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    

Rare Navajo 3 Turquoise Tri-wire Bracelet W/domed TerminalsHuge Vintage Navajo Sea Foam Turquoise Coral Sterling Squash Blossom NecklaceRare 119g Spiderweb Green Carico Lake Turquoise Navajo Platero NecklaceOld Old Primitive Stamped Navajo Pearls #8 Mine Turquoise Sterling Bead Necklace*nakai* Navajo *large Heavy* Solid Sterling Silver & Turquoise Necklace PendantVintage Navajo Silver And Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceAntique Western Navajo American Indian Sterling Silver & Turquoise Conchos BeltVntg S D Pueblo Turquoise/shell Heishi BraceletVintage Navajo Sterling Silver And Multi Turquoise Stone Bracelet Awesome WorkVtg Jane Paselente Zuni Solid Sterling Silver Turquoise Cluster Ring Sz 6 J Bx3"long Vintage Zuni Turquoise Petit Point Cluster Turquoise Sterling EarringsCarson Blackgoat Navajo Old Pawn Large Heavy Sterling Silver Concho Belt BuckleOld Pawn Vintage Navajo Sterling Green Morenci Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceCollectable Rare Les Baker Vintage Navajo Stamped Ornate Sterling BraceletSpectacular Rare Old Old Old Old Primitive Fluted Navajo Sterling Bead NecklaceLarry Begay Navajo Sterling Silver Natural Morenci Turquoise Bolo Tie | J AiVintage Bracelet Lot One Fred Harvey I.h. Coin Silver Eagle Bracelet - EstateMuseum Vintage Navajo ""huge Coral"" Silver BraceletVintage Navajo Wilson Begay Sterling Silver Spiny Oyster Shell Cuff Bracelet |gVintage Navajo Silver And Green Turquoise Bracelet Great Stamp Work UnsignedVtg Zuni Zeno & Mary Ann Edaakie Sterling Silver Mosaic Inlay Cross Pendant |gVintage Navajo Sterling Silver Multi-stone Inlay Necklace D.clark ”Museum Vintage Navajo Domed Coral Silver Hand Wrought Squash Blossom NecklaceOld Fred Harvey Era Navajo Thunderbird Green Turquoise Bracelet Sterling SilverOld Pawn Turquoise Sterling Silver Squash Blossom Necklace Navajo Indian JewelryWide Old Navajo Silver Uita Bracelet Marked Uita12Rare Early Heavy Silver Navajo Cuff Bracelet - Fresh Estate Find - No Reserve!Rare S D P (kewa) Julian Lovato Hvy Turquoise Row Bracelet*signed* Navajo Sterling Silver & King's Manassa Turquoise Hearts Cuff Bracelet*tahe* Navajo Huge Heavy Sterling Silver Rare *austin Blue* Turquoise PendantVintage Navajo Sterling Silver Multi-stone Inlay Cuff Bracelet D.clark ”Zuni Sterling Silver Turquoise Needlepoint Necklace & Earrings By Sharon HustitoOld Coin Silver Sand Cast Naja Native American Navajo Necklace Turquoise No ResVintage Old Santo Domingo Pueblo Indian Heishi Green Turquoise Bead NecklacePair Of Jason Pearl Ukestine Zuni Sterling Silver Coral Turquoise Cuff BraceletsOriginal Vintage Fred Harvey Era Navajo Stamped Silver & Turquoise BraceletRare Hvy Navajo Perry Shorty Coin Slvr Bracelet W/repousseVintage Harry Morgan Navajo Turquoise And Sterling Cuff Bracelet No ResreveBeautiful Navajo Sterling Silver Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Row Bracelet - SignedVintage Zuni Indian Carved Turquoise Kachina Bear Bird Fetish Bead Long NecklaceVntg Zuni C. Peyketewa Turquoise 3 Segment Necklace W/danglesSigned Vintage Navajo Solid Sterling Silver & Lime Turquoise Toggle BraceletVintage Native American Indian Sterling Silver Turquoise Cuff BraceletVintage Old Navajo Indian Silver Buffalo Head Liberty Nickel Coin Cuff Bracelet Vibrant Wide Zuni Mosaic Inlay Knifewing BraceletVintage~navajo~sterling~blue Gem Turquoise~squash Blossom Necklace~430 Grams!Vintage Silver Stamped Hand Made Bead Necklave - NavajoVintage Navajo H. Spencer Sterling Silver Turquoise Row Cuff Bracelet | G OVtg Navajo Stamped Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Chip Inlay Cuff Bracelet | GNavajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Chip Inlay Bacelet Tommy Singer | Rs Fine Vintage Zuni Needle Point High Grade Turquoise Sterling Dangle EarringsLarge Old Pawn Vintage Navajo Sterling Gem Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceVintage 1950's Navajo Pawn *blue Gem* Turquoise & Sterling Silver Cuff BraceletVintage Heavy Navajo Wide Silver Bracelt Cuff With Awesome Stamp Work PatternVintage Sterling Silver Navajo Pearls Saucer Beads NecklaceStunning Navajo Jimmy Poyer Kachina Inlay Belt BuckleVintage Navajo Turquise And Silver Earrings With Green Tone TurquoiseLovely Two Strand Graduated Lapis Stone Necklace - Santo DomingoImpressive Large Hopi Bracelet - HallmarkedVintage Old Navajo Green Turquoise Necklace With Leaf Ornamentation Unsigned

Recent News: Native American Jewelry

Source: Google News

Gun and collectible show in Ruidoso not just for men
Ruidoso News, August 28th

Women will find a variety of Native American jewelry, home decor, clothing and collectibles. Since its inception in 1999, the group has contributed more than $170,000 to Lincon County charities including $65,000 for Lincoln County scholarships and $16...Read more

Man arrested in burglary of Peak 6 Adventure Store south of Forks
Peninsula Daily, August 27th

Several thousands of dollars' worth of high-end camping and hiking gear and Native American jewelry was taken during the burglary of the outdoors store at 4883 Upper Hoh Road. A small fire that had been set in the business burned out before causing any ...Read more

Suspect in Forks Peak 6 Adventure store burglary, arson is arrested
Port Townsend Leader, August 27th

Several thousand dollars of high end camping and hiking gear, as well as Native American jewelry, were taken during the burglary, according to the release. A small fire had been set in the business which burned out before causing any major damage...Read more

At the Galleries
Green 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

Livingston Manor plans Labor Day festival, parade
Times Herald-Record, August 21st

The party continues till 4 p.m with old-fashioned children's games and prizes, children's crafts, and vendors including the colonial-style gifts from Fort Delaware, Naomi's Dolls, Manor Ink, Native American Jewelry by Jim Red Fox Sarles, wildlife...Read more

Valley Briefs
Valley Roadrunner, August 20th

Valley Center Trails Association in conjunction with Friends of Hellhole Canyon Preserve will offer a Guided Evening Stargazing program on Saturday, Sept. 6 beginning at 7 p.m. The event, held at Hellhole Canyon Preserve, will host an expert guide to...Read more

New Indian arts group trying to 'do something different'
Albuquerque Journal, August 14th

“Maybe they would be medium-specific,” he said of such exhibits, mentioning that Germans seem to particularly like Plains Indian beadwork, while the Japanese are keen on Native American jewelry. “The longterm plan is for IFAM to go global,” Agoyo said...Read more

Pala Indians to put on powwow
U-T San Diego (press release) (registration) (blog), August 13th

Arts and crafts booths will sell Native American jewelry, beadwork, art and souvenirs. Powwow gates open 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The grand entry is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 22, 1 and 8 p.m. Aug. 23 and 1 p.m. Aug. 24. Bird...Read more