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
- American Society of Jewelry Historians
- Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts
- Society of Jewellery Historians
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Native American Jewelry
Source: Google News
Spotlight 29 Casino to Host the Winter GIndian Country Today Media Network, July 26th
COACHELLA, CA -- (July 25, 2014) -- Native American culture will come alive with Native American song and dance at the festive Winter Gathering POW WOW presented by the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians December 12th-14th at the Spotlight ...Read more
Indie Film THE BALLAD OF SNAKE OIL SAM to Screen in Madrid, New Hope ...Broadway World, July 25th
The story told is a love letter to music subculture and the dance community, depicted with steampunk costuming and Native American jewelry and artifacts. Local designer, Evelyn Hanna from Funky Desert Apparel in Yucca Valley worked on the costume ...Read more
Visionary of the American West: An exhibition commemorates Fred HarveyAlbuquerque Journal, July 24th
The distinctive Harvey/Native American jewelry will be on display, including pins, bracelets, buckles and rings. “It's what you think of as classic New Mexico Indian jewelry of the '40s,” Seibert said. “It's punched work. The Harvey family had the...Read more
A Warm and Sultry Art Walk in JeromeGatewayToSedona.com, July 24th
A warm and sultry night filled with art, music, and gallery hopping is in store on August 2, for First Saturday Art Walk in Jerome. Visit 25 galleries and studios throughout this charming mountain town from 5 – 8 pm. A free shuttle runs during the walk...Read more
Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & MarketUSA TODAY, July 24th
Look for traditional and modern Native American jewelry, sculptures, paintings, pottery, weavings, beadwork, kachina dolls, baskets, and more. Artists are on hand to chat with you about the cultural significance of and techniques used to make many of...Read more
Get ready for Bazaar DaysLeader and Times, July 21st
Carlson's Yippee Yi Yea will be having discounts on many of the store's wares, including 20 percent off storewide for everything except for Native American jewelry and then up to 70 percent off on items displayed on the sidewalk. Carlson added in the...Read more
Native Americans celebrate their culture at Drums pow-wowStandard Speaker, July 19th
The pow-wow offered an array of Native American jewelry, sun catchers and other goods for sale. And there were activities, like native dancing, drumming and two special features. Randy Overly Sinnemahoning of Cameron County, a Lakota Sue Indian, was ...Read more
Southwest Passage provides tribal jewelry, regional fareSeacoastonline.com, July 15th
"My mother has been buying and selling Native American jewelry from the Southwest for over 15 years," Garland said. "We have family there and I've been going with her on buying trips and holidays since I was a little girl. We share our love of this...Read more