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A Guide to Zuni Silversmiths

The evolution of Zuni silver craft is full of beauty and artistry and is the origin of some of the most intricate and sought-after pieces of jewelry in the continental United States. Find out more here about the art of Zuni silver jewelry making, particularly silversmithing, and about some of the unique characteristics of Zuni jewelry.

The Zuni People

The Zuni Native American Pueblo is situated south of Gallup New Mexico in the west near the border to Arizona. The Zuni tribe are known for their multi-level adobe dwellings, their intricate, white-slipped pottery, their fetish carvings, and their fine lapidary and silversmith work. Jewelry making is the major craft industry of the Zuni pueblo, and an authentic piece of Zuni jewelry is a beautiful addition to any serious jewelry collection.

The Rise of Zuni Silversmithing

Silversmithing gained traction as an integrated art-form in Zuni jewelry making in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Having long been experts in stone cutting and setting, the adoption of silversmithing from the Navajo in the 1870s made for exquisite jewelry crafting by Zuni artisans. Common stones used in jewelry making include abalone, mother of pearl, jet, coral, turquoise, and various colors of mother of pearl. Artisans often create jewelry and art pieces that integrate specific stories or characters.

Types of Zuni Silver Jewelry

While there are many different types of Zuni jewelry that incorporate silver elements, here are some of the most common and most widely recognized types of Zuni jewelry.

  • Zuni Inlay Jewelry: This is some of the most popular silver jewelry worldwide and comprisescustom-cut stones set into an unfilled area matching the exact size and specification of the stones. When the stone is set, it’s level with the surrounding silver of the piece. Zuni inlay jewelry is commonly seen in cuffs, necklaces, and pendants. 
  • Zuni Needlepoint Jewelry: This is a method that began around 1930 and is characterized by artists grouping needle-shaped stones into patterns to create rings, pendants, or earrings. Needlepoint jewelry is incredibly delicate and widely sought after.
  • Zuni Petit Point Jewelry: This method also began around the 1930s and is characterized by tiny round, oval, or square stones clustered in multiples to form a unique design. A ring using this technique will often have 12 or more stones while a bracelet might have 50 to 80 stones. 

If you’re looking to purchase your own unique piece of Zuni jewelry, then get in touch with Palms Trading Company today. Our local artisans create unique and authentic pieces, and we can even hook you up with a personal shopper to support your jewelry purchase. Contact us today and let us help you find a piece of exquisite jewelry that will be the perfect addition to your collection!