Whether the unique shapes and objects are painted onto gorgeous pottery, , shaped through beautiful jewelry patterns, or take the form of carved Kachina dolls, the Navajo artistic tradition is full of rich symbolism and meaning. Forged through a deep connection to earth and nature, many of the significant symbols in Navajo jewelry are linked to nature and the land. Check out some of these common symbols that you might encounter in Navajo jewelry and what type of deeper meanings they have held for generations for the community.
Natural Elements: Sun, Water, and Lightning
For the Indigenous Peoples of the southwestern United States, many spiritual practices and ways of life have been shaped over centuries from a deep-rooted connection to the land. This becomes apparent in the designs and representations of different natural elements in Navajo jewelry. For example, for the Navajo People, sunshine represents good cheer and symbolizes universal harmony. Decorative sun elements on Navajo jewelry are said to bring the bearer high spirits and good fortune.
Another natural element design that is frequently seen in Navajo jewelry is water. In traditional Navajo culture, water is closely related to life and acts as a representation of the fluidness and ever-changing ways of existence. Water symbolizes balance, and its presence might indicate that someone is looking for inner peace with moving forward in life.
A final commonly seen decorative element that is closely linked to the natural environment is lightning. In Navajo culture, lightning is symbolic of speed and agility, but it can also represent something that is forbidden. To interpret these dual meanings, the context for what type of jewelry or object the lightning is inscribed on is very important.
Animal Characters: Bird, Horse, Bear, Thunderbird
In Navajo jewelry, pottery, and other art forms, animal characters also bear symbolic meaning and are deeply linked to Navajo cultural practices. An image of a bird, for example, often acts as a representation of tranquility and calm and helps reduce anxiety by replacing it with quietude. In contrast, an image of a horse is commonly representative of the family and the adventurer spirit of the Navajo because the horse assisted with the vast expanses the Navajo People were able to hunt and migrate on.
Bears are also often seen as symbolic characters in Navajo jewelry and are symbols of strength. They also encourage the wearer to accept their past and build resiliency. Thunderbirds are also commonly seen in Navajo jewelry and are viewed as a representation of serenity, bountiful blessings, and an outpouring of happiness.
At Palms Trading Company, we have a wide variety of authentic and beautiful Navajo jewelry, all of which hold a deep connection to Navajo history and culture. If you’re looking to add a new piece to your collection, get in touch with us today and let our free personal shopper service support you in finding the perfect new piece of Navajo jewelry.