Native Americans have been making jewelry for thousands of years; stone, shell, and wood jewelry items have been excavated from a number of ancient ruins. Since most Indian tribes in the southwest were landlocked, it is presumed they obtained shell in trade with coastal tribes. Thus, materials from other lands have traditionally been included in Native American work for a long, long time.
Fast forward to the mid-1850’s, when a Navajo learned about the art of silversmithing from a Mexican iron/silver craftsman. The art of Native American silver jewelry, then, is not thousands of years old, but elements of old designs carry through until today. This is especially true of mosaic inlay from Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico, which has the most direct line to the mosaic items found in ancient ruins.
Turquoise is most often found in or near copper mines, as copper is one of its components. The prevalence of copper mines in the American Southwest explains why Native American tribes have been using turquoise for so long. Turquoise remains one of the most popular decorative elements in Native American jewelry. In addition to the other traditional materials (shell and coral), contemporary Native American jewelers use materials from all over the world, including lapis lazuli, variscite, agate, jasper, sugillite, charoite, moonstone, and many more.
One may debate whether non-indigenous materials “belong” in Native American art. We at Home & Away believe that Native Americans have adapted to many new elements in their world. They are not and should not be limited to using materials and designs that are considered traditional. Their contemporary designs are just as valid a manifestation of their cultures as are “traditional” silver and turquoise bracelets forged by hand in the 1870s.
We provide you with a unique and diversified collection of Native American jewelry. Our Native American jewelry is designed and hand made by various award-winning artists, which include Earl Plummer, Amelia Joe-Chandler, Althea Cajero, Heidi Bigknife, Decontie & Brown, Mary Tafoya, Henry Abeita and Priscilla Nieto, Deanna Tenorio, and Chris Pruitt.
We are keen to hear from you. Consulting in person or over the phone is one of the services we offer to our customers. If you are considering a piece or two of jewelry, but would like to discuss any aspect of them, please call us at 207 967-2122 or stop in the gallery in Kennebunkport. We do our best to establish long term relationships with our clients; the better we know you and your tastes, the better we will be able to serve you.