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 Zuni Hndmde Slvr Bead/turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceSigned Large Navajo American Indian Sterling Silver & Turquoise Cuff Bracelet NrVntg Wide Navajo Fred Harvey Era Stamped Silver BraceletOld Navajo Stamped #8 Mine Turquoise Row BraceletHuge Lot 26 Vtg Native American Sterling Silver Rings Turquoise++ Wear Not ScrapLot 74 - Great Old 24" Navajo Or Hopi Handmade Silver Chain NecklaceLot 73 - Heavy Old 30 1/2" Navajo Or Hopi Handmade Silver Chain Necklace Vintage Turquoise & Sterling Silver Bead Necklace - Awesome And Old Early Navajo Rectangular Blue Gem Turquoise Wire BraceletLarge Begay Navajo American Indian Sterling Silver & Turquoise Cuff Bracelet NrVintage Old Pawn Navajo Gem Grade Turquoise & Sterling Squash Blossom NecklaceVntg Navajo 7 Blue Gem Mine Turquoise Cluster Bracelet26g Old Pawn Navajo Ingot Silver Red Mountain Spiderweb Turquoise Ring Sz 10.5 Old Classic Navajo Cerrillos Mine Turquoise Ring188 Grams Old Pawn Navajo Turquoise & Sterling Jewelry Lot Vintage 70s 80s3 Antique Handmade Navajo American Indian Sterling Silver & Stone Bracelets NrVtg Old Pawn Navajo Santo Domingo Green Royston Turquoise 15" Choker NecklaceOld Pawn Vintage Navajo Sterling Handmade Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceHeavy Huge Vintage Old Pawn Zuni Dishta Flush Turquoise Sterling Inlay BraceletVntg Navajo Vivian Barbone 3 Spiderwebbed Turquoise BraceletOld Pawn Vintage Navajo Sterling Double Row Petit Point Turquoise BraceletVintage Zuni American Indian Silver Inlaid Turquoise Sterling BraceletC. 3 Vintage Sterling Silver Handmade Navajo Indian Turquoise Rings, NrBig Vintage Navajo *signed* Sterling Silver Candelaria Spiderweb Turquoise RingA. 3 Vintage 1950s Sterling Silver Handmade Turquoise Green Stone Rings, NrMuseum Vintage Navajo ""cim Butte"" Natural Turquoise Silver Bracelet Old Vtg Cu19g Big Navajo Sterling Silver 14k Gold #8 Spiderweb Turquoise Mens Ring Sz 11.5Big Long Old Pawn Zuni Dishta Inlay Turquoise Ring Sz 8Outstanding Vintage Old Pawn Jock Favour Turquoise Cuff Bracelet - 70 GramsFred Harvey Thunderbird Cuff Pawn Antique Navajo Native Green Turquoise SterlingLot 3 Vintage Navajo Handmade 925 Sterling Silver Turquoise Rings | J BxAntique Navajo American Indian Sterling #8 - Navada Turquoise Statement Necklace Elegant Hvy Wide Navajo Stamped Chiseled Ridged BraceletLot 3 Vintage Navajo Handmade 925 Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Rings | J BxLarge Vintage Signed Navajo Kingman Turquoise 925 Silver Squash Blossom NecklaceFred Harvey Turquoise Cuff Pawn Antique Navajo Native American Green Sterling B. 3 Vintage 1950s Sterling Silver Handmade Turquoise Rings, Various Sizes, NrVintage Navajo Cc 925 Sterling Silver 5.25" Lucky 7 Turquoise Gem Cuff BraceletOld Fred Harvey Stamped Sterling Silver Turquoise Thunderbird Arrows Ring Sz 6.5Fred Harvey Turquoise Cuff Pawn Vintage Navajo Native American Green Sterling Vntg Pueblo Turquoise & Handmade Silver Bead NecklaceNavajo Vintage By Spencer Sterling Silver Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceVintage Signed Navajo Pearls Stamped Sterling Silver Graduating Bead NecklaceDead Pawn~navajo~sterling Silver~royston Turquoise~squash Blossom NecklaceVntg Navajo Stamped Slvr Red Petrified Wood BraceletEarly Small Navajo Harvey Era Silver Thunderbird PendantOld Pawn Zuni Cuff Bracelet Turquoise Petitpoint Native Sterling Silver AntiqueVintage Navajo Hand Stamped Sterling Silver Turquoise Butterfly Pin | J LVintage~navajo~teddy Goodluck~sterling Silver~turquoise~squash Blossom NecklaceOld Pawn~navajo~sterling Silver~cerrillos Turquoise~squash Blossom NecklaceQuality Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver & 5 Stone Turquoise Bracelet!!Vintage Navajo Graduated Sterling Silver 55 Pearl Bead Stamped Necklace No ResBig Old Navajo Will Denetdale Sterling Royston Boulder Turquoise Mens Ring Sz 11Vintage Navajo Sterling Royston Turquoise Beads Brown Heishi NecklaceVntg Navajo Bisbee Mine Turquoise Row BraceletHuge Fancy Old Pawn Vintage Navajo Turquoise Sterling Silver Cross PendantOld Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Matrix Natural Turquoise Cuff Bracelet WesternLot 4 Vintage Navajo Handmade 925 Sterling Silver Turquoise Rings | J BxFred Harvey Era Native American Stamped Sterling Silver Thunderbird Arrow FobSigned Vintage Hopi Pawn Sterling Silver & Turquoise Watch Tips Very Thick & Big

Recent News: Native American Jewelry

Source: Google News

New Line of Native American Pottery Arrives From Acoma Tribe | Benzinga
Benzinga, July 27th

About NativeAmericanJewelry.com NativeAmericanJewelry.com is an online leader in Native American jewelry and accessories. To contact Steven Onida and NativeAmericanJewelry.com, call 1-888-659-2164 or email support(at)NativeAmericanJewelry(dot) ...Read more

Prophecy: The Apostolic Mantle Is Coming on First Nations People — Charisma News
Charisma News, July 26th

Traveling across the state to take in some canyon views, we pulled into a park that hosted several craft stands with Native American jewelry and other items. I walked over and was looking at all the beautiful pieces when something deep inside of me...Read more

Sorrel Sky Gallery Hosts Native American Group Show During Santa Fe Indian Market
Virtual-Strategy Magazine (press release) (registration) (blog), July 21st

Sorrel Sky Gallery in Santa Fe opens its Native American Group Show on Thursday, August 20, with a reception for the artists from 5:00 to 7:30pm. The show presents new works by contemporary Native American jewelry artists Ben Nighthorse, Ray Tracey, ...Read more

Man arrested in Santa Fe jewelry theft
KRQE News 13, July 9th

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Police have arrested a man accused of stealing hundreds of rare pieces of Native American jewelry from a Santa Fe woman. Police say the suspect, Thomas Barka, is the husband of the manager of the Extra Space Storage Facility ...Read more

Police search for suspects in Santa Fe Native American jewelry theft
Albuquerque Journal, July 9th

Police are investigating the theft of pieces of Native American jewelry that are turning up in Albuquerque pawn shops. KRQE-TV reports 400 pieces of Santa Fean Joan Caballero's collection, some more than a century old, were taken from a storage locker ...Read more

Man seeks justice year after $50K jewelry theft
KOAT Albuquerque, June 30th

Last year, someone took $50,000 worth of Native American jewelry from Eason Eige's home. “I was burgled to the tune of many thousands, tens of thousands of dollars,” Eige said. Police said Michael Lucero admitted to stealing 50 pieces of jewelry and ...Read more

Wheelwright Museum opens its first gallery devoted to Native American jewelry
Albuquerque Journal, June 13th

People look at Native American jewelry on display in the Martha Hopkins Struever Gallery at the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal). A tufa-cast silver bracelet by Preston Monongye (Hopi) with a serpent design in turquoise...Read more

Overstock, Sears Sell Bogus Native American Jewelry: Suit
Law360 (subscription), May 18th

Law360, Chicago (May 18, 2015, 1:31 PM ET) -- Overstock.com Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp. were accused on Friday of falsely marketing jewelry as handcrafted by Native Americans, becoming the latest retail giants to be sued in recent weeks for violating...Read more