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
Jewelry, moccasins best sellers at Native American Trading Co.Hannibal.net, March 7th
The store's website is nativeamericantrading.com and the email is firstname.lastname@example.org. The store fills special orders, O'Cheltree said, and “we buy, sell and trade jewelry. People want to sell old Native American jewelry. We display it...Read more
Exploring Fredricksburg: Main Street offers wining, dining, shopping, moreThe Fort Hood Sentinel, March 5th
My personal favorites are Der Kochen Laden, full of every single thing ever thought of for all things cooking, grilling and food in general – much of it imported; Fredericksburg Jewelers, which is full of Native American jewelry and other hand-crafted...Read more
MFA extends hours for Art in Bloom 2014Tampa Bay Newspapers, March 4th
The former, with more than 100 works, extends from pre-Hispanic pottery to paintings from the twenty-first century, along with exquisite, contemporary Native American jewelry. The 36 choice photographs by the American master Aaron Siskind will be on...Read more
SilverTribe Offering Dramatic Deals and Discounts on Jewelry to Celebrate MarchPR Web (press release), March 1st
However, though recognized as a trend-setter in the world of both Native American jewelry and fashion jewelry, SilverTribe remains committed to spreading the message of what these remarkable works of art represent. SilverTribe prides itself on its...Read more
Native American Speaker Bill Leonard Visits Sierra Foothill Charter SchoolSierra Sun Times, February 21st
SFCS-mr-leonard-002. Bill Leonard brought in a selection of his Native American jewelry, herbs, instruments, dancing regalia, and other interesting artifacts. SFCS-mr-leonard-005 SFCS-mr-leonard-009. He spoke about all the items and showed them to the ...Read more
Americana Indian Shows Brings Native American Jewelry & Art Sale to ...STLtoday.com, February 17th
Premier seller of Native American jewelry and arts and direct reservation buyers for 46 years, this family owned business has been bringing authentic arts to the public across the U.S. since 1968. Coming to the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel & Conference...Read more
Native American exhibit on display at Museum of Fine Arts St. PetersburgBay News 9, February 10th
The museum acquired the painting from a private donor in 2009. "She is so much connected as we know to the Southwest and Abiquiu where she had her home,” said Hardin. Also in the exhibition are Native American jewelry pieces, contemporary pottery, ...Read more
Author, along with Native American artisan, to clean jewelry to draw only good ...Tribune-Review, February 6th
ArtWorks Connellsville will host a jewelry show, including a discussion of metaphysical properties of gemstones, on Saturday. Local author Ceane O'Hanlon-Lincoln and Linda Carson, a local Cherokee artisan, will present a combined pre-Valentine jewelry ...Read more