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

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

First American Art

First American Art

The companion website to First American Art: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of American Indian Art, which… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s JewelHistory blog have been treated to her weekly (sometim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Lot 64 - Rare Lloyd Wadhams Sr Kwakiutl Northwest Coast Silver Engraved BraceletHeavy Old Navajo Silver Coin Squash Blossom Necklace 382 GramsOld Pawn Vintage Navajo Lander Blue Spiderweb Turquoise Sterling Bead NecklaceMuseum Quality Navajo 5 Oval #8 Mine Turquoise Row BraceletBeautiful Unique 3 Arrows Fred Harvey Navajo Stamped Sterling Tourist Ring Sz 8Vntg Zuni 7 Turquoise Floral Pendant NecklaceVntg Heavy Wide Hopi Silver Overlay BraceletBig Old Pawn Vintage Navajo Blue Gem Turquoise Sterling Squash Blossom NecklaceLot 72 - Wonderful Old Navajo Silver Pill Box W 5 Turquoise StonesRare Aztec Mayan Apache Larry Vasquez 15 Strand Heishi Necklace63g Pretty Old Pawn "navajo Guild Marked!" Turquoise Sterling Row Cuff BraceletStunning Dead Pawn Vintage Navajo Solid Turquoise 3 Stone Sterling Cuff BraceletDogs Horses Fred Harvey Details Navajo Yellowhorse Green Turquoise Cuff BraceletGorgeous Handmade Navajo Sterling Silver & Turquoise Squash Blossom Necklace| RsVntg Zuni 4 Row Squared Turquoise Cluster BraceletOld Ingot ? Chiseled Super Primitive Fred Harvey Navajo Turquoise Cuff Bracelet Hvy Wide Navajo Ridged Slvr Bracelet W/squared TurquoiseMassive Spectacular Speckled Old Pawn Navajo Number 8 Mine Turquoise Ring Sz 8Lot 62 - Great Old Large Navajo / Hopi Silver Overlay Box W Spiderweb TurquoiseAntique Vintage Chunky Old Pawn Dead Pawn Mexico Sterling Turquoise Bracelet Old Pawn Vintage Navajo Green Turquoise Sterling Squash Blossom NecklaceSpectacular Sterling Silver Thunderbird Stamped Cuff Bracelet 66.4 GramsOld Santo Domingo Pueblo 3 Strand Hand Rolled Shell & Turquoise Heishi Necklace Strong Vintage Navajo Sterling Silver & Natural Turquoise Cuff Bracelet ”Museum Piece Super Rare Lee Mary Weebothee Zuni Coral Sterling Pendant NecklaceMuseum Vintage Navajo ""tubule"" Sterling Silver Bead NecklaceBold Navajo H+v Thompson Sterling Silver Raised Turquoise Inlay Cuff Bracelet |gSweet Small Wrist Thunderbird Harvey Era Navajo Repousse Rescue Cuff BraceletEarly Navajo Leather Belt W/classic Cast Silver BuckleOld Elegant Navajo Cast Slvr Belt Buckle W/two TurquoiseVery Large Old Pawn Navajo Turquoise Slab Sterling Belt BuckleVntg Zuni Mosaic Inlay Knifewing PinLarge Old Pawn Vtg Navajo Hand Forged Stamped Heavy Sterling Men's Cuff BraceletLarge Old Pawn 30s Natural Turquoise Hand Hammered Ingot 925 Silver Bracelet Nr2" Old Dead Pawn Exotic Royston Spiderweb Turquoise Gold Flecked Matrix PendantLot 65 - Unusual Old Navajo Silver Box W Stamped LidVintage Navajo -roie Jaque-gorgeous Turquoise Bead Necklace Old Pawn Red Bisbee ? Spiderweb Blue Turquoise Inlay Navajo Row Cuff BraceletLarge Old Boulder Spiderweb Vintage Dead Pawn Navajo Royston Turquoise Ring Sz8Vintage Navajo Heavy Blue Bisbee Turquoise And Silver Bracelet 78 Gms Great!!Massive 172g Museum Vintage Navajo Spider Web Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceLot 3 Vintage Navajo Silver Bracelets Vntg Hvy Navajo Cast Slvr Interwoven Oval BraceletOld Pueblo Turquoise Heishi Jacla W/white Shell CentersVintage Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Inlay Sandcast Pawn Cuff Bracelet 49.6gVntg Kiowa Sterling Silver Turquoise Heishi BraceletVintage 1960's Navajo Old Pawn Stamped Solid Sterling Silver Ingot Cuff BraceletVtg Hopi Larry Polivema Sterling Silver Eagle Dancer Kachina Overlay Bolo Tie |gGreen Turquoise Old Fred Harvey Repousse Navajo Early 30's Cuff BraceletOrnate Old Navajo Sterling Silver & Natural Green Turquoise Bracelet Native American Pawn Turquoise Heavy Sterling Silver Navajo 17 Row Cuff BraceletVintage Old Pawn Navajo Gem Mint Amazing Spider Web Turquoise Bolo Tie SlideSterling Silver - Navajo Don Lucas Turquoise Squash Blossom 6g - Pendant Gs9311Old Pawn Navajo Vintage Turquoise & Coral Ornate Women's Designed Cuff BraceletVery Rare Vintage Navajo ""gaspeite & Coral"" Silver BraceletHuge Old Pawn Vintage Navajo Joseph Quiox Turquoise Cora Sterling Cuff BraceletHuge Old Pawn Navajo Zuni Rainbowman Kachina Turquoise Inlay Silver Bolo TieLarge Old Pawn 1930s Zuni Green Blue Turquoise 925 Silver Cluster Bracelet NrVintage Hopi Silver Overlay Bracelet With Intricate Pattern Huge Vintage Navajo Indian Mens Silver Turquoise Double Faux Bear Claw Bracelet

Recent News: Native American Jewelry

Source: Google News

At the Galleries
Green Bay Press Gazette, September 22nd

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. • LILY BAY POTTERY, 3450 N. Lake Michigan Drive, Sturgeon Bay...Read more

Folk Life Festival to show how people lived in earlier generations
Quincy Herald Whig, September 19th

New this year is White Feather and Rolling Bear Originals, which is bringing Native American jewelry, beads and leather work, paintings and regalia. The Palmyra Heritage Seekers will be on hand to talk about historic preservation and activities going...Read more

Antique shows set in Indian Lake, Blue Mountain Lake
DenPubs, September 18th

sensibility – including camp, cottage, Mission, and Old Hickory furniture; historical fine art, folk art, and rustic art; rare books; vintage boats; hunting and fishing antiques; antlers; taxidermy; quilts; militaria; oriental rugs; Native American...Read more

Rafter 6 Antiques
KFDA, September 17th

Rafter 6 Antiques and More is a small mall with items from different venders. It is known for its oil and gas signs and western collectibles. They buy and sell through the internet and also pick up and price items. See Facebook for the latest additions...Read more

50 for fall: Upcoming concerts, shows, festivals and events in the valley
The Desert Sun, September 8th

Oct. 11: Dinner in the Canyons, featuring Native entertainment and live auction of handcrafted Native American jewelry, art and other items, 5:30 p.m., Andreas Canyon, Palm Springs. $300. (760) 833-8167. Oct. 11: The Experience Hendrix Tour, a musical ...Read more

Off the grid in Taos, NM
Los Angeles Times, September 5th

gifts and accessories; Chocolate + Cashmere, which has homemade chocolates in flavors such as lavender and honey, plus cashmere hats, socks and baby booties; and Coyote Moon, which offers colorful Mexican folk art and Native American jewelry...Read more

Cruise offers up artful variety
The Trinity Journal, September 3rd

As the wife of George “Walking Bear has Two Eagles” Gillette, she learned the craft of beading Native American jewelry. As Marie and George traveled around the country working with Native American communities her intricate creations became more and ...Read more

Gun and collectible show in Ruidoso not just for men
Ruidoso News, August 28th

Women will find a variety of Native American jewelry, home decor, clothing and collectibles. Since its inception in 1999, the group has contributed more than $170,000 to Lincon County charities including $65,000 for Lincoln County scholarships and $16...Read more