Native American Indian Jewelry

Native Americans have been making jewelry since prehistoric times. The fine art of making the jewelry is handed down from generation to generation. Metal stamps , used to created designs on jewelry, are usually kept within the family for jewelry making.

While each tribe has its own unique style, it is undeniable that the gemstones used to make the Native American Indian jewelry are beautiful. One of the most popular gemstones used in Indian jewelry is turquoise. Turquoise is an opaque, bluish green mineral that has been used in jewelry for over 2,000 years. Most Native American tribes believe that turquoise is a magical, sacred gemstone that brings good fortune and strength. The Rio Grande Pueblos felt that the color of the turquoise was taken from the sky and put into the stone. The Hopi believed that turquoise was so powerful that it could hold back flood waters. Turquoise was often fashioned into jewelry that adorned idols and was used by medicine men.

Although turquoise is highly desired, other gemstones are used in Native American Indian jewelry. Amber is also often used and can come in many different colors - yellow-orange, whitish, pale yellow, brown, red, green, and blue. Coral also ranges in different colors from deep red, to orange, to pink, to white. Malachite is a mineral that has both light and dark green bands running through it. Cultured opal, spiny oyster shell, and magnesite are also used in jewelry making.

Silver Native American Indian jewelry is popular now, but that has not always been the case. Sometime during the 16th century, the Spaniards taught Mexicans how to work with silver. The Navajo were the first Native Americans to learn the art of silversmithing from the Mexicans around 1860. When the Navajo was imprisoned in 1865, Atsidi Sani, taught the art to others in his tribe. When released in 1868, the Navajo took the skills with them and eventually taught the Zuni and Hopi.

Different tribes are known for using different techniques in their jewelry . The Zuni use mosaic, channel inlay, cluster and needlepoint in their jewelry. The Navajo, the largest producers of Native American Indian jewelry, are known for their Squash Blossom necklaces. The Hopi use the overlay technique with their silver which involves two sheets of silver. One has the design cut out of it. That design is then overlaid and sweated or soldered onto a second sheet. The Santo Domino is known for their beadwork. They incorporate seashells, turquoise, jet, and coral in their jewelry.

What should one look for in authentic Native American Indian jewelry ? Don't be afraid to ask questions of the seller as to what the piece contains, who made it, and how it was made. Newer silver pieces are usually stamped "Sterling" on the back of the piece, but this is not necessarily true of antique pieces. True Native American jewelry makers take pleasure in creating their pieces and that craftsmanship will shine through. The patterns should look good, the stones should be set well in the piece, and the silver should not be so thin it can bend.

An authentic piece of Native American Indian Jewelry is not only beautiful, but also well made because the artists take pride in their work and want to share the essence of their culture with others.

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