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6 Amazing Things to Know About Native American Jewelry

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6 Amazing Things Everyone Should Know About Native American Jewelry

Searching through google to know all about native American jewelry? You have knocked down the right page. In this article, we will make your near and dear to every inch of Navajo jewelry. 

Do you want to bring sparkle to your life? Well, then, jewlery is the right solution. To your astonishment, it is not just the modern era thing. Wondering what we are talking about? Jewlery came before the rinderpest. If you notice, even ancient history talks about stones and metals. Evidence from that time depicts that women were keen to wear different metals as jewlery pieces. Therefore, it is indubitably true that jewlery is the many moons ago thing. However, it has evolved a lot since then. And, when we talk about jewelery, how can we not talk about traditional Navajo jewelry? Gaping, why are we emphasizing Navajo jewlery? Come along and clear the air!

What Is Native American Jewelery? 

Usually, when we think of jewlery, we imagine necklaces, rings, earrings, pins, bracelets, etc. Native American jewelry, aka the traditional Navajo jewlery, also includes the same. Then, what is so special about this? 

Old Native American Male wearing Classic Navajo Jewlery
Old Native American Male wearing Classic Navajo Jewlery

Classic Navajo jewlery is made by the native people of the United States. It generally reflects the history, culture, and diversity of the makers. 

However, the tribal groups often borrow and copy methods and designs from neighboring nations or tribes. And they continue this practice. Native American tribes still forge unique aesthetics based on their creative perspectives and cultural practices. Artists can make jewelry for personal use, religious rituals, public exhibition, or commerce.

In the absence of written languages, ornamentation became an essential aspect of communication, carrying multiple layers of information. Navajo jewelery continues to be a significant declaration of the tribe and personal identity.

What Is Native American Jewelry Made From?

Native American jewelry can be produced from naturally occurring materials such as metals, vegetal fibres, hardwoods, or precious and semi-precious gemstones. Further, animal materials such as teeth, bones, and leather, or man-made materials, such as beading and quillwork, can be used to curate Navajo jewelery. Metalsmiths, carvers, beaders, and lapidaries mix various elements to make jewelry. Contemporary Native American jewelry spans from hand-quarried stones and shells to computer-fabricated steel and titanium jewelry.

How To Identify Native American Jewelry?

American Indian artisans only employ high-quality stones and metals in their jewelry. A detailed inspection of the craftsmanship might sometimes reveal a fake piece. A genuine item will have no wavering lines or asymmetrical patterns, well-cut stones of consistent size, and no clear glue between the metal and stone.

Keep an eye out for genuine silver jewelry as opposed to silver-plated jewelry. Holding a tiny magnet to the object is a simple method to identify the difference. The magnet will not attract genuine sterling silver. Silver-plated items include magnetic nickel.

Apart from these, also incorporate the following while buying authentic traditional Navajo jewelry.

Trust Your Gut Feelings

Before purchasing anything online, it is necessary to undertake an extensive study and analysis of the product/item, or in this case, the artwork. Whether the artwork is a portrait, a sculpture, a Navajo style rug, a jewelry piece, a photograph, or something else, the market changes so swiftly that what was valuable a few years ago may no longer be so. Nothing is more trustworthy than your knowledge of this genre.

Weaving Should Exhibit Quality, Balance, And Design

This is a crucial suggestion because what’s the sense of purchasing a woven fabric if it doesn’t even resemble the beauty of Navajo art? Native American weavings should be purchased considering quality, balance, and design. Pueblo weavers weave the majority of traditional and formal garments out of cotton. On the other hand, Navajo weavers are well known for their traditional attire.

History Of Native American Jewelry

Native American jewelry dates back at least 10,000 years. The first people to enter and inhabit the Americas, the Paleo-Indians, used shells, porcupine quills, antlers, stones, bones, feathers, and similar materials to create wearable art. And tribes across the North American continent came to use whatever natural materials were available to them to create adornments. Pendants were ornately carved from fish and animal bones, while coral, shells, and stones were chipped to produce beads for garments or necklaces. Later, animal teeth, silver, turquoise, pearls, copper, carved wood, semi-precious stones, animal claws, and abalone were used to simulate jewelry. Native American tribes continue to create stunning jewelry using contemporary materials such as gold and titanium.

  • Turquoise in American Indian Life: Turquoise is a substance that many civilizations worldwide admire and value, but it is imperative to many southwestern Native American tribes. 
  • Jewelry and Trade: For many cultures, jewelry was used for more than just decoration or ceremonial purposes. It occupied a significant and vital position in the commercial economy. 
  • Turquoise, Water, and Sky: The Stone’s Meaning: Did you know that turquoise was once so popular that people created imitation turquoise to sell? The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture has a beautiful explanation of this gem’s often turbulent past.

Types Of Native American Jewelry

The Navajo are the nation’s most prominent Native American tribe. Unsurprisingly, this tribe’s jewelry is the most common and well-known today. When silver was introduced, Navajo jewelry came into its own, and it became even more attractive when turquoise was combined with the valuable white metal. Many early Navajo pieces were made from melted coins. In this segment, we will discuss the types of traditional Navajo jewelry in a bit more detail.

The Squash Blossom Necklace

Sandcast jewelry, naja pendants, and squash flower necklaces are examples of Native American jewelry presented by the Navajo. Squash blossom necklaces, which date back to the 1870s, are among the most iconic Navajo artifacts. They are made out of a beaded silver necklace with squash blossom petal beads and a large naja pendant at the bottom. The design is thought to be inspired by the colonial Spanish pomegranate ornamental motif.

“Overlay” Hopi Jewelry

In the 1930s, the Hopi began creating their specific kind of jewelry known as an inlay. They would carve motifs inspired by traditional baskets, fabrics, and ceramics onto the top silver layer of two similarly shaped pieces of silver. The silversmith would oxidize the bottom silver layer until it turned black, then solder the top layer to the blackened bottom piece, allowing the pattern to shine through. This results in a distinct and extremely attractive appearance while also ensuring that the finished work of jewelry is incredibly durable.

Beads Called Heishe (Or Heishi)

In the Santo Domingo Indians’ Eastern Keresan language, “heishe” means “shell bead.” Shell, turquoise, or other polished stones are used to make little tubes or disc-shaped beads. The Santo Domingo bead artisans would hand-grind, drill, and thread these beautiful beads. Although many heishe beads are now manufactured by machine, Santo Domingo artisans still make various forms of traditional Navajo jewelry entirely by hand, including the time-consuming heishe beads.

List Of 12 Styles Of Traditional Navajo Jewelry

As we come to the end of the article, it is vital to glance at some other styles of Navajo jewelery. 

  • Single Stone
  • Multi Stone
  • Row
  • Cluster
  • Rainbow
  • Inlay
  • Overlay
  • Polished
  • Hammer Work
  • Cast Work
  • Shank Work
  • Contemporary

With this, we have comprehended all the essential information about native American jewelry. But what if you desire to buy one? Well, if you want to put your hands on the finest quality, switch to the website of Gonavajo. They offer a range of products, including, Navajo style rugs, rings, pendants, necklaces, belts, earrings, and more. So, why wait? Hurry up before someone else picks your favorite piece.

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