Native American Rings

Silver jewelry and rings have always played a major role in Navajo ceremonial life. The silver is praised for both its beauty and spiritual value. They are considered to be the finest form of personal adornment and the rings can range in size form a smaller than typical ring, about 1/4 inch long, to over an inch long. Rings are adorned with turquoise, black onyx, corals or shells from freshwater shellfish. The Navajo, due to their geographic location, traded with the Spanish, Mexicans and Plains Indians which gives their rings and jewelry a more broad creative aspect. Rings also employ the use of animal figures, each having a specific spiritual meaning. The bear stands for strength, the eagle is the protector, the spider stands for hard work and the wolf stood for success.

Silver is the primary medium used in ring making for the Navajo tribe of the American southwest; in fact the Navajo were the first tribe to use metalwork in their jewelry. Turquoise is most predominantly found here and is why it is so prevalent in their art and jewelry. Turquoise is believed to bring good fortune and that it appeased the Wind Spirit. The Navajo treat their rings as a member of the tribe, or more specifically, the artwork is a part of the tribal body. Rings may be inlaid with teeth, coral carvings or additional metals to emphasize wealth, achievements and status. Rings and silver were traded with the Mexicans when the Navajo people were part of the Mexican country.

Many of the early rings depicted the four directions, north, south, east and west, in a quadrilateral design. Each of these "areas" of the ring was meant to symbolize the periphery of the Navajo people and signified a landmark in their territory. The center point of the quadrants symbolizes the harmony between all things in nature as it is part of all four directions and both axis. The harmony of nature can be described as the dualities of these elements: sky and Earth, hot and cold, and the material and immaterial. Particular stones and colors are associated with each of the cardinal directions as well as the Navajo belief in six elements. Six stones are used to depict these elements and are a part of every form of Navajo ring and jewelry making.

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