Native American Jewelry

The History of Native American Jewelry & Its Makers

The first traces of Native American jewelry date back to the ancient Paleoamericans over 10 thousand years ago. These early Native American jewelry makers were the first to chip stone and shell into tiny fragments to make lavish necklaces and clothing décor, and make prominent pendants of animal bones.

Thus began the cultural origins of Native American jewelry, a rich history full of inclusiveness and shared ideals. Tribes influenced each other to new creative heights over the years using different regional items such as porcupine quills, deer antlers, hardwood trees, amber, turquoise, copper, and much more.

The Purpose of Native American Jewelry

Native American jewelry has traditionally served many different purposes aside from mere decoration. Since the Native American tribes did not utilize written language, jewelry soon became a method for members to pass along generational information about their family, personal achievements, and ranking within the tribe. Some Native American jewelry had a deeper ceremonial meaning, while other pieces were simply meant for trade.

Native American Turquoise Jewelry

Turquoise eventually grew to become one of the most prominently used minerals in Native American jewelry over time. Turquoise is believed to contain the powers of the earth and is often used in healing ceremonies. The Navajo tribe is especially well-known for making beautiful Native American turquoise jewelry and they are widely credited for spreading its popularity throughout Southwestern America.

Native American Copper Jewelry

Since turquoise was often found near copper deposits, it wasn’t long before copper found its way into traditional Native American art as well. The Cherokee tribe in particular lived along many copper mines, and jewelry makers quickly incorporated copper into their many beautiful handmade designs. Native American copper jewelry is thought to predate Native American silver jewelry by about 1,200 years.

Native American Silver Jewelry

Introduced by the Spanish sometime in the mid-1800s, the art of silversmithing is a relatively new chapter within the history of Native American jewelry making. Silver Native American jewelry is largely credited to the Navajo tribe, although many other tribes quickly caught on within years.

Modern Native American Jewelry

In the beginning, there were no rules or limitations placed on what Native American jewelry could be made of, and this tradition continues in modern Native American jewelry. The recent inclusion of gold and even titanium in Native American jewelry is no different than the addition of silver in the 1800s.

Just as older Native American jewelry makers slowly added the arts of beading, silversmithing and overlaying, some modern jewelry makers now include machine-cutting in the process as well. As long they are pure of heart and from the earth, any new materials and methods are acceptable.

Discover Native American Jewelry at Home & Away Gallery

Home & Away Gallery proudly provides you with a diversely unique collection of Native American jewelry by contemporary artists. We feature award-winning Native American jewelry makers who can transport you to another place and time, talent like Earl Plummer, Amelia Joe-Chandler, Althea and Joe Cajero, Heidi Bigknife, Decontie & Brown, Mary Tafoya, Henry Abeita and Priscilla Nieto, Deanna Tenorio, Cheryl Arviso, Chris Pruitt, and others.

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