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
First American Art
Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry
Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery
Clubs & Associations
- American Society of Jewelry Historians
- Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts
- Society of Jewellery Historians
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Native American Jewelry
Source: Google News
Get ready for Bazaar DaysLeader and Times, July 21st
Carlson's Yippee Yi Yea will be having discounts on many of the store's wares, including 20 percent off storewide for everything except for Native American jewelry and then up to 70 percent off on items displayed on the sidewalk. Carlson added in the...Read more
Native Americans celebrate their culture at Drums pow-wowStandard Speaker, July 19th
The pow-wow offered an array of Native American jewelry, sun catchers and other goods for sale. And there were activities, like native dancing, drumming and two special features. Randy Overly Sinnemahoning of Cameron County, a Lakota Sue Indian, was ...Read more
Old School: Antiquing in Grand Junction5280 The Denver Magazine, July 19th
Selling everything from Native American jewelry to vintage candy bowls, "Emporium" is an apt word to describe the eclectic range of items sold at a Haggle of Vendors Emporium. The store's owner is often on site to answer questions about, say, that...Read more
Roz's Stuff boutique opens in South CapeCape Coral Daily Breeze, July 17th
The inventory features wood carvings from Morocco to the Philippines, a Sandwich Glass collection larger than the one on display in the museum in Massachusetts, some historic Boy Scout documents dated in 1937 as well as some Native American jewelry...Read more
Come to Sante Fe for a Bluegrass Weekend Aug 23-24Cybergrass Bluegrass Music News, July 17th
Located just 5 miles south of historic downtown Santa Fe, the Bluegrass & Old Time Music Festival lets you enjoy great music while giving you and your family the opportunity to browse the handcrafted Native American jewelry market, visit world-class...Read more
Southwest Passage provides tribal jewelry, regional fareSeacoastonline.com, July 15th
"My mother has been buying and selling Native American jewelry from the Southwest for over 15 years," Garland said. "We have family there and I've been going with her on buying trips and holidays since I was a little girl. We share our love of this...Read more
Carol RinehartAspen Times, July 14th
She supported husband Dixie Rinehart in his many entrepreneurial endeavors from a night club to a mail-order tipi business and a Native American jewelry store. She also held many part-time jobs throughout her life, including a jeweler's apprentice, ...Read more
ARTIST PROFILE: Jewelry artist Toos Roozen-EvansLake Placid News, June 26th
There she fell in love with traditional Native American jewelry, made with silver, coral and turquoise. Later, she married and raised a family on a horse farm in Pittstown, New Jersey, on the Delaware River. In New Jersey she made leather clothing...Read more