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