While the tradition of making jewelry out of shells and beads dates to prehistoric times, Native American silver-and-turquoise rings, bracelets, pins and the like are a relatively recent phenomenon, going back only as far as the mid-19th century. Pieces from the 1800s, if you can find them, were usually produced for tribal or religious purposes rather than adornment (the tourist trade came later).

When times got tough, people would take their most expendable personal pieces and pawn them, thus spawning the phrase "old pawn" to describe pre-1900 examples of Native American jewelry made of silver. Although there is a lot of jewelry on the market labeled "old pawn," only pieces from the 1800s deserve that label.

One of the controversial aspects of Native American jewelry is the extent to which non-Native traders influenced its production. These traders frequently coached Native American artisans to create designs of little or no cultural or historical relevance, provided them with tools and materials, and, of course, sold the finished pieces to tourists who had ventured into the Southwest via the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. Beginning in 1899, what we’d call adventure-travelers could purchase Native American jewelry and other souvenirs at Fred Harvey curio shops.

Silver was the base metal for most of these pieces—squash-blossom necklaces were one of the first styles. For stones, Navajo artisans were the first to use turquoise, which was indigenous to the area but was quickly mined out—the best pieces were labeled with the name of their source mine. It wasn’t long before high-quality turquoise was being imported, while softer, poorer-quality stones were often treated with resin to make them hard.

Other tribes developed their own styles. Shell necklaces and mosaics were a specialty of the Pueblo, particularly members of the Santa Domingo tribe. The Zuni were known for their cluster pieces and use of red coral. And the Hopi produced pins and other objects that suggest textile influences.


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]

First American Art

First American Art

The companion website to First American Art: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of American Indian Art, which… [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    

Rare 119g Spiderweb Green Carico Lake Turquoise Navajo Platero NecklaceRare S D P (kewa) Julian Lovato Hvy Turquoise Row Bracelet*nakai* Navajo *large Heavy* Solid Sterling Silver & Turquoise Necklace PendantOld Old Primitive Stamped Navajo Pearls #8 Mine Turquoise Sterling Bead NecklaceSpectacular Rare Old Old Old Old Primitive Fluted Navajo Sterling Bead NecklaceVintage Navajo Sterling Silver And Multi Turquoise Stone Bracelet Awesome WorkOld Fred Harvey Era Navajo Thunderbird Green Turquoise Bracelet Sterling SilverVtg Old Pawn Early Frank Patania Sr Sterling Turquoise Bracelet Thunderbird ShopVibrant Wide Zuni Mosaic Inlay Knifewing BraceletOld Pawn Vintage Navajo Sterling Green Morenci Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceNative American Pawn 7 Large Turquoise Row Sterling Tooled Navajo Cuff BraceletRare Hvy Navajo Perry Shorty Coin Slvr Bracelet W/repousseVintage Navajo Silver And Green Turquoise Bracelet Great Stamp Work UnsignedVintage Harry Morgan Navajo Turquoise And Sterling Cuff Bracelet No ResreveOld Coin Silver Sand Cast Naja Native American Navajo Necklace Turquoise No ResHuge Old Pawn Navajo Ceremonial Turquoise Sterling Squash Blossom Bib NecklaceRare Early Heavy Silver Navajo Cuff Bracelet - Fresh Estate Find - No Reserve!Vintage Hopi Sterling Silver Overlay Cuff Bracelet Victor Coochwytewa | RsExtremely Heavy 155 Gram Vintage Navajo Stamped Graduated Sterling Bead NecklaceRich Old Pawn Vintage Navajo Well Made Solid Coral & Sterling Mens Ring Sz 12Vintage Stunning Navajo Turquoise & Silver Bracelet With Nice Old Stamp Work Fine Vintage Zuni Needle Point High Grade Turquoise Sterling Dangle EarringsVintage~navajo~sterling~blue Gem Turquoise~squash Blossom Necklace~430 Grams!Museum Vintage Navajo ""huge Coral"" Silver BraceletVtg Old Pawn Navajo Squash Blossom Sterling Silver Bench Bead Turquoise Necklace*signed* Navajo Sterling Silver & King's Manassa Turquoise Hearts Cuff BraceletGreat Vintage Navajo Silver Bead Necklace W Sandcast NajaBeautiful~vintage~navajo~hand Wrought~sterling Silver~graduated Bead NecklaceVintage Zuni 925 Sterling Silver Wire 2 Row 20 Turquoise Stone Cuff Bracelet NrHuge Vintage Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver & Green Turquoise Men's Ring 11.5Big Old Pawn Vintage Navajo Blue Gem Turquoise Sterling Squash Blossom NecklaceOld Pawn Vintage Navajo Zuni Sterling Turquoise Opal Blk Onyx Inlay Men's Ring Vntg Hvy Navajo Artie Yellowhorse Cool Slvr Bead / Cube Necklace*tahe* Navajo Huge Heavy Sterling Silver Rare *austin Blue* Turquoise PendantVintage Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Squash Blossom 303 Grams (beautiful!!)Sterling Silver 6.75" Vintage Navajo Handcrafted Turquoise Cuff Bracelet Nice!!!Original Vintage Fred Harvey Era Navajo Stamped Silver & Turquoise BraceletLarge Old Sterling Silver And Turquoise Sand Cast Native American Naja Pendant Old Pawn Zuni Handmade Sterling Silver Needlepoint Turquoise Ring Sz 8 | RsHuge Beads Old Navajo Pearls Graduated Bench Beads Vtg Sterling Silver NecklaceOld Zuni 3 3/8" Tall Mosaic Inlay Rainbowman PinAntique American Western Navajo Indian Sterling Turquoise Concho Belt Buckle, NrVintage Philander Begay Navajo Indian Tufa Cast Silver & Turquoise Belt BuckleImpressive Large Hopi Bracelet - HallmarkedOrnate Navajo Sc Hand Stamped Sterling Silver Applique Cuff Bracelet | G BmBig Vintage Old Pawn Navajo Denetdale Green Bisbee Turquoise Sterling Mens Ring Harvey Era Native American Sterling Charm BraceletVintage Navajo Hand Stamped Sterling Silver & Turquoise Concho Belt |rsVintage Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Spiderweb Turquoise Men's Women's Ring Sz 11Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Classic Handmade Hollow Bead Necklace 23"Small Old Navajo Silver & Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceOld Pawn Heavy Sterling Squash Blossom Necklace Bench Bead Turquoise NajaSterling Silver - Heavy Navajo Fw Concho (40 In) 147g - Belt Cz097Vintage Fred Harvey Era Sterling Silver Turquoise Eagle Cuff Bracelet | J EM.begay Navajo 925 Sterling Silver Gem Royston Turquoise Ring Sz 8.75 | J AxVintage 1940's Harvey Era Navajo Pawn Turquoise & Sterling Silver Cuff BraceletVery Old Vintage Navajo/ Santo Domingo Turquoise Heishi Jacla PendantFine S D P (kewa) Josephine Coriz 10 Strand Heishi NecklaceVintage Old Pawn Frank Patania Sr. Thunderbird Shop Sterling Turquoise BraceletAntique Vintage Old Pawn Navajo Pre 1935 Handmade Turquoise Sterling Bracelet

Recent News: Native American Jewelry

Source: Google News

Gun and collectible show in Ruidoso not just for men
Ruidoso News, August 28th

Women will find a variety of Native American jewelry, home decor, clothing and collectibles. Since its inception in 1999, the group has contributed more than $170,000 to Lincon County charities including $65,000 for Lincoln County scholarships and $16...Read more

Man arrested in burglary of Peak 6 Adventure Store south of Forks
Peninsula Daily, August 27th

Several thousands of dollars' worth of high-end camping and hiking gear and Native American jewelry was taken during the burglary of the outdoors store at 4883 Upper Hoh Road. A small fire that had been set in the business burned out before causing any ...Read more

Suspect in Forks Peak 6 Adventure store burglary, arson is arrested
Port Townsend Leader, August 27th

Several thousand dollars of high end camping and hiking gear, as well as Native American jewelry, were taken during the burglary, according to the release. A small fire had been set in the business which burned out before causing any major damage...Read more

At the Galleries
Green Bay Press Gazette, August 25th

Oils, watercolors, etchings by national award-winning artists; handmade Native American jewelry; also antiques and collectibles. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, closed on occasion. (920) 854-2770. • LILY BAY POTTERY, 3450 N. Lake Michigan Drive, Sturgeon Bay...Read more

Livingston Manor plans Labor Day festival, parade
Times Herald-Record, August 21st

The party continues till 4 p.m with old-fashioned children's games and prizes, children's crafts, and vendors including the colonial-style gifts from Fort Delaware, Naomi's Dolls, Manor Ink, Native American Jewelry by Jim Red Fox Sarles, wildlife...Read more

Valley Briefs
Valley Roadrunner, August 20th

Valley Center Trails Association in conjunction with Friends of Hellhole Canyon Preserve will offer a Guided Evening Stargazing program on Saturday, Sept. 6 beginning at 7 p.m. The event, held at Hellhole Canyon Preserve, will host an expert guide to...Read more

New Indian arts group trying to 'do something different'
Albuquerque Journal, August 14th

“Maybe they would be medium-specific,” he said of such exhibits, mentioning that Germans seem to particularly like Plains Indian beadwork, while the Japanese are keen on Native American jewelry. “The longterm plan is for IFAM to go global,” Agoyo said...Read more

Pala Indians to put on powwow
U-T San Diego (press release) (registration) (blog), August 13th

Arts and crafts booths will sell Native American jewelry, beadwork, art and souvenirs. Powwow gates open 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The grand entry is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 22, 1 and 8 p.m. Aug. 23 and 1 p.m. Aug. 24. Bird...Read more