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

WINTER TEXAN BEAT: Don-Wes Flea Market owners already seeing influx of visitors
Monitor, October 9th

Jim and Debbie Fitzgerald are the owners of the Don-Wes Flea Market in Donna, where as many as 420 vendors greet local residents and Winter Texans during the fall, winter and spring seasons. Attendees can find jewelers, specialty dips, Amish food, ...Read more

This Santa Fe somm gets fired up about two passions: wine and flamenco
Wine Spectator, October 9th

There are a lot of people doing their best to make eating in Santa Fe an experience, so that people come here to dine, not just to see the great sights and buy Native American jewelry. WS: How would you characterize New Mexican cuisine? GG: New Mexican ...Read more

Native Treasures Collectors' Sale draws pieces by top Indian artists
Santa Fe New Mexican, October 8th

Levis, 73, said she and her sister had grown up on a large ranch in northeastern New Mexico, and they had coveted Native American jewelry from an early age. In fact, her father had traded thousands of grain sacks to buy concha belts for them. She's...Read more

Swindlers who posed as Native American artists pledge $100K to cultural center
Kitsap Sun, October 8th

PORT ORCHARD — Two men posing as Native American jewelry artists collecting scrap metal for a Cherokee Nation program pleaded guilty Thursday to felony impersonation charges for hustling a Bremerton boat maker in 2013 and pledged to donate ...Read more

Planned Powwow brings Native America culture back to festival
The Floyd County Times, October 5th

“They will bring in their own vendors, and be having crafts of Native American jewelry and food as well.” The event shows are tentatively scheduled for Friday at 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and again that evening at 6:00 p.m. The groups is expected to be in...Read more

Native American traditions preserved at Noxen powwow
Citizens Voice, September 28th

“I've got about 25 different nations represented here,” said Robert Schramm, co-owner of Silver Arrow Gallery from the Lehigh Valley. Schramm travels the country with his wife, Joan, to purchase authentic Native American jewelry and crafts to sell at...Read more

Morongo powwow blends culture, community
The Desert Sun, September 27th

Visitors passed by stands selling Native American jewelry, clothing and food. They also got to watch dance and drum competitions for free. “I like to watch the dancers and listen to the music,” said Dora Martinez, a Yucaipa woman who's visited the...Read more

Major Native American jewelry collection stolen
KRQE News 13, July 8th

SANTA FE, ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A Santa Fe woman who's spent most of her life collecting expensive, historic Native American jewelry now needs your help. About a week ago, a thief hauled away more than 400 of Joan Caballero's rare and unique ...Read more