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
First American Art
Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry
Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Native American Jewelry
Source: Google News
Native American Culture Reaches Couture StatusBenzinga, August 28th
As these styles reach end consumers and with Native American jewelry readily available online, the First Nations influence is strong and there is little sign of slowing down. View authentic Native American jewelry at NativeAmericanJewelry.com...Read more
Visual Aid: Door County galleries and museumsGreen 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
Native TreasuresCowboys and Indians, August 23rd
Great news for lovers of Native American jewelry: In June, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe opened a new permanent exhibition in two galleries. The Wheelwright's first major expansion in its 78-year history, the Center for the...Read more
Santa Fe Indian Market: 2015 award winners announcedExaminer.com, August 21st
Santa Fe Indian Market announced this year's Best of Show, Best of Class and special award winners in a variety of classifications today. For 94 year's Santa Fe Indian Market has awarded Best of Show winners to the nation's most exceptional artists in...Read more
Native American Group Show Opening ReceptionWeekly Alibi, August 12th
Sorrel Sky opens its Native American Group Show featuring new works by contemporary Native American jewelry artists Ben Nighthorse, Ray Tracey, Cody Sanderson, Victoria Adams, Darryl Dean & Rebecca Begay, Shane Hendren, and Santa Clara potter ...Read more
Major Native American jewelry collection stolenKRQE News 13, July 8th
SANTA FE, ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A Santa Fe woman who's spent most of her life collecting expensive, historic Native American jewelry now needs your help. About a week ago, a thief hauled away more than 400 of Joan Caballero's rare and unique ...Read more
Wheelwright Museum opens its first gallery devoted to Native American jewelryAlbuquerque Journal, June 13th
The peninsula of cases shelters works by some of the most recognizable names in Native American jewelry: Charles Loloma, Preston Monongye, the dramatic cabochons of Gail Bird and Yazzie Johnson, the traditional/contemporary fusions of Liz Wallace, ...Read more
Wal-Mart Accused Of Selling Fake Native American JewelryLaw360 (subscription), May 6th
The group claims that Wal-Mart has been selling the fake Native American jewelry since Jan. 2, 2013. It sent a letter to Wal-Mart in April demanding proof that the dream catcher earrings were designed and handmade by Native Americans, but Wal-Mart...Read more