanese Or Chinese Carved Natural Coral Pink Flower Brooch PinAntique Old Tribal Art Deco Nouveau Sterling Silver Pink & Red Coral NecklaceVintage Lot Of 5 Beautiful Old Pawn Sterling Silver & Turquoise RingsVtg Taxco 925 Sterling & 800 Silver Malachite Tribal Head Mask Pin PendantOrnate Design China Silver Export Coral & Turquoise Bracelet Must See Vintage1930’s Los Ballesteros Iguala Mexican Blue Glass Cabochon Cuff / BraceletVintage Chinese Carved Cinnabar Shou Bead Necklace, 27", Knotted W/ 37 BeadsVtg Taxco 925 Sterling Silver Black Enamel Fringe Choker NecklaceVintage Silver Turquoise Coral Heishi Spiny Oyster Necklace Bracelet Lot WesternSigi Pineda Vtg Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Obsidian NecklaceKalevala Koru Finland Vintage Modernist Sterling Silver Rare Bear BraceletVtg Mexico Sterling Silver 12 Mm 26 Inch Bead Necklace Taxco 98 GramsVintage Taxco Mexico Hector Aguilar 940 Sterling Silver Necklace 95.2 GrBig 3"x 2" ~butterfly~genuine Nevada Royston Turquoise Sterling Silver Cuff 7"szOld Art Deco Mexico Mixed Metals Copper Sterling Silver Choker Collar NecklaceVintage Ray Tracey Native American Navajo Inlay Turquoise Lapis Onyx NecklaceVtg Mexico Sterling Silver & Veiny Malachite Panel Link Collar Necklace 76 GmsVintage Old Coffee Bean Sphere Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletVintage Southwest Stamped Graduated Sterling Silver Bead NecklaceOld Navajo Indian Stamped Sterling Silver Turquoise Bug Dragonfly Pin BroochVintage Chinese Sterling Silver Repousse Flower Seasons BraceletVtg Antique Chinese Sterling Silver Amber Glass Signed Lee Bat Pendant NecklaceVintage Wide Signed Mexico Sculpted Sterling Silver Modernist Cuff BraceletVtg 950 Sterling Silver Taxco Large Modernist Cuff Bracelet 2.25" Wide 50 GramsEarly Vintage Navajo Turquoise Silver Bench Bead Sand Cast Star Pendant NecklaceStunning Carved Pierced Jade Sterling Silver Brooch Pin 2" By 1 1/2" 18.5gOld Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Tribal Native American Antique Cuff Bracelet Nr!Vintage David Andersen Sterling Silver Modernist Blue Enamel Bracelet 7 "Antique Silver Chinese Turquoise Enamelled Lock NecklaceSunshine Reeves Navajo Thunderbird Old Rug Bracelet Sterling SilverVtg 1950's 60's Eagle Mark 2 Taxco Mexico Sterling Silver Tribal Bracelet SignedOld Pawn Zuni Sterling Flush Blue Gem Turquoise Inlay Ovals Necklace

Recent News: Ethnic Jewelry

Source: Google News

Remembering Tony Daniels, pioneer of the Black Queer Atlanta Renaissance
The GA Voice, January 29th

He was tall with shoulder-length dreadlocks, dressed in baggy, wide-legged mud-cloth pants and some dashiki type top and he was bedecked in many manners of ethnic jewelry made from silvers, bronzes, and beads. He was caramel-colored, and while far ...Read more

Art World Abstracts: A Fair in a Wild West Ghost Town, and More!
New York Observer, January 28th

“Barbara Levy Kipper will give the Art Institute of Chicago nearly 400 items from her collection of Buddhist ritual objects and Asian ethnic jewelry, according to Broadway World. Kipper's gift will augment the museum's collections of Indian, Himalayan...Read more

Morning Links: January 28, 2015 Edition
ARTnews, January 28th

Collector Barbara Levy Kipper will give 394 pieces from her collection of Buddhist ritual objects and Asian ethnic jewelry to the Art Institute of Chicago. The collection totals some 1,200 works. She is also giving the museum a dozen pieces of African...Read more

Art Institute of Chicago Receives Gift of Hundreds of Asian Artifacts
Artforum, January 27th

Barbara Levy Kipper will give the Art Institute of Chicago nearly 400 items from her collection of Buddhist ritual objects and Asian ethnic jewelry, according to Broadway World. Kipper's gift will augment the museum's collections of Indian, Himalayan...Read more

Chicago Collector Barbara Levy Kipper Gifts Asian Art Collection to the Art ...
Broadway World, January 26th

Druick, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, announced today that Barbara Levy Kipper has pledged to give the Museum nearly 400 items from her exceptional collection of Buddhist ritual objects and Asian ethnic...Read more

Shotgun celebrations! Sonakshi's bro, Kussh, ties the knot
Total Filmy, January 19th

Silk was the dress of the day and the ladies shone brightly in their ethnic jewelry and Kanjivarams. Sonakshi glistened with gold and kundan jewelry and a mauve lehnga. Sonakshi shared a picture with her daddy dear and scribbled "All settttt!!! dulhe...Read more

Las Vegas Market reveals winner of Global Goodness Awards
Furniture Today, January 15th

Samantha Davimes is a provider of contemporary ethnic jewelry, made by artisans from South Africa, Swaziland and Thailand. Company executives develop relationships with the artisans, their families and their communities. Swahili Imports, a member of...Read more

Jim Stodola: Desert holds much to explore
Denton Record Chronicle, January 10th

Learning of tribal jewelry was interesting. The Zuni were stone carvers, using, for example, turquoise. Navajo did their jewelry in silver and later the tribes traded. The Hopi jewelry came later as they used the G.I. Bill for training. Outside, there...Read more