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

Melissa Jo Downing
Newton Daily News, December 18th

She enjoyed horses, pets, going back to Ottumwa to hunt with her father, outdoor activities, leather crafts and Native American jewelry. Missy is survived by her parents, JoAnne Downing of Ottumwa, Larry (Sandy) Downing of Ottumwa; siblings, Mike...Read more

Annual Native American Fine Arts Festival offers taste and texture of tradition
newszap.com, December 17th

Artwork – traditional and contemporary Native American jewelry, pottery, basketry, weaving, katsinas, painting, beadwork and more – are original handcrafted creations using traditional materials. To be considered, each artist must provide proof of...Read more

10 enticing Phoenix boutiques for great holiday gifts
azcentral.com, December 12th

Susan Murphy, an expert in Southwest decor and Native American jewelry, offers informal appraisals here each Saturday. While you're in the area, it's a quick drive north to Fifth Avenue and Scottsdale Road in Old Town Scottsdale to peruse turquoise...Read more

Bejeweled Second Friday in E-town extends to Saturday
LancasterOnline, December 12th

15 E. High St., with vintage, antique jewelry and button rings. Also Turquoise Bear Trading Post, 21 S. Market St., vintage and new Native American jewelry; Mayita's Boutique, 1 S. Market St., work by Mayita Hoyos; and Shoppes on Market, 206 S...Read more

Craft events attract hundreds of holiday shoppers
Athens Messenger, December 8th

The annual Native American jewelry sale was also held over the weekend at the Kennedy Museum of Art. The sale is organized by Meg Toomey, one of the owners of White's Mill. Toomey said the sale has been happening for approximately 15 years...Read more

23rd Annual Native American Fine Arts Festival Comes to Litchfield Park, Jan ...
Broadway World, December 2nd

Artwork -- traditional and contemporary Native American jewelry, pottery, basketry, weaving, katsinas, painting, beadwork and more -- are original handcrafted creations using traditional materials. To be considered, each artist must provide proof of...Read more

Navajo jewelry glitters in New York
Al Jazeera America, November 28th

Glittering World challenges visitors to appreciate Native American jewelry design as a form of Native American expression and a form of fine art, said Kevin Gover, director of Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and a member of the ...Read more

Coyote Impressions celebrates 2 decades
YourArlington.com, November 26th

While exploring the landscape on a trip to the Southwest, they met many artists and developed a passion for Native American jewelry and crafts. "We decided to try selling the treasures we discovered and named our business Coyote Impressions after our ...Read more