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

Visual Aid: Door County galleries and museums
Green Bay Press Gazette, September 1st

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

SilverTribe.com Unveils New Collection Of Native American Zuni Jewelry
Benzinga, August 31st

This skill of toiling with their hands has been passed on and translated into silversmithing some of the most unique Native American jewelry. SilverTribe.com reveals a recently acquired collection of Zuni jewelry that showcases their techniques and...Read more

Exhibits highlight art by American Indians
Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 29th

The people of the Santo Domingo Pueblo have the longest Native American jewelry-making tradition. They still make their jewelry using the traditional methods and many of the same materials used by their ancestors. The pueblo's thunderbird jewelry, made ...Read more

Native American Culture Reaches Couture Status
Benzinga, August 28th

As these styles reach end consumers and with Native American jewelry readily available online, the First Nations influence is strong and there is little sign of slowing down. View authentic Native American jewelry at NativeAmericanJewelry.com...Read more

Native Treasures
Cowboys and Indians, August 23rd

Great news for lovers of Native American jewelry: In June, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe opened a new permanent exhibition in two galleries. The Wheelwright's first major expansion in its 78-year history, the Center for the...Read more

Santa Fe Indian Market: 2015 award winners announced
Examiner.com, August 21st

Santa Fe Indian Market announced this year's Best of Show, Best of Class and special award winners in a variety of classifications today. For 94 year's Santa Fe Indian Market has awarded Best of Show winners to the nation's most exceptional artists in...Read more

Native American Group Show Opening Reception
Weekly Alibi, August 12th

Sorrel Sky opens its Native American Group Show featuring 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 ...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