While it is true that tribes across the United States have their own distinct design features when it comes to Native American jewelry, there are a few common elements that tie together the traditions of Native American jewelry-making across geographic regions. Check out some of these commonly seen features of Native American jewelry and how each element of craftsmanship has its own unique history.
Turquoise is perhaps the most distinctive feature of Native American jewelry. It has long been used in rings, cuffs, pendants, and earrings in Native American jewelry, particularly emerging from the Southwestern Pueblo tribes of the United States. While the environmental conditions to make turquoise are typically centralized in what are now present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Nevada, the bustling trade economy between tribes has induced its spread throughout the United States for generations. As a result, turquoise can be seen in numerous different Native American jewelry traditions.
The incorporation of sterling silver in Native American jewelry dates back to the mid-1800s when a Navajo man named Astidi Sani is reported to have acquired the basic knowledge of ironworking from a Mexican Blacksmith. While the Navajo people are said to be the first tribe that incorporated silversmithing into their jewelry craft, the knowledge and practices were spread and shared throughout the United States, and silver has become a staple in the art of Native American jewelry making for many Indigenous tribes.
Beads are another common element seen in many different traditions of Native American jewelry making. There are many instances where heishi beads – small flat discs made from shells – have been discovered in ancient ruins that date back centuries. Beads can be crafted from many different types of materials, including various shells such as mother of pearl, conch, or clam, and stones like turquoise and coral. Beads were also often carved from various types of wood, animal bones, claws, and teeth. These beads were commonly strung onto necklaces or sewn into clothing.
If you’re interested in purchasing your very own piece of Native American jewelry, get in touch with us at Palms Trading Company. We have a wide variety of jewelry, each piece sporting the unique characteristics and history of its tribal origin. We work with local artists to make sure all of our jewelry is both beautiful and authentic. Contact us today and let us find you your next exquisite piece of wearable art!