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    

Old Pawn Vtg Navajo Turquoise Sand Case Naja Silver Bench Beads Necklace PendantOld Navajo Blue Gem Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceVintage Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Large Slab Green Turquoise Solid Cuff BraceletMuseum Quality Hvy Navajo Squared Turquoise Row BraceletExquisite Zuni Mosaic Inlay Knifewing PinOld Pawn Navajo Hand Stamped Sterling Silver & Turquoise Cuff Bracelet ”Angie Cheama (b.1932) Zuni Blue Turquoise Handmade Chain Necklace 18.25" Rare Vintage Fannie Platero Navajo Sterling Silver & Lander Blue Turquoise Ring Old Navajo Turquoise Panel Dangle Earrings W/raindropsVntg Navajo F. L. Begay Unusual Cast Silver BuckleOld Pawn Vintage Navajo Turquoise Flush Old Inlay Sterling Men's Ring Size 11Old Pawn Zuni Navajo Vintage Petit Point Turquoise Sterling Dangle Post EarringsVintage Navajo Pearls Graduating Sterling Silver Turquoise Bench Bead NecklaceCast 3 Wire 54g Old Striking Green Turquoise Fred Harvey Navajo Cuff BraceletVtg Old Pawn Leonard Martza Turquoise Zuni Rainbow Man Sterling Silver Bolo TieHeavy Wide Navajo Cast Silver Bracelet W/blue TurquoiseOld Pawn Vintage Navajo Morenci Turquoise Sterling Squash Blossom NecklaceSlender Old Zuni Sterling Silver & Dot Dash Turquoise Row Bracelet Antique 1930's Navajo Old Pawn Solid Sterling Silver Ingot Carved Cuff BraceletHuge Vintage Old Pawn Navajo Pearls Graduated Bench Beads Sterling NecklaceLot 10 - Old Navajo Or Zuni Double Carinated Bracelet W TurquoiseVtg Dead Pawn Navajo Alvin & Lula Begay Raised Inlay Turquoise Sterling BraceletEcho Of The Dreamer Signed Lt Vintage Sterling Silver 52 Pc Navajo Rare Ring LotOld Pawn Navajo Dry Creek Turquoise & Coral Sterling Silver Ring Size: 7.25 -12gVintage Native American Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace Sterling Bisbee TurquoiseLrg Vtg Navajo Sterling Silver Royston Turquoise Leaf Applique Cuff Bracelet JCollectable Rare Loren Begay Vintage Navajo Turquoise Sterling Pendant NecklaceOld Pawn 1930s Navajo 925 Silver Turquoise Concho Belt Hat Band Adjustable NrVintage Old Pawn Navajo Red Mountain Turquoise Sterling Bench Bead NecklaceOld Pawn Navajo Sandcast Sterling Silver Turquoise Concho Belt & Buckle WesternVintage Sterling Silver Turquoise Bear Paw Navajo Indian Squash Blossom NecklaceLot 27 - Early 1900s Navajo Filed Ingot Silver Bracelet W StampingVintage Zuni Sterling Silver & 12 Snake-eye Turquoise Row Bracelet B NatewaOld Vintage Fred Harvey Era Thunderbird Pendant With TurquoiseStunning Navajo Uita 21 Slvr Concho Belt W/repoussed BuckleLot 11 - Incredible Old Zuni 3 Row Silver & Turquoise BraceletVintage Navajo Handamde Sterling Silver Morenchi Turquoise Cuff Bracelet J AoVintage Navajo Stamped Sterling Silver Turquoise Graduated Disc Beaded Necklace Old Pueblo 3 Strand Turquoise Heishi/tab/jaclas NecklaceVintage 1900's Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Whirling Logs Ashtray Lot PatinaVintage Navajo Hand Stamped Sterling Silver 2" Wide Cuff Bracelet | G TxOld Pawn Navajo Kingman Turquoise Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet - M -44g NrOld Pawn Vintage Navajo Turquoise Faux Bear Claw & Coral Sterling Men's Ring 9Old Pawn Navajo Royston Turquoise Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet - Jh -61.2g NrGold Navajo Spider Web Turquoise 14k Gold Ring Size: 7.5 -4.8g No ReserveLot 9 - The Best Old Navajo Handmade Heavy Silver Chain NecklaceVintage Southwestern Old Pawn Sterling Silver Navajo Stamped Bench Bead NecklaceBennie Ration Navajo Sterling Three Stone Pilot Mountain Turquoise Bracelet CuffFab Old Thunderbird Fred Harvey Navajo Turquoise Squash Blossom EarringsOld Pawn Navajo Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Inlay Sterling Cuff Bracelet -20.6g NrOld Vintage Turquoise Zuni EarringsLot 4 - The Best Bernard Dawahoya Hopi Silver Overlay Wide Cuff BraceletA+ Wow Old Pawn Southwestern Turquoise & Sterling Silver Navajo Cuff BraceletExtra Long 3" Navajo Emma Lincoln Carico Lake Turquoise Cluster Dangle EarringsOld Pawn Vintage Navajo Fred Harvey Era Petrified Wood Sterling Cuff BraceletFred Harvey Era Ingot Silver Navajo Bracelet With Fold Marks InsideBenjamin Piaso Navajo Pawn Sterling Silver & Blue Gem Turquoise Cuff BraceletVintage Navajo Sterling Silver Black Onyx Slave Bracelet Ring Set - Rare! Nr!Big Vintage Signed Navajo Indian Silver Foliate Turquoise Coral Bracelet WideOld Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver & High Grade Turquoise Ring Signed Sz 8 ”

Recent News: Native American Jewelry

Source: Google News

American Indian artifacts, art, related collectibles will be sold Nov. 8-9 at ...
ArtfixDaily, October 24th

Offered will be more than 800 lots of American Indian artifacts, art and related collectibles, spread out over the course of two days. Major categories will include Native American jewelry, hand-made baskets, rugs and weavings, beadwork, Kachina...Read more

Mesa Verde Traders Introduces New Sterling Silver Pieces
Newswire (press release), October 24th

Native American Jewelry is made in the USA. We all love affordable artwork as well as understated statement pieces that you can wear every day. Navajo craftspeople are well-known for skill in producing beautiful silver jewelry that is often adorned...Read more

How to prep your Arizona business for Super Bowl opportunity
azcentral.com, October 24th

With only a few months left until the Super Bowl in Glendale, Diane Radeke wants her Native American jewelry store in Scottsdale, Old Town Jewels, to maximize the opportunity by helping visitors find her store online. "We are a brick-and-mortar...Read more

NV 150 Events Scheduled Nevada Day Weekend
KTVN, October 22nd

Learn about Great Basin Native American history and traditions through demonstrations and workshops. See beautiful handmade traditional Native American jewelry, baskets, crafts, and gifts for sale. For more information visit www.californiatrailcenter...Read more

At the Galleries
Green Bay Press Gazette, October 21st

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

The Profiler: The Rev. Roger Bauer
SFGate (blog), October 20th

Yes, there's the motorcycle; the long hair; and the Native American jewelry, earring and nose ring. Take even a fleeting amount of time to chat with Bauer and you might be drawn in by his wide grasp of useless historical facts, his boisterous laugh, or...Read more

Beauty, condition count most in Victorian whatnot shelves
Arizona Daily Star, October 18th

Assuming that he/she wants to buy mom a piece of Native American jewelry, I figure the question really is, “Is this a good deal? Is $1,500 a good price?” First off — and I cannot stress this enough — if you don't know what you're doing, know your seller...Read more

New Native Arts Website Offers Authentic Handcrafted Art & Unique Shopping ...
Business Wire (press release), October 6th

a comprehensive biography for every artist, as well as insightful blogs from leading Native American arts experts exploring the Native American arts business, the history and style of popular forms, and current trends in Native American jewelry and...Read more