American Indian Jewelry
Native Americans have been making Indian jewelry for centuries. The jewelry is highly decorative and usually very colorful and beautiful. It may be made out of a variety of materials including gemstones, minerals, shells, beads, copper, silver, and even ivory. The Indian jewelry making technique and tools are typically handed down from one generation to another.
The two main types of Indian jewelry are metalwork and beadwork. The Europeans taught the Native Americans the art of silversmithing and they used that to make jewelry. Beadwork was used to make chokers, necklaces, belts, and bracelets. Beads were made of different types of material including deer hooves, turtle shells, and animal horns. Even animal teeth, porcupine quills, and bear claws were used as beads.
One of the most popular gemstones used in Native American jewelry is turquoise. This bluish green mineral found in the southwest United States is considered by many tribes to be a sacred jewel. The Hopi believed it could hold back flood waters, while the Rio Grande Pueblos thought it was taken from the sky. Amber, which can come in a variety of colors including yellow-orange, white, pale yellow, red, brown, green, and blue, is also used frequently in Indian jewelry.
Different tribes' jewelry can be determined by its look. The Zuni were known for using needlepoint and mosaic as well as channel inlay in their jewelry. The Navajo made their famous Squash Blossom necklaces, which were often comprised of turquoise and silver. The Santo Domingo tribe was known for the use of beadwork to make their jewelry.
When looking to purchase Native American Indian jewelry, a reservation is probably the best bet. Ask if the jewelry is made by Native Americans to insure that is it authentic. Some stores may even have artists on site that can be seen making the jewelry.