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

Native American Spring Celebrations Begin
PR Web (press release), February 28th

Welcome to NativeAmericanJewelry.com, where you'll find a great selection of quality Native American jewelry products that reflect the spirit and creativity of the Southwest. We carry a leading variety of items made popular by tribes such as the Zuni...Read more

Pow Wow features Indian dance
Valley morning Star, February 26th

There will be cake walks, raffles, Native American jewelry, dream catchers, arts & crafts, beads, etc. See Indian dancing from tiny tots to seniors in full regalia. If you have ever wanted to dance with the Indians, some dances are open to audience...Read more

At the Galleries: Door County galleries and museums
Green Bay Press Gazette, February 24th

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

St. Helena commission wrestles with jewelry store permit
Napa Valley Register, February 20th

Commissioners wrestled with how to give Dalia flexibility to make minor changes in his inventory of relatively inexpensive Native American jewelry without awarding a broad use permit that could allow a future tenant to open yet another high-end jewelry...Read more

Teen arrested in Pasco County storage unit arson
ABC Action News, February 16th

“I sell Native American jewelry and it's all in there for safe keeping. It would have been safer at home. We were afraid of break-ins,” she said. “I just can't imagine doing this. Not with other people's stuff,” Lois Lyman said. Lyman's storage unit...Read more

Tourist Your Own Town: Humboldt History in Three Short Stops
Lost Coast Outpost, February 14th

The only know photograph of President Lincoln's hearse from his Springfield, Illinois funeral procession. Blue Ox Millworks is displaying a replica of the hearse today.[Photo from the Library of Congress.] Today, Humboldt residents have a unique chance...Read more

Native American Beliefs and Culture Seen in New Turquoise Jewelry
Virtual-Strategy Magazine (press release), January 30th

Native American jewelry is revered for its use of traditional designs and hand crafted beauty. It has been worn and adored by thousands of people throughout the years. In particular, the turquoise gemstone has been frequently used in jewelry throughout ...Read more

Vintage Jewelry Showcased at Turquoise Tortoise Gallery in Sedona, Arizona
GatewayToSedona.com, January 29th

Sedona, AZ: As Valentine's Day approaches, Sedona, Arizona's Turquoise Tortoise Gallery offers an interesting alternative for gift-giving opportunities. “The Past as Presents: Vintage Native American Jewelry” opens on 1st Friday, February 6th from 5-8 pm...Read more