Techniques and Styles Associated with the Creation of Vintage and Contemporary Native American Jewelry

Palms Trading Company has been selling and trading in Native American & Vintage Native American Jewelry for over 75 years. As experts in Native American craft and jewelry we have become quite familiar with the different styles and techniques used to create these southwestern treasures.

Silverwork is a relatively new trade among Southwest Native Americans, taught to them by the Spanish and Mexicans in the 19th century. The Navajo were the first to learn silversmithing and subsequently developed the first recognizable style now associated with Native American jewelry of the southwest. Since then, distinctive styles and techniques of jewelry creation have emerged from the Zuni, Santo Domingo, and Hopi tribes, offering an expansive array of beautiful and masterfully executed jewelry.


Different Techniques Used in the Creation of Native American Jewelry

A term used in silver smithing to describe a process whereby a design is ‘stamped’ onto a piece of silver; in this process, the tool is stationary, unlike chasing, where the tool moves through the process. Most of the artists who do this use their own specific stamp, making the work of each artist unique. This technique is used by Navajo, Hopi and Zuni equally.

This jewelry technique involves hammering on the reverse side of a piece of jewelry, causing the other side to be raised.

Sandcast is a technique in jewelry-making where metal, in this case sterling silver, is heated into a liquid form and then poured into a mold carved out of hard sandstone. The mold is bound with wet buckskin, which shrinks upon drying, forming a tight binding around the mold. Once poured and cooled, the piece is sanded down to remove burrs and irregularities, eventually being polished to a marketable luster.

This style and technique consists of numerous stones normally inlaid in a particular pattern or design. These stones may also be lined up or in a bowlike design commonly known as “channel inlay.” Most commonly, inlaid designs are associated with the Zuni.

A term used by many people to describe the process used by the Hopi jewelry makers in much of their jewelry. This process consists of two or three separate sheets of silver soldered together and finished to create what is normally a very apparent black inset image into a polished silver surrounding. The images are normally of clan symbols represented by various animals, katsinas, or other symbols important to the traditions of the Hopi Indians. Like the stamped jewelry, Hopi jewelry makers use their own specialized tools which give each jeweler’s piece a unique look.

This style consists of many separate pieces which are soldered together. In many instances the piece is set with numerous stones. One of the most common examples of this style without the stones is the
squash blossom necklace. This type of jewelry is somewhat difficult to create properly and for this reason, is highly sought after.

Fetish Necklaces
Authentic Zuni Fetish Necklaces are very intricate and are comprised of numerous hand-carved fetishes of various animals, typically from myriad stones. Sometimes one may find fetish bracelets, but most prevalent and popular are necklaces.

Heishi is a type of jewelry which is unique to the Santo Domingo Pueblo Native Americans of New Mexico. Usually earrings and necklaces, the pieces comprise primarily stone and/or shell with very little silver and are bound by a sinew. This jewelry is reminiscent of the jewelry made by the Anasazi.

At Palms Trading Company we offer the largest selection of Vintage Native American jewelry representing all of the various styles and techniques that we discussed in this blog. Pick out your favorite style and technique from our online Native American jewelry collection.

Posted: October 16, 2019 By:

Artist Spotlight: Robert Kasero

Laguna potter Robert Kasero


So many of the artists we work and come into contact with every day are exceptionally talented creators and painters. Fewer, however, are able to create the wonderfully intricate work that this month’s Artist Spotlight, Laguna potter Robert Kasero, does.

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Posted: October 4, 2019 By:

Horse Hair Pottery

Native American made horse hair pottery


Legend holds that horsehair pottery was discovered by a pueblo potter whose long hair blew against a piece of pottery she was removing from a hot kiln, stuck, and carbonized. The result was so interesting that she duplicated it with hair from a horse’s tail.

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Artist Spotlight: Jeanette Calabaza

Santo Domingo artist Jeanette Calabaza


Santo Domingo Pubelo, and, therefore, many of its current artists, are inescapably linked to what is known as “heishi,” the literal meaning of which is “shell” and which specifically refers to pieces of shell which have been drilled and ground into beads and strung into necklaces. It is safe to say that this is the oldest form of jewelry in New Mexico, and perhaps even in North America, pre-dating the introduction of metals. Jeanette Calabaza, this month’s featured artist, is a Santo Domingo jeweler proficient in the art of heishi.

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Posted: September 6, 2019 By:

The Jemez Pueblo Harvest Celebration

The Jemez Pueblo feast day celebrating Saint Persingula, the patron saint of the Pueblo, is held every year on August 2nd. While some rituals in most feast day celebrations are very private and secret, Palms’ owner, Guy Berger, has been invited to attend this feast several times as a guest of some of the artists we work with, and has provided  a first-hand account of his experiences. As there are strict regulations regarding photography of these events, we are unable to provide visuals.

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Posted: August 30, 2019 By:

The Mata Ortiz, Acoma Pueblo Connection: Similarities in Design

Native American Mata OrtizWritten by Palms Trading owner Guy Berger, today’s blog features a fascinating exercise in exploration and comparison of ancient and modern pottery styles and designs between Mata Ortiz and Acoma Pueblo. In his own words: “Paquime’ was an old village in northern Mexico that existed from the years 1200-1540 AD, very near the modern day village of Mata Ortiz. Acoma Pueblo sits 50 miles west of Albuquerque in New Mexico.  Exploring the Acoma Paula Estevan black and white eye dazzler seed potsometimes subtle, sometimes striking similarities between ancient Paquime’ pottery examples, modern Native American Pueblo pottery, and modern Mata Ortiz designs was a fascinating exercise for me.”

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Posted: August 23, 2019 By:

The Apache Burden Basket

Apache Burden BasketsOnce made for every day use in collecting or gathering wild foods, or to cultivate crops like corn, the Burden Basket of the Apache Tribe is one of the most quickly recognized items pertaining to Native American cultures today.

The Apaches, traditionally nomadic hunters and food gatherers, first used burden baskets woven by women to carry firewood, roots, or berries.  The tassels, typically made from deer or cow skin, were mainly for ceremonial or decorative use, while the tin featured at the bottom of the tassels was placed for ornamentation, or to ward off snakes while gathering.

Today, however, burden baskets are made to sell, or for special use during a young girl’s puberty ceremony, or “sunrise dance,” as many now call it.

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Posted: August 9, 2019 By:

Artist Spotlight: Anita “Pauline” Romero

Jemez potter Anita "Pauline" Romero


While we here at Palms treasure each relationship we have with the artists we work with daily, there are some artists, having worked with them over decades, and whom we see often, we feel special bonds with.  Our August Artist Spotlight potter, Anita “Pauline” Romero, is one of those artists.

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Posted: August 2, 2019 By: