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Native American Jewelry: A Brief History
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Native American Jewelry: A Brief History

The unique craftsmanship and style of Native American jewelry is identifiable and coveted by many individuals across the world. Drawing inspiration from the natural environment, Native American jewelry is not only beautiful in its decorative elements but symbolic as well. Read on to learn more about the history of Native American jewelry, the different uses of jewelry in traditional Native American culture, and interesting facts about this unique artistic tradition.

A Rich Artistic History

Dating back to around 10,000 B.C., the first recorded cases of Native American jewelry in North America come from the Paleo-Indians, who used shells, stones, feathers, and other natural materials to create decorative adornments. This use of natural elements in Native American jewelry has continued throughout thousands of years, with the crafting of beads done through sculpting and sanding of bones, shells, and stones. As the jewelry craftsmanship became more complex, the incorporation of semi-precious stones native to the region, such as turquoise, howlite, and onyx, became common.

Uses of Jewelry

Jewelry in Native American culture held symbolic significance in many different Indigenous communities. Often used as an indicator of class and social status, jewelry was also heavily incorporated into traditional ceremonies and spiritual practices of many Native American tribes. Additionally, many tribes that are indigenous to North America were historically nomadic, and because of this, jewelry often took the form of a portable bank for the owner. Jewelry also often played a significant role in tribal trade and was used as a form of currency between many Indigenous communities.

Interesting Facts

There are entire fields of study dedicated to documenting the unique history and craftsmanship of Native American jewelry. Here we’ve gathered a few interesting facts to help you learn more about this beautiful art form!

  • Beadwork was introduced to the Indigenous people of North America when the Europeans arrived on the continent in the 1500s. 
  • Copper was commonly used in Native American jewelry among the Cherokee people as many copper deposits were local to historic Cherokee communities. 
  • The combination of turquoiseand silver is widely recognized as an integral part of Pueblo jewelry design. However, it wasn’t until around 1865 when Spanish settlers introduced silver to Pueblo communities that it became a common part of Native American jewelry.
  • Traditionally, when beads were crafted for jewelry, they were strung together using tough plant fibers or the tendons of animals. 

Get Women’s Turquoise Rings & More Native American Jewelry

For beautiful Native American jewelry, check out all of the amazing pieces we have to offer a Palms Trading CompanyGet in touch with us today and let one of our expert personal shoppers help you find the perfect new addition to your collection!

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