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    

Stunning Zuni Turquoise Squash Blossom Necklace W/najaEarly C.1920's Navajo Ingot Silver Bracelet W/turquoiseEarly 1900s Pueblo Dragonfly Cross3 Old Early Primitive Navajo Stamped Silver Turquoise Bracelet Tourist Era LotMassive Old Pawn Navajo Bracelet Natural Morenci Turquoise Sterling SilverNice Old Pawn Vintage Navajo Green Turquoise Sterling Cuff Bracelet SignedVntg Huge Pueblo 6 Squared Blue Gem Turquoise Cross Pendant34g Incredible Old Old Old Vintage Pawn Navajo Turquoise Row Cuff Bracelet32g Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver High Grade Bisbee Turquoise Ring Sz 10.25Signed Navajo Tim Bedah Solid 14k Gold Morenci Turquoise Foliate PendantEarly 1950's Vintage Navajo ""concho Belt"" Silver BraceletVtg Packard's Of Santa Fe Sterling Silver Dragonfly Squash Blossom Necklace | J Gorgeous Handmade Navajo Sterling Silver & Turquoise Necklace Signed Mc | RsZuni Sterling Silver Turquoise Kachina Cuff Bracelet Mary & Olson Leekity ”Old Pawn Handmade Zuni Sterling Silver & Natural Turquoise Cuff Bracelet | RsHvy Navajo Anthony Bowman Tufacast Silver Turquoise BraceletVintage Heavy Handmade Silver Link NecklaceVintage Sterling Silver Navajo Native American Squash Blossom Necklace 69.3gVintage Navajo Sterling Silver Old Pawn Large Spiderweb Royston Turquoise RingEarly Fred Harvey Navajo Silver & Turquoise Thunderbird Key Fob Necklace PendantVintage Native American Navajo Coral Sterling Silver Larger Pill BoxVntg Navajo Hvy Wide Petrified Wood Bracelet W/silverworkLrg Old Pawn Navajo Handmade Sterling Carved Royston Turquoise Cuff Bracelet JOld Vintage Pawn Angelic Ethereal Blue Turquoise Cuff BraceletNative American Sterling Tommy Singer Turquoise Western Charms Charm Bracelet Vintage Navajo - Marcella James- Necklace And Earrings Set Signed Navajo Old Pawn Large Sterling Silver Stamped *morenci* Turquoise RingVintage Navajo Sterling Silver Old Pawn Graduated Round Bead Necklace 15.5" 25gVintage Navajo Old Pawn Green Turquoise Sterling Silver Men's Ring Sz 11Vintage Native American Sand Cast Sterling Silver Turquoise Cuff BraceletAntique Old Pawn 1910+ Navajo Hammered *silver* 90%+ Cuff Bracelet ~peace~designMuseum Vintage Navajo Harcross Turquoise Silver BraceletHuge Vintage Handmade Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Ring Signed "tt" Sz 8 | JLg Rare Vintage Walter Vandever Navajo Kachina Sterling Squash Blossom NecklaceHuge Signed Navajo Wild Horse & Blue Turquoise Turtle Cuff Bracelet WesternStunning Vtg Zuni Dishta Sterling Silver Flush Turquoise Inlay Cuff Bracelet ”Vint Navajo Robert Platero Sterling Saucer Beadsturquoise Slab Pendant 140 GramsSuperior Vintage Navajo ""hand Wrought"" Silver Bead NecklaceLarge 3.5" Rescue Old Old Dead Pawn Zuni Green Blue Turquoise PendantHuge Lot 33 Native American Sterling Silver Rings Old Pawn Turquoise All Wear!!Vintage Navajo Sandcast Silver And Turquoise Cross NecklaceOld Pawn Sterling Silver Turquoise Naja & Beads Necklace Native American N34Ellen Quandelacy Eq Zuni Old Pawn Turquoise 3-pc Necklace Set Native American 27Squash Blossom Necklace Old Pawn Vintage Signed SouthwesternVtg Old Pawn Navajo Pearl Graduated Stamped Bench Bead Sterling Silver Necklace Vintage Lot Of 3 Navajo Turquoise Shell Sterling Silver Heishi Beaded NecklaceLarge Kewa Charlene Sanchez Reano Inlay Shell EarringsVery Old Coin Graduated Silver BeadsNavajo Sterling Silver Harvey Stamped Thunderbird Snakes Turquoise Cuff BraceletOld Pawn Navajo Hand Stamped Sterling Silver & Petrified Wood Cuff Bracelet |gVintage 1960's Navajo Solid Sterling Silver Hand Stamped Carinated Cuff BraceletStunning Navajo Sterling Silver & Multi-stone Inlay Link Bracelet Ray Tracey ”Old Pawn Navajo Handmade Sterling Silver Green & Blue Turquoise Cuff Bracelet JAntique 1930's Navajo Old Pawn Solid Sterling Silver Ingot Beaded Cuff BraceletVintage Signed Navajo Foliate Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Pendant Ring LotHopi Sterling Silver Indian Mountain Turquoise Pendant Ramona Loloma Poleyma |rsVntg Native American? Sterling Silver Belt Buckle Set W/ Ranger Belt No ReserveLarge Heavy Vintage Old Pawn Navajo Nugget Raw Kingman Turquoise 20" NecklaceCharming Rare Vintage Walter Vandever Navajo Kachina Sterling Dangle EarringsVery Large Vintage Navajo Easter Blue Turquoise Bracelet

Recent News: Native American Jewelry

Source: Google News

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK: DA CLAUDIO
Tribeca Citizen, November 27th

11/25: Le District restaurant to open soon. Plus: Tribeca Film Festival might settle uptown; mulling potential change at the North Cove Marina; another FiDi tower; People's sexiest chef; Native American jewelry. ••• 11/26: Inside Beyoncé and Jay Z's...Read more

At the Galleries: Door County galleries and museums
Green Bay Press Gazette, November 25th

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

Market unveils Native American work
Castleton Spartan, November 19th

If you are looking for a cultural experience or the perfect set of turquoise earrings, there is no better place to visit than the Santa Fe Plaza; home to the Palace of the Governors. Thought to be one of the oldest government buildings in the nation...Read more

New Briefs: Unearthed Atari games bring in big bucks
KRQE News 13, November 13th

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Native American jewelry from New Mexico will be catching the eyes of New Yorkers this holiday season. The National Museum of the American Indian will be showcasing Navajo jewelry in a new exhibit called Glittering World...Read more

UNR honors Native American culture
UNR The Nevada Sagebrush (subscription) (blog), November 10th

Saundra Mitrovich, outreach and retention coordinator for the Center for Student Cultural Diversity, makes earrings using beads during an activity for National Native American Heritage Month at the Center on Nov. 4. The Center will continue to host...Read more

Four Winds Gallery marks 40 years in Shadyside
Pittsburgh Post Gazette, November 7th

Father and son Gene and Mike Waddell specialize in collector-quality Native American jewelry at their gallery founded 75 years ago. Mr. Foutz, a fifth-generation trading post owner, is considered an expert on Navajo weavings, jewelry, pottery and culture...Read more

Dance, song, culture and food spice Social Pow-Wow
Standard-Examiner, November 1st

The Pow-Wow also featured for sale some traditional Native American jewelry and food, including an American frank wrapped in made-from-scratch Indian fry bread. Students from the Clearfield Job Corps culinary arts program were on hand preparing and ...Read more

GRAND JURY Q&A
STLtoday.com, September 3rd

Premier seller of Native American jewelry and arts and direct reservation buyers for 46 years, this family owned business has been bringing authentic arts to the public across the U.S. since 1968. Coming to the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel & Conference...Read more