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The History Of Native American Jewelry

Jul 2, 2008
The earliest Native Americans had their own styles of jewelry before others came to America. They used the elements around them such as feathers, stones, shells, and bone to make adornments to wear. In the 1500's French explorers were some of the first to trade Native American glass beads among other useful items they had never had, for their fur pelts. Native Americans seemed to love using the colorful beads for making jewelry and decorating their clothing.

It was not until the 1850's that Native Americans began to acquire the skills necessary to craft jewelry from metals and gems. Prior to this they often used copper and brass wire to fashion jewelry and used coins as buttons. A man named Atsidi Saani learned the art of blacksmithing in Arizona at Fort Defiance.

This is who most Native American jewelers can trace their jewelry techniques back to. In the 1860's the Navajo people had been interned at Bosque Redondo for four years, but when they returned to the mesa's they began to employ the new techniques that Saani had learned to the crafting of silver jewelry.

Their tools were of a crude sort in the beginning and they would use silver coins to melt down for the jewelry. The Mexican peso had a higher silver content, so it was the preferred coin to use. By the late 1890's the silver and turquoise jewelry the Navajo made was used for barter with the traders that would come to the reservations. This practice was stopped after 1950, but does still continue outside the reservations.

The older Native American jewelry had a look of crudeness that the collectors today look for. As the newer and better tools became available, the quality and design of Native American jewelry gradually improved and became the beautiful hand crafted jewelry that it is today. Much of this jewelry is widely available in the South west itself as well as jewelry stores it all over the country and on the internet. Rings, cuff bracelets, pendants, bolo ties, and earrings are all items commonly made from turquoise and silver.

Other elements such as coral, jasper, mother of pearl, jet and some others are used in Native American jewelry today. These unique and original pieces of jewelry are usually very reasonably priced for the beautiful craftsmanship involved in making them. These pieces of jewelry are worn by many different people today.
About the Author
Dror Klar is an advocate and writer about top quality Diamonds and Jewelry. learn more about his new Diamonds and other top quality Jewelry
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