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

Man arrested in burglary of Peak 6 Adventure Store south of Forks.
Peninsula Daily, August 27th

Several thousands of dollars' worth of high-end camping and hiking gear and Native American jewelry was taken during the burglary of the outdoors store at 4883 Upper Hoh Road. A small fire that had been set in the business burned out before causing any ...Read more

Suspect arrested in burglary of Forks store
Peninsula Daily, August 27th

Several thousands of dollars' worth of high-end camping and hiking gear and Native American jewelry was taken during the burglary of the outdoors store at 4883 Upper Hoh Road. A small fire that had been set in the business burned out before causing any ...Read more

Suspect in Forks Peak 6 Adventure store burglary, arson is arrested
Port Townsend Leader, August 27th

Several thousand dollars of high end camping and hiking gear, as well as Native American jewelry, were taken during the burglary, according to the release. A small fire had been set in the business which burned out before causing any major damage...Read more

At the Galleries
Green Bay Press Gazette, August 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

Livingston Manor plans Labor Day festival, parade
Times Herald-Record, August 21st

The party continues till 4 p.m with old-fashioned children's games and prizes, children's crafts, and vendors including the colonial-style gifts from Fort Delaware, Naomi's Dolls, Manor Ink, Native American Jewelry by Jim Red Fox Sarles, wildlife...Read more

Valley Briefs
Valley Roadrunner, August 20th

Valley Center Trails Association in conjunction with Friends of Hellhole Canyon Preserve will offer a Guided Evening Stargazing program on Saturday, Sept. 6 beginning at 7 p.m. The event, held at Hellhole Canyon Preserve, will host an expert guide to...Read more

New Indian arts group trying to 'do something different'
Albuquerque Journal, August 14th

“Maybe they would be medium-specific,” he said of such exhibits, mentioning that Germans seem to particularly like Plains Indian beadwork, while the Japanese are keen on Native American jewelry. “The longterm plan is for IFAM to go global,” Agoyo said...Read more

Pala Indians to put on powwow
U-T San Diego (press release) (registration) (blog), August 13th

Arts and crafts booths will sell Native American jewelry, beadwork, art and souvenirs. Powwow gates open 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The grand entry is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 22, 1 and 8 p.m. Aug. 23 and 1 p.m. Aug. 24. Bird...Read more