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

Shepherdstown shop continues donations
Shepherdstown Chronicle, April 29th

In addition to crystals, it offers a wide variety of sterling silver and natural stone jewelry; Native American jewelry, books and music; incense; sages, shells and prayer feathers; ceremonial herbs; statuary; essential oils; prayer flags and both...Read more

Metalsmith uses skills from college course, self-teaching to create jewelry
Daily Nebraskan, April 25th

“I've always been kind of a fashion girl,” Curtright said. “My mom owned a store, and my grandma has always been into Native American jewelry. It's always been a fairly prevalent thing in my house.” In years past, Curtright's mother owned “The...Read more

Made in St. Louis: Opera singer turns side job into career in fine jewelry
STLtoday.com, April 22nd

It's a long, winding story, she says, but it involves meeting the head of Tiffany & Co., a 1970s trend in Native American jewelry and a wealth of eager jewelry stores along Madison Avenue. Indian summers • At the time, Pillsbury had been spending her ...Read more

3 tips for purchasing Native American jewelry
azcentral.com, April 21st

Because we continue to see so much Native American jewelry hitting the secondary market right now, I'd like to share some tips for consumers, because the reality is, if you don't know what you're looking for, you can get duped. If you are into fashion...Read more

Why Native American Styles Are Sweeping Silver Jewelry Sales
JCK, March 30th

Sheffield makes this abundantly clear in her new Heritage collection, which features pieces from her personal collection of vintage and contemporary Native American jewelry. Rendered in sterling silver with raw Southwest turquoise, the pieces have been ...Read more

Native American Jewelry Store Owner Keeps Art Tradition Alive
Vegas Seven, February 17th

For Aaron Sidranski, a former casino executive turned Native American jewelry store owner, an epiphany struck eight years ago like a rockslide. The 37-year-old Durango High School and UNLV alum was an executive in the construction offices at MGM ...Read more

Thousands of dollars of Native American jewelry stolen from Bakersfield man's car
ABC30.com, December 25th

A wholesale jeweler in the valley for the holidays has been hit by thieves. Now he's offering a reward in hopes whoever took off with the merchandise returns it. The Fresno Police Department is looking into leads as they investigate the break-in...Read more

Three New Mexicans Charged With Selling Fake Native American Jewelry; Indian ...
Indian Country Today Media Network, October 30th

Three New Mexicans have been charged with violating a federal law that protects the artwork of traditional Native American artisans, authorities said Thursday. “The indictment announced today and yesterday's enforcement operation are not only about ...Read more