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 Japanese Toshikane Arita Porcelain Ceramic Sterling Silver BraceletVintage Sterling Silver .925 Antonio Pineda Taxco Bib Necklace Hinged RunwayVintage Margot De Taxco Sterling Silver Enamel Snake Bracelet Multicolor MarkedPre-1948 Mexico Es Sterling Silver Dragon Repousse Clamper Bracelet Taxco 77 GmsVtg Rare Bold Chunky Amethyst Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Necklace Big Chunky Vintage Old Mexico Art Deco Sterling Silver Green Onyx BraceletOld Pawn Navajo Silver Turquoise Barber Dime Naja Squash Blossom NecklaceOld Pawn Navajo Graduated Natural Turquoise Heishi Bead NecklaceAntique 3" Chinese Carved Coral Jade Huge Amethyst Drop Gilt Screw Back EarringsMexico Mexican Sterling Silver Snake Enamel Bracelet Margot De Taxco Design Pre-1948 Mexico Sterling Silver Jade Repousse Panel Link Bracelet 95 GmsVintage Mexican Sterling Silver Repousse Leaf Clamper Cuff BraceletGorgeous Vintage Hopi Sterling Silver Turquoise Bear Claw Cuff Bracelet - SignedLot Of 10 Beautifully Carved Chinese Stone Beads-deeply Carved - Great Color! NrVintage Southeast Asia Engraved Sterling Silver Repousse Dragon Bangle BraceletVintage Scandinavian Silver Enamel Guilloche Oval Locket Necklace 17-1/2” Vtg 68g Bold Repousse Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper Cuff BraceletVintage Huge Sterling Navajo Max Largo Coral & Turquoise Stone Feather BraceletMexico Sterling Silver Blue Turquoise & Matching Onyx Necklace Earrings 44 GramsSwedish Sterling Mid Century Modernist Scandinavian Necklace / Georg Jensen EraTwo Old Pawn Navajo Ornate Foliate Sterling Turquoise Collar Tip Pins 60 GramsVintage Sterling Silver Turquoise Cuff Bracelet Bangle Ring Earrings Jewelry LotHuge Mostly Sterling Jewelry Lot * Southwest * Turquoise & More 773 Grams Vintage Sterling Silver Necklace W/colored Beads - Made In Mexico - Beautiful Antique Sterling Silver Zuni Turquoise Petit Point Cluster Cuff Bracelet 41.7grVintage Chinese Sterling Silver Enamel Filigree Bracelet With Malachite Antique Chinese Silver Jewelry Lot: 27 Pieces Charms, Pendants, Locks, - Nice!Vtg Mexico Sterling Silver Azurite Tear Drop Dangle Necklace Earrings Taxco 110gHuge Solid Sterling Silver Squash Blossom Necklace - Old Navajo Zuni Turquoise Vintage Navajo Native American Sterling Silver Turquoise Cuff BraceletLot 7 Lady's Vintage Southwest Sterling Turquoise & Coral Watch Band BraceletsVtg Chinese Sterling Silver Filigree Pink Tourmaline Jade Enamel Brooch PinVintage J Tostrup Norway Sterling Enamel Rare Find 3 Dragonfly PinsVintage Mexico Sterling Silver Azteca Figural Warrior Faces NecklaceVtg Early Mexican Sterling Silver Amethyst Necklace Bracelet Earrings Parure SetVintage Bernice Goodspeed Sterling Silver Hammered Cuff Bracelet Mexico TaxcoNative American Sterling Silver And 14 Kt.gold Turquoise Ring154 Grams Heavy Vtg Taxco Lapis Sodalite Necklace Mexico Mexican Sterling SilverNavajo Old Us 1921 Morgan Dollar Coin Necklace Pendant W Blue Gem TurquoiseFred Harve Era Navajo Sandcast Sterling Silver Handmade Turquoise Belt Buckle 59Vintage Kupittaan Kulta Finland Sterling Silver Caged Amethyst Pendant NecklaceOld Pawn Navajo Wide Sterling Silver Landscape Desert Picture Agate BraceletVintage Hector Aguilar Mexican Sterling & Onyx Ring, Size 8Vintage Native American Navajo Turquoise Sterling Silver Cuff BraceletDerrick Gordon Natural Turquoise Ring 8 1/2 Sterling Silver Navajo .1Antique Chinese Filigree Enamel Coral Jade Pink Tourmaline Dress Clip PendantPre-1948 Mexico Handmade Sterling Silver Curb Link Necklace 114 GramsVtg Set Margot De Taxco Sterling # 5240 Chunky Bracelet And Earrings Blue StoneVtg Mexico Sterling Silver Abalone Large Modernist Clamper Bracelet Taxco 47 GmsOld Pawn Manuelito Crown Point Nm Sterling Turquoise Large Cuff Bracelet 66 GrmsVintage Sterling Silver Taxco Mexico Large Chalcedony Tribal Mask Link BraceletVintage Relios Carolyn Pollack Zuni Petitpoint Turquoise Sterling Silver RingVintage Navajo Raymond Yazzie Sterling Tyrone Turquoise Shadowbox Yei BraceletOld Primitive Silver Navajo Indian Swastika Whirling Logs Turquoise BraceletVtg 84g Rare Bold Multi Stone Taxco Mexico Mexican Sterling Silver BraceletVtg Two Trees Mexico Sterling Silver Floral Hinged Bangle Taxco 44 GramsAlbert Jake Navajo Pilot Mt Turquoise Ring Sz 8 Sterling Silver AdjustablePre-1948 Mexico Handmade Sterling Silver Curb Link Bracelet 54 GramsAntique Mexican Beaded Stick Form Amethyst Sterling Silver Choker NecklaceVtg. David Anderson Norway Sterling Silver Modernist Ring / Size 5 Unique Nice

Recent News: Ethnic Jewelry

Source: Google News

Levi Miller Stars In Polo Ralph Lauren's Fall/Winter 2015 Childrenswear Campaign
Fashion Times, July 23rd

The designer tapped British photojournalist Jimmy Nelson to shoot Sanne Vloet sporting hooded shearlings and tribal jewelry for the brand's unique images. The images were shot back in April in Finnish Lapland at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, which...Read more

07/04/2013 – 21st Antiques in the Church Yard
LocalPutnam, July 21st

Art Deco objects; 1930’s �” 50’s kitchen and barware; Fiesta ware; English Staffordshire china; art pottery including Roseville and Stangl; ethnic jewelry; vintage clothing for men, women and children; a cuff link collection; antique iron...Read more

Kendall and Kylie Jenner basically recreate 'Bad Blood' in the advert for ...
Sugarscape, July 16th

The collection itself features loads of panama hats, tribal jewelry, suede shorts, tassels, and basically heaps of cool stuff that'll make you feel as though you're about to burst through the doors of an old taverna on horseback and challenge the...Read more

Toe rings spurring India silver imports to record as prices drop
Taipei Times, July 11th

A woman wearing traditional Indian tribal jewelry attends the Bhagoria fair in Alirajpur, about 450km from Bhopal, India, on March 1. Photo: EPA. First came boutique wineries. Then microbreweries and craft distilleries. Now Japanese sake aficionados...Read more

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

Southwest Passage provides tribal jewelry, regional fare. 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. email print. Comment. By Toby Hatchett...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

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