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
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New Line of Native American Pottery Arrives From Acoma Tribe | BenzingaBenzinga, July 27th
About NativeAmericanJewelry.com NativeAmericanJewelry.com is an online leader in Native American jewelry and accessories. To contact Steven Onida and NativeAmericanJewelry.com, call 1-888-659-2164 or email support(at)NativeAmericanJewelry(dot) ...Read more
Prophecy: The Apostolic Mantle Is Coming on First Nations People — Charisma NewsCharisma News, July 26th
Traveling across the state to take in some canyon views, we pulled into a park that hosted several craft stands with Native American jewelry and other items. I walked over and was looking at all the beautiful pieces when something deep inside of me...Read more
Sorrel Sky Gallery Hosts Native American Group Show During Santa Fe Indian MarketVirtual-Strategy Magazine (press release) (registration) (blog), July 21st
Sorrel Sky Gallery in Santa Fe opens its Native American Group Show on Thursday, August 20, with a reception for the artists from 5:00 to 7:30pm. The show presents new works by contemporary Native American jewelry artists Ben Nighthorse, Ray Tracey, ...Read more
Man arrested in Santa Fe jewelry theftKRQE News 13, July 9th
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Police have arrested a man accused of stealing hundreds of rare pieces of Native American jewelry from a Santa Fe woman. Police say the suspect, Thomas Barka, is the husband of the manager of the Extra Space Storage Facility ...Read more
Police search for suspects in Santa Fe Native American jewelry theftAlbuquerque Journal, July 9th
Police are investigating the theft of pieces of Native American jewelry that are turning up in Albuquerque pawn shops. KRQE-TV reports 400 pieces of Santa Fean Joan Caballero's collection, some more than a century old, were taken from a storage locker ...Read more
Man seeks justice year after $50K jewelry theftKOAT Albuquerque, June 30th
Last year, someone took $50,000 worth of Native American jewelry from Eason Eige's home. “I was burgled to the tune of many thousands, tens of thousands of dollars,” Eige said. Police said Michael Lucero admitted to stealing 50 pieces of jewelry and ...Read more
Wheelwright Museum opens its first gallery devoted to Native American jewelryAlbuquerque Journal, June 13th
People look at Native American jewelry on display in the Martha Hopkins Struever Gallery at the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal). A tufa-cast silver bracelet by Preston Monongye (Hopi) with a serpent design in turquoise...Read more
Overstock, Sears Sell Bogus Native American Jewelry: SuitLaw360 (subscription), May 18th
Law360, Chicago (May 18, 2015, 1:31 PM ET) -- Overstock.com Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp. were accused on Friday of falsely marketing jewelry as handcrafted by Native Americans, becoming the latest retail giants to be sued in recent weeks for violating...Read more