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

Skip the mall, head to Carefree Fine Art of the Southwest Festival on Black Friday
azcentral.com, November 25th

There is nothing else quite like it in Arizona,” says Roberta Toombs-Rechlin, owner of Magic Bird Festivals, which puts on this event. More than 100 artisans will have their work on display throughout the 4-acre gardens. Items such as Native American...Read more

Palabras Pinturescas: Native American jewelry part of family's history
Las Vegas Optic, November 22nd

Life is always brighter here when my youngest granddaughter, a helicopter pilot, drops in for a visit. She has flown at least 300 hours in a helicopter fighting forest fires in California, and now she, her machine, and crew move to Colorado to do game...Read more

Is Native American jewelry coming back in style?
azcentral.com, November 19th

A trend I have noticed of late is the return of value in regards to Native American jewelry. And I mean the “good stuff.” Squash blossom necklaces, silversmith artisan cuff bracelets, mid-century inspired Zuni and Navajo rings, and the list goes on...Read more

Feds, state raid Calistoga jewelry store
Napa Valley Register, November 4th

The Golden Bear jewelry store on Lincoln Avenue has been closed since federal agents raided it on Oct. 28. An ongoing investigation alleges the representation and sale of Native American jewelry that is not genuine. The pieces were made in the...Read more

Tips to avoid fake Native American jewelry
KOAT Albuquerque, November 2nd

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —After federal authorities charged three people with selling fake Native American jewelry across New Mexico, Action 7 News asked reputable vendors how to spot fake jewelry. Warpath Traders is one of many Albuquerque shops that ...Read more

Federal authorities charge three for selling fake Native American jewelry
Examiner.com, October 31st

Fake Native American jewelry is sold on websites like eBay. And in May 2015, a Native American group sued Walmart for falsely marketing jewelry as made by “Native American craftsmen.” The group claimed that Walmart continued to advertise the jewelry as ...Read more

Three New Mexicans Charged With Selling Fake Native American Jewelry; Indian ...
Indian Country Today Media Network, October 30th

Three New Mexicans have been charged with violating a federal law that protects the artwork of traditional Native American artisans, authorities said Thursday. “The indictment announced today and yesterday's enforcement operation are not only about ...Read more

3 charged with selling fake Native American jewelry
KOB.com, October 29th

Ali is the owner of two jewelry stores, Gallery 8 and Galleria Azul, in Old Town that purport to specialize in the sale of Native American jewelry. Bowen was formerly employed as a store manager by Ali. Ali was arrested in Albuquerque Wednesday and...Read more