Saturday, July 01, 2006

Native American Indian Jewelry

Native American Indian Jewelry: Turquoise Jewelry, Turquoise Rings, Squash Blossoms and more...

Native American Indian jewelry from the tribes of the southwest is as varied as the tribes themselves. However, the Native American jewelry which most people envision tends to be similar to the Navajo jewelry, Hopi jewelry and Zuni jewelry. The term Native American custom jewelry is sometimes used. Most Native American Indian jewelry is custom in that it is handmade and, due to various methods and tools, tends to reflect the interpretation of a particular artist. The constant wear on some of the tools as well as the process dictates that virtually no two pieces are identical.

Some of the most popular Native American Jewelry is turquoise jewelry such as turquoise necklaces, turquoise bracelets, turquoise pendants and turquoise rings. The most recognizable Native American jewelry is probably the Navajo silver jewelry. The squash blossoms are popular as are the Navajo turquoise jewelry, all of which is still similar to the jewelry traded at the old west trading posts during the early turn of the century. The Navajo are the largest American Indian tribe in the southwest and have created extremely popular silver and turquoise jewelry since the late 1800s. Much of the Navajo silver jewelry tends to have a bold, and in many cases, worn look.

Some of the more recognizable styles of Native American jewelry other than the Navajo jewelry are the Hopi jewelry as well as the Native American inlay jewelry which is often associated with the Zuni jewelry makers.

Some popular styles of jewelry are:

  • Sandcast – A Navajo casting system that consists of a somewhat primitive rough casting which is then filed and sanded. If the item is a bracelet it is then bent over a form which is usually steel, to obtain the shape.

  • Platero – This particular 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 are the squash blossom necklaces. This type of jewelry is somewhat difficult to create properly and for this reason, is highly sought after.

  • Stamped (Punched) – This jewelry is stamped on one side causing the other side to be raised. Most of the artists who do this use their own specific stamp, thereby causing the work of each artist to be unique. This technique is used by Navajo jewelry makers, Hopi jewelry makers and Zuni jewelry makers alike.

  • Inlaid – This style consists of numerous stones normally inlaid in a particular pattern or design. These stones may also be lined up or in a “box like” design commonly known as “channel inlay". Although used by Navajo, Hopi and Pueblo artists, the inlaid style tends to be associated most often with the Zuni Indians.

  • Overlay – 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, kachinas, or other symbols important to the traditions of the Hopi Indians. Like the stamped jewelry, the Hopi jewelry makers use their own specific tools which give each jeweler’s pieces a unique look.

  • Fetish Necklaces – Authentic Zuni Fetish Necklaces are very intricate and are comprised of numerous hand carved fetishes of various animals. These necklaces vary substantially in number of fetishes and size of the particular piece. There are some fetish bracelets, although not as numerous as the fetish necklaces. For a more detailed explanation of Zuni Fetishes as well as the traits represented by various animals, see our Fetish page.

  • Heishe - A type of jewelry which is unique to the Santo Domingo Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. The jewelry which consists primarily of necklaces and earrings, is comprised primarily of stone and/or shell, bound by a type of sinew, and using very little silver. This jewelry is reminiscent of the jewelry made by the Anasazi.

Please see our “Indian Symbols” page which describes some of the more popular of the numerous symbols used by the Native American jewelry artists.

Whenever possible, your Native American silver jewelry should be stored in an air tight bag in such a manner that it is not rubbing against other items. Cleaning of the silver jewelry should be done with a 100% cotton cloth or a cloth designed specifically for cleaning silver jewelry. You may use a silver cleaner spray, foam or paste, however the paste is not recommended for silver jewelry which also contains stones. If you are using a spray for Native American silver jewelry which may have porous gemstones, make sure that the spray is meant to be used on “porous” stones. Do not use a circular type of motion while cleaning as it may cause scratches. If you find it necessary to use a brush, use a jewelry brush.

As with all Native American Indian art, which particular Native American Indian jewelry a person wishes to purchase should be driven by their particular interest in the jewelry itself, the symbols of interest, the style and overall appearance. In many cases, whether the jewelry was done by a Navajo jeweler, a Hopi jeweler, a Zuni jeweler, a Santo Domingo jeweler or one of the other Native American Indian jewelers of other tribes, will be of particular importance. The important part is that the buyer enjoy the piece they have purchased.

Futures for Children American Indian Store attempts to purchase only authentic Native American Indian made merchandise including authentic Native American Indian jewelry whether they are from Navajo jewelry makers, Zuni jewelry makers, Hopi jewelry makers, Santo Domingo jewelry makers or any of the other American Indian tribes. It is our desire to promote not only the education of American Indian Children, but to promote the economy and well being of the American Indian communities of which the Native American Indian artists are a primary contributor.