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    

Vtg 1940's Early Mexican Sterling Silver Mesh Chain Collar Mexico NecklaceAntique Chinese Sterling Silver Enamel Carved Green White Jade Dress ClipAntique Chinese Sterling Silver Carved Amethyst Shou Bead Gourd Pendant NecklaceVintage Men's Chunky Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Bisbee Turquoise Ring Size 11Antique Old Pawn Silver Bead Navajo Indian Squash Blossom Turquoise Naja PendantVintage Pale Green Jadeite Jade 14k Solid Gold Carved Dragon Necklace PendantAntonio Pineda Sterling Mid-mod Industrial Link Bracelet Taxco SignedFred Harvey Era Navajo Turquoise Bracelet With Arrow And Horse Or Dog MotifGia Certified Carved Pale Celadon Green Hetian Nephrite Jade Bangle BraceletAntique Imperial Green Peking Jade Glass Mandarin/chinese Court NecklaceVtg 91g Bold Repousse Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper Cuff BraceletVintage Apple Green Jadeite Jade 14k Solid Gold Carved Fish Necklace PendantVtg Imperial Green Jadeite Jade Natural Diamond 14k Solid Gold Necklace PendantVintage Long Old Pawn Zuni Sterling Animal Fetish Stone Heishi Bead NecklaceOld Pawn Navajo Wide Stamped Rails Cuff W/old Stamp Work 66 Grams18 Vintage Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Ring Lot Southwestern Native WesternSuper Vintage Sterling Silver Taxco Mexico Tribal Beaded Hinged Cuff Bracelet6 Vintage Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Pearl Ring Lot Southwestern WesternOld Sd Pueblo Large Natural Turquoise Nugget Shell Heishi Bead Necklace 116 GrmsVtg Southwestern Sterling Silver Bead Turquoise Stamped Squash Blossom NecklaceVintage Mixed Materials Sterling Silver & Turquoise Handmade Navajo Bracelet UsaVintage Navajo Vincent James Platero Wide Repousse Stamped Sterling BraceletVintage Men's Chunky Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Blue Gem Turquoise Sea Foam Ring3 Neat Old! Zuni And Navajo Turquoise & Silver Brooch PinsThe Best Vintage Native American / Western Sterling Silver 31 Charm BraceletVintage 940 Sterling Silver Taxco Mexico Tribal Hinged Cuff Bracelet ModernistGeorg Jensen Denmark Henning Koppel Sterling Silver Brooch Pin..no ReserveVintage Long Chunky Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Navette Ajax Green Turquoise RingChinese Scholars Necklace Old UniqueVintage Modernist Sterling Silver Taxco Mexico Inlaid Black Onyx Stone BraceletVintage Repousse Clamper Cuff Bracelet Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling SilverMatl Matilde Poulat Mexico Sterling Silver Turquoise Pin Registered PatentedVintage Mexican Silver E Barena Taxco Shadowbox Half Barrel Wide Bracelet Vintage Zuni John Lucio Sterling Silver Multi-stone Eagle Dancer Pendant-pinVtg Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Amethyst Lily Fleur De Lis Bracelet Vtg 56g Bold Chunky 1930's Repousse Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletDavid Andersen Norway Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Owl Salt & Pepper ShakersVintage Sterling Silver Taxco Mexico Tilo Modernist Geometric Heavy NecklaceAmazing Old! Native American Navajo Cobblestone Turquoise & Silver Brooch PinVtg Bold Chunky 70g Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper Cuff BraceletVintage Art Deco Old Mexico Sterling Silver Coffee Bean BraceletHandmade Vintage Navajo Sterling Silver And Turquoise Navajo Indian Bracelet UsaVtg Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Beaded Dna Chain Bracelet Spratling Design Vtg Mexico Sterling Silver Teardrop Malachite Necklace & Earings Taxco 35 GramsPre-1948 Sterling Silver Denim Lapis Floral Necklace & Earrings Taxco Vintage Finland Kasityo Sterling 925 Modernist Bracelet 23 GramsAntique Chinese Sterling Silver Natural Turquoise Bead NecklaceVtg 94 Grams Taxco Turquoise Malachite Mexico Sterling Silver Mexican BraceletSterling Silver Mjh Matti J. Hyvarinen Finland Modern 16" Pendant NecklaceVintage ** Matl - Mexico 925 ** Sterling-coral & Turquoise BroochChinese Carved Peach Watermelon Tourmaline 18k Solid White Gold Necklace PendantVtg Rare Bold Chunky Amethyst Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Necklace Vintage Southwestern Sterling Silver Stamped Bench Bead 22" NecklaceVintage Lot Old Pawn Mexican Sterling Spiny Oyster Turquoise Malachite LapisVtg 1930's Bold Huge 90g Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletPte-1948 Mexico Sterling Silver Repousse Dichroic Glass Art Deco Bracelet 33 GmsA+ Vintage Native American Navajo Jerry Cowboy Turquoise Sterling Silver PendantVintage Pale Lavender Jadeite Jade Drop 14k Solid Yellow Gold Post EarringsAntonio Pineda 970 Sterling Silver And Pearl BraceletVintage Norwegian 830s Silver Frank Juhls Kautokeino Singer - Siri Ring Necklace

Recent News: Ethnic Jewelry

Source: Google News

Pulling Down the Slaver Flags of Islam and Africa
FrontPage Magazine, July 1st

If romanticizing Dixie is wrong, so is romanticizing those ancient African cultures so beloved by amateur anthropologists and professional sociologists with more plastic tribal jewelry than sense. Slavery was an indigenous African and Middle Eastern...Read more

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
Cincinnati.com, 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

SUPERSTARS DELVE INTO TRIBAL JEWELRY
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