The southwestern pocket of the United States is the historical land of many Native American tribes from over the past few centuries, with each tribe showcasing its own distinct form of jewelry craftsmanship. While individual artists may dabble in jewelry styles not traditionally associated with their own tribes, there are some distinct differences when it comes to traditional Native American jewelry. Check out some of these distinctive features of Native American jewelry from the Southwest.
One of the most captivating features of traditional Navajo jewelry is the expert use of Sterling silver to fit around a particular stone. The Navajo people are known for their expert silver craftsmanship, and instead of trying to fit the stone in the silver, they work to shape the silver around stones such as turquoise (the most popular), black onyx, malachite, and blue azurite. The shape of the inlaid stones is a natural one, and the silverwork is often exceptional as well as heavy.
The Zuni are a Pueblo tribe who historically have been associated with farming, basketry, pottery, and weaving. The Zuni jewelry tradition showcases expertise in the cutting of stones into intricate patterns that fit together into the silver, rather than having the silver shaped around it like the traditional Navajo style. The Zuni are also highly renowned for their carved animal fetishes- an intricate style of stone carving that produces small stone animals that are often strung into necklaces or inlaid on rings and bracelets.
The Hopi are another Pueblo tribe also famous for their intricate silver jewelry. However, in traditional Hopi style adornment, jewelry is often made from sterling silver by itself. It does differ however from Navajo or Zuni silver styling in that it commonly encompasses a shine on the silver, along with raised patterns and linework.
Unlike the previous tribes mentioned, the Santo Domingo tribe is famous for their jewelry work with drilled stones and shells. Silver is rarely used, and when it is it takes the form of ornate silver beads. Artists of this tradition are best known for their necklaces of natural stones and shells.
Are you interested in owning your own authentic piece of Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, or Santo Domingo jewelry? Well at Palms Trading Company we are more than happy to make your jewelry dreams come true! Get in touch with us to schedule an appointment with one of our personal shoppers to help find the best piece for you or give us a call if you have any questions!