Native American Jewelry

Indians made Native American Jewelry since since prehistoric times. This jewelry ranged from beads made of stone, shells, pottery and bone. Other materials used were carved whale bone and wood, teeth, walrus ivory, elk ivories, seeds and copper.

European trade goods came to the New World after the 1600s. Many sizes of glass beads originating in Europe fused into Native American jewelry. All the tribes of the Southwest viewed turquoise sacred. Mexicans, trained as silversmiths by the Spanish settlers, made contact with Navajos and Pueblo People. Thus, our beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry associated with Southwest Indians was born. The Navajo, Zuni, Hopi and Santo Domingo Pueblo developed distinct forms of jewelry from the 1800s up to now. On the East Coast and Southern Plains, tribes like the Iroquois, Osage and Kiowa worked silver in a very different styles. Europeans of the French fur trade taught them how to silversmith.

Jewelry symbolized wealth, status and personal taste. The mythology of the Navajos teaches them to adorn themselves daily with jewelry. The gods give attention to those wearing it. Blue stone, black stone, red shell, and white shell calls the attention of the gods and bring blessings. Thus, they developed large heavy pieces worn by both men and women. These pieces used the four elements of turquoise, jet or onyx, mother of pearl, and red coral or red spiny oyster shell. They wear this jewelry daily during all tasks. Special pieces are added when company arrives or they go out publicly. This is especially done for ceremonial purposes.

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