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    

Very Best Hvy Navajo 2 1/4" Wide Pilot Mt. Turquoise BraceletVintage Zuni Navajo Turquoise Coral Sterling Silver Ring Lot 256 GramsOld Pawn Fred Harvy Era Navajo Sterling Silver Stamped Turquoise Cuff Bracelet JMuseum Vtg Old Pawn Zuni Sterling Silver Turquoise Inlay Squash Blossom NecklaceVintage Native American Navajo Heavy Sterling Silver Barrel Bead NecklaceOld Large Navajo Stamped Silver Belt BuckleVintage Striking Zuni Mosaic Inlay Knifewing BraceletMuseum Massive Double Strand Vintage Navajo Turquoise Sterling Pendant NecklaceVintage Zuni Hopi Navajo Turquoise Coral Sterling Silver Pendants Lot 170 GramsVintage Sterling Silver Hm Coonsis Fire Opal, Lapis, Turquiose Zuni BraceletOld Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Natural Turquoise Cluster Cuff Bracelet │g AxLarge Vintage Rare Zuni Higher Grade Turquoise Petit Point Sterling Earrings19g Signed Navajo Mark Chee Sterling Red Mountain Spiderweb Turquoise Ring Sz 10Vintage Old Pawn Navajo Royston Turquoise Sterling Mens Womens Cuff BraceletVntg Hvy Navajo Oval Morenci Mine Turquoise BraceletLong Old Handmade Extremely Primitive Gnarly Dead Pawn Zuni Turquoise EarringsAntique Old Pawn Zuni American Indian Needlepoint Turquoise Sterling Belt BuckleSolid Navajo Handmade Turquoise Row Sterling Silver Mens Womens Cuff BraceletOld Navajo Silver Smith Mercury Dime Squash Blossom Coin Necklace Sterling NajaVntg Heavy Navajo Handmade Silver Saucer Bead NecklaceNative American Sterling Silver & Turquoise Squash Blossom Type NecklaceVintage Zuni Navajo Turquoise Coral Amber Sterling Silver Ring Lot 109 GramsVtg Old Pawn Sterling Silver Spiderweb Turquoise Lot Unique Stones Navajo Ring 9Nice! Vintage Navajo / Southwestern Sterling Silver & Turquoise Cuff BraceletVery Old Vintage Navajo Hand Wrought Silver NecklaceAaron Toadlena Navajo Vintage Sterling Silver Coral Onyx Inlay Bib Necklace 36gVintage Navajo Turquoise Sterling Silver Carolyn Pollack Jewelry Lot 160 GramsVintage Old Pawn Navajo Royston Turquoise Sterling Mens Womens Cuff BraceletJulian Lovato & Frank Patania 14k Gold & Red Mountain Turquise Necklace Vtg 1950's Old Pawn Double Kachina Sterling Silver Bolo Tie Turquoise Lot PatinaVintage Zuni Hopi Navajo Turquoise Coral Sterling Silver Pendants Lot 79 GramsVintage Navajo Sterling Hand Made Large Link Necklace 26 1/2 InchAntique Old Pawn 1920+ Zuni Snake Eyes Nevada Cortez Turquoise Sterling Cuff Authentic, Vintage, Squash Blossom Necklace, Earring Set, Gorgeous Turquoise!!!Vintage Big Wide Navajo Sterling Silver Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Cuff BraceletVtg Old Pawn Early Zuni Sterling Silver Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Mop EarringsVintage Old Dead Pawn Southwestern Sterling Silver Turquoise Cuff BraceletOld Navajo Ingot Silver Squash Blossom Necklace Museum Worthy!Old Pawn Vtg Navajo Cluster Turquoise Sterling Silver Mens Women Cuff BraceletMuseum Quality Old Navajo Turquoise Heishi NecklaceMuseum Rare Vintage Alvina Quam Zuni High Grade Coral Sterling Dangle EarringsVtg Old Pawn Sterling Silver Lot Of 16 Southwestern Navajo Zuni Turquoise Rings Vintage Navajo Juan Willie Abstract Contemporary Sterling Cuff Bracelet 62 GramsOld Navajo Graduated In Size Handmade Silver Bead NecklaceVtg Old Pawn Sterling Silver Large 3" Slab Of Royston Turquoise Pendant 45 GramsOld Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Handmade Cuff Bracelet VintageVintage Southwest Navajo Turquoise Coral Sterling Silver Jewelry Lot 120 GramsVntg Navajo 7 Lone Mt. Mine Turquoise Row BraceletVintage Navajo Handmade Heavy Navajo Pearl Antique Sterling Silver Bead Necklace19g Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Blue Gem Spiderweb Turquoise Mens Ring Sz 12Large Vintage Navajo Ahasteen Sterling Turquoise Winged Eagle Kachina Bolo TieOld Pawn Navajo Sterling Domed Natural Turquoise Cluster Cuff 58 GramsHuge Chunky 3" Navajo Carico Lake Turquoise Cluster Chandelier Sterling EarringsEarly Hopi Ralph Tawangyaouma (d.) Slvr/turquoise NecklaceFred Harvey Era Navajo Turquoise & Silver Link Bracelet Whirling Log ThunderbirdA+ Navajo Old Us Morgan Dollar W/ Coral Necklace Pendant Squash BlossomOld Pawn Zuni Handmade Sterling Silver Petit Point Turquoise Ring 9.5 | J AxMassive Ex Long 3 3/16" Navajo Carico Lake Turquoise Cluster Sterling EarringsOld Fred Harvey Era Navajo Stamped Silver & 3 Turquoise Thunderbird Bracelet Navajo Silver And Malachite Squash Blossom Necklace Signed P.t. Handcrafted *293

Recent News: Native American Jewelry

Source: Google News

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

At the Galleries: Door County galleries and museums
Green Bay Press Gazette, March 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

Turquoise Trouble: Gem Scarcity Affects Jewelry Lovers
Virtual-Strategy Magazine (press release), March 23rd

With mines closing, TurquoiseJewelry.com reports shortage of precious gemstone used in Native American jewelry. Phoenix, AZ (PRWEB) March 23, 2015. Quality turquoise jewelry is becoming harder to find, says TurquoiseJewelry.com. The reason?...Read more

Watch Bill Murray Do a Talk-Show Segment in a Dress and Cowboy Hat
Vanity Fair, March 20th

Being Bill Murray, the comedian opted to make his Jimmy Kimmel Live entrance on horseback while wearing a dress, cowboy hat, cowboy boots, tasteful fringed sweater, purse, and Native American jewelry. “I'm usually in jeans and a T-shirt. This is just...Read more

Sundance Gallery owner on new path after closing Downers Grove store
Chicago Tribune, March 2nd

Smith-Peterson attributes her interest in Native American culture to her childhood when her mother often wore silver Native American jewelry and to an uncle who was an outdoorsman and traveler. "I grew up seeing it and gained an appreciation of it...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. Retired Forest Park lieutenant involved in funeral procession crash ID'd...Read more

Andy Lee Kirk Works Headline A Lifetime Collection of American Indian Jewelry ...
ArtfixDaily, March 2nd

The collection is comprised of over 200 lots of Native American jewelry including necklaces, cuffs, rings, pendants, and belt buckles. Gemstones such as turquoise from Battle Mountain, coral, mother of pearl, jet, malachite, and abalone will offer a...Read more

Rare Native American pendant found by cable crew in Ohio
National Monitor, March 1st

A rare piece of Native American jewelry, believed to date from the fifth century CE has been found by a crew digging a ditch in Ohio. Contractors digging a ditch for a fiber optic box near in the Ohio village of Newtown unearthed human remains and...Read more