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.

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Recent News: Native American Jewelry

Source: Google News

Garth's Single-Owner Sale of Native American Jewelry
Maine Antique Digest, April 20th

Garth's Auctioneers and Appraisers in Delaware, Ohio, auctioned an Ohio woman's lifetime collection of American Indian jewelry on March 12. The 204-lot sale included necklaces, cuffs, rings, pendants, and belt buckles using turquoise from Battle...Read more

The For Love & Lemons x Jacquie Aiche Jewelry Collaboration Is So Amazing ...
Bustle, April 15th

The jewelry collection is filled with beautiful rose gold pieces that are dainty and feminine like the clothing lines' pieces, but you can also clearly see Jacquie Aiche's love for traditional Native American jewelry coming through in this collection...Read more

At the Galleries: Door County galleries and museums
Green Bay Press Gazette, April 14th

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. • MARTINEZ STUDIO AND GALLERY, 5877 Wisconsin 57, Sturgeon ...Read more

SilverTribe.com Presents New Inventory of Popular Effie Calavaza Native ...
Benzinga, April 7th

Native American jewelry, accessories, and art are held sacred by many tribes and enthusiasts. For thousands of years, Native American crafting has been held in high regard for its unique shaping, usage of gems, and superb silversmithing. The Zuni tribe...Read more

“They are sick people,” After four-alarm fire, Native American jewelry store ...
kfor.com, April 3rd

OKLAHOMA CITY – A store owner, who lost everything when a fire ripped through the Stockyards in March, claims she's been hit once again. The store owner, Yolanda White Antelope, says looters have targeted her Native American jewelry store. She says ...Read more

Beyond Turquoise: What's up Next for Native America Jewelers?
Cibola County Beacon, April 3rd

“People expect Native American jewelry to look a certain way, like old pawn jewelry with chunky turquoise and oxidized silver, but what this group of artists is creating is just blowing the doors off the craft,” said Shumakolowa manager Ira Wilson, who...Read more

Massive Collection of Authentic Native American Jewelry Online
Benzinga, March 26th

Authentic Native American jewelry speaks to people the way few other pieces of jewelry can. The deep spiritual connection to Mother Earth is keenly evident in each piece that authentic artisans craft. Much more than just a fashion statement, authentic...Read more

Prehistoric Native American jewelry unearthed in Newtown, Ohio
WLWT Cincinnati, March 2nd

Prehistoric Native American jewelry unearthed in Newtown, Ohio. Piece is one of only 6 or 7 in the country, historian says. UPDATED 6:55 PM EST Mar 02, 2015. NEXT STORY. Officer: 'I wanted to be absolutely sure before I used deadly force'. Text Size ...Read more