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

Millicent Rogers: Fashion Icon and Mistress of Reinvention
WWD, July 30th

This has become Rogers' most famous style, one that she wore as she collected the important native American jewelry, pots and textiles which her sons used to create the Millicent Rogers Museum in 1956. Known for her first-rate eye as a collector, she ...Read more

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

Acoma pottery has been dated back to more than 1,000 years ago. Using local ingredients and traditional methods, Acoma pottery is a one-of-a-kind treasure that speaks volumes of poignant history and artistry. NativeAmericanJewelry.com unveils the...Read more

Prophecy: The Apostolic Mantle Is Coming on First Nations People
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
PR Web (press release), July 21st

The show presents new works by contemporary Native American jewelry artists Ben Nighthorse, Ray Tracey, Cody Sanderson, Victoria Adams, Darryl Dean & Rebecca Begay, Shane Hendren, and Santa Clara potter Autumn Borts-Medlock. Collectively, these ...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 Native American jewelry theft
Santa Fe New Mexican, July 9th

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Police are investigating the theft of pieces of Native American jewelry that are turning up in Albuquerque pawn shops. KRQE-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1Hi5Jqi) 400 pieces of Joan Caballero's collection, some more than a century old, ...Read more

Major Native American jewelry collection stolen
KRQE News 13, July 8th

SANTA FE, ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A Santa Fe woman who's spent most of her life collecting expensive, historic Native American jewelry now needs your help. About a week ago, a thief hauled away more than 400 of Joan Caballero's rare and unique ...Read more

Wal-Mart Accused Of Selling Fake Native American Jewelry
Law360 (subscription), May 6th

The group claims that Wal-Mart has been selling the fake Native American jewelry since Jan. 2, 2013. It sent a letter to Wal-Mart in April demanding proof that the dream catcher earrings were designed and handmade by Native Americans, but Wal-Mart...Read more