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

At the Galleries: Door County galleries and museums
Green Bay Press Gazette, January 27th

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. • MARTINEZ STUDIO AND GALLERY, 5877 Wisconsin 57, Sturgeon ...Read more

Hottest Southwest Trends for Spring Added to SilverTribe
Press Release Rocket, January 27th

The online leader in southwestern style and Native American jewelry has introduced new inventory specifically made to enhance the trendy looks of spring fashions. Coral, amber, and turquoise gemstones embedded into necklaces, earrings, rings, and more ...Read more

Next Installment of 5th Friday in Slaton This Week
EverythingLubbock.com, January 25th

fused glass artist and watercolorist Judy Robertson, mosaic artist Marsha Davis, drawings by Yvonne Greene, native American jewelry by Little Eagle, oil painter Susan Sheets, jewelry by Kelly Garry, metal artist Danny Watson, and furniture items...Read more

5th Friday Slaton Around the Square
EverythingLubbock.com, January 25th

fused glass artist and watercolorist Judy Robertson, mosaic artist Marsha Davis, drawings by Yvonne Greene, native American jewelry by Little Eagle, oil painter Susan Sheets, jewelry by Kelly Garry, metal artist Danny Watson, and furniture items...Read more

ABQ exhibits push artistic boundaries
Albuquerque Journal, January 24th

Wilson's “How the West Is One” (2012) shows two photographic versions of himself, one in a cowboy hat and vest, the other draped in Native American jewelry, his long hair tied in a ponytail. His work argues that each of us is an amalgam of both past...Read more

Community Meetings Jan. 24
Destin Log, January 23rd

David Baxter, from One Feather, Native American Jewelry and Art in Palmetto Plaza, will speak about the connection between native American art, jewelry, and music to gardens. The event is free and the public is encouraged to attend. Call 660-341-8900...Read more

Is there a market for Native American jewelry or crafts?
The Beijinger, January 22nd

I live in an area of the US where almost all of the Native American jewlery is created. I work for a number of companies that deal in Native American jewely (in specific) as well as other arts and crafts. Is there any market for this type of jewelry in...Read more

SilverTribe's 2015 Native American Inspired Jewelry Trends
PR Web (press release), December 31st

Anderson also notes that even with the runway inspired southwestern jewelry, SilverTribe still brings authentic Native American jewelry to consumers. One-of-a-kind Native American adornments are consistently being made available along with the array of ...Read more