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

Nickels 4 Natives
Casper Star-Tribune Online, September 29th

At Nickels 4 Natives our foremost goal is to raise compensation for the cancer victims of uranium contamination in the Four Corners area and to build a hospital in Kayenta, AZ. Currently, the only clinic in Kayenta is outdated which means people have...Read more

Clams grown in Ohio? Yes, but not served in any restaurant
The Plain Dealer - cleveland.com, September 26th

says Harvey Webster, director of wildlife resources at Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Brian Redmond, the museum's head of archeology, says the mother-of-pearl linings of shells have an ornamental and spiritual meaning in Native American jewelry...Read more

Cell phone records analyzed in murder, torture trial
TheReporter.Com, September 25th

hallway as they waited to be called back into the courtroom. Judge Wendy G. Getty admonished the jury and Cherokee for speaking to each other and they all confirmed that it was merely to discuss the origin of his unique name and Native American...Read more

Mesa Verde Traders Introduces Dry Creek Turquoise
Newswire (press release), September 23rd

About Mesa Verde Traders: For many years, Mesa Verde Traders has offered the very best in handcrafted Navajo and Native American jewelry and art work. Now, Mesa Verde has gone online to offer these exciting items to customers worldwide. Each piece is ...Read more

At the Galleries
Green Bay Press Gazette, September 22nd

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

Antique shows set in Indian Lake, Blue Mountain Lake
DenPubs, September 18th

sensibility – including camp, cottage, Mission, and Old Hickory furniture; historical fine art, folk art, and rustic art; rare books; vintage boats; hunting and fishing antiques; antlers; taxidermy; quilts; militaria; oriental rugs; Native American...Read more

50 for fall: Upcoming concerts, shows, festivals and events in the valley
The Desert Sun, September 8th

Oct. 11: Dinner in the Canyons, featuring Native entertainment and live auction of handcrafted Native American jewelry, art and other items, 5:30 p.m., Andreas Canyon, Palm Springs. $300. (760) 833-8167. Oct. 11: The Experience Hendrix Tour, a musical ...Read more

Off the grid in Taos, NM
Los Angeles Times, September 5th

gifts and accessories; Chocolate + Cashmere, which has homemade chocolates in flavors such as lavender and honey, plus cashmere hats, socks and baby booties; and Coyote Moon, which offers colorful Mexican folk art and Native American jewelry...Read more