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Types of Native American Jewelry by Tribe
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Types of Native American Jewelry by Tribe

Located between the Rocky Mountains and the Mexican Sierra Madre, the southwestern United States is home to 20% of the country’s Native American population. The Indigenous people of this land have a rich cultural history and tradition, one which can be seen beautifully through the expert craftsmanship of jewelry making. These beautiful art pieces often utilize similar elements, such as silver, precious and semi-precious stones like turquoise, and intricate line work and engravings. There are however some distinct variations when it comes to tribal traditions of jewelry making.

  1. Navajo Jewelry

Traditional Navajo jewelry can often be distinguished by its use of large and naturally shaped stones. Most often these stones are turquoise, however black onyx, malachite, and blue azurite are also commonly used. The Navajo are expert silver craftspeople and use a distinct method of smithing to shape the silver around the stones in the jewelry, rather than simply affixing the stones into the silver.

  1. Zuni Jewelry 

The Zuni People are also expert silversmiths, however, in contrast to the Navajo style, stones are set in intricate patterns that fit into the silver. The stones themselves are also characteristic in the way that they are expertly cut and shaped. Indeed, the meticulous shaping of stone can also be seen in the traditional Zuni fetish carvings, which take on the form of small carved animals said to protect the wearer and offer power and luck.

  1. Santo Domingo Jewelry

The Santo Domingo jewelry tradition is characterized by the use of natural elements such as drilled stones and shells. Artists are well known for their use of these elements in things like necklaces, and the use of silver is actually a rare occurrence when it comes to Santo Domingo jewelry.

  1. Hopi Jewelry

Unlike many of the other tribal adornments from neighboring Indigenous Peoples, it is uncommon for Hopi jewelry to include precious or semi-precious stones in their jewelry. Hope adornments are characterized by beautifully shaped sterling silver, often with different layers of sheen and color. Raised patterns and linework all also very common in this style of jewelry.

Now that you know a little bit more about the rich jewelry tradition of southwestern Native American peoples, let us help you find a beautiful and authentic piece for yourself. At Palms Trading Company, we carry many different styles of Native American jewelry, and one of our personal shoppers would be happy to help you find the right piece for yourself. Contact us today and support the beautiful cultural tradition of Native American jewelry!