History Of Navaho Jewelry

The history of Navaho jewelry can be traced back to the days of the Navajo Indians, a tribe of Native Americans living in the Southwest United States. Like other branches of Indian art, Navaho jewelry was used as a way for members of the community to express their cultural identity and values. Traditionally handmade by Navajo silversmiths, this form of jewelry has evolved over time to become an international source of pride and beauty.

Navajo jewelry started following the introduction of metals into their lifestyle during 16th century when settlers brought metalwork tools to trade with them either directly or through the Pueblo people. The Navajo Indians immediately embraced metals such as copper and silver, which they began using for medical purposes, ornamentation and trading.

By the 1800s, Navahos had crafted traditional jewelry pieces incorporating bright colors sourced from porcupine quills, painted feathers, pearls, coral beads and turquoise stones thatwere fashioned into intricate patterns with silver stitches. These pieces were typically wielded on necklaces, bracelets and cuffs inlayed with gems.

What separated Navaho jewelry from other forms was its unique design ornaments that connected each piece to related stories or cosmological beliefs. As such the tribal artisans would usually divide these designs into various categories whereby some fulfilled purposes like talismans while others served as symbols associated with daily life events like marriage or status promotion. Additionally every carefully created article told a story connecting each wearer to its special meaning and purpose designed for it by its creator.

With growing interest in traditional Southwestern culture during mid 20th century especially pertaining to cowboy style dress field appreciation extended towards Navaho Jewelry due to its attractive beauty intricacy and attractiveness symbols. Condensed terms such as “Native American” began being used interchangeably with “Navajo” used when referring to any indigenous art from North America because it was designed by one region recognized globally for its unique craftsmanship (Lee).

And although contemporary interpretations vary somewhat from original form many custom designs continue to follow Indian influence incorporating iconic features of arrowhead feathers flowers stars and wildlife in combination with precious jewels onto statement pieces or small trinkets that are sought after today more than ever before. (Jackson).

To summarize the history of Navaho Jewelry is rooted in centuries old traditions aimed at expressing personal identity mythology stories symbolism’s and pride associated with generations that came before us. With renewed interest today these handmade masterpieces attract people who wish to proudly display their connection not just with one culture but all those around world who recognize value adorning themselves with something beautiful powerful meaningful yet simple but speaks loudly without saying single word.

Early Origins of Navaho Jewelry

Many parts of the world have their own take on jewelry, including Native American tribes like the Navaho. Jewelry has been a part of Navaho culture for thousands of years, though traditionally it wasn’t made from silver or other metals – rather gold and shells were used to create pieces that expressed cultural values and tradition. For instance, earrings were exchanged as tokens of friendship or love and protected against destructive forces like lightening.

Beginning in the late eighteenth century when Spanish settlers arrived in New Mexico, Navaho history began to change. Corrupted by greed, many Spanish conquerors drove Native Americans from their land – taking with them tools which then became part of the craftsmanship of Native American jewelry traditions. From these new tools came transformations in Navaho jewelry which we still see to this day in traditional styles such as squash blossom necklaces and metal concho belts.

The process of stone cutting was also introduced during this period which enabled greater variety within Navaho pieces – turquoise from Arizona was added alongside jet rock mined near Gallup and rhinestones to honor brides in ceremonies. By creating distinct shapes these pieces told stories about culture with unique blue green shades along with symbols like eagles, hearts, feathers and crosses often featured within designs.

In later years Native Americans had to adjust to changing times which led many to develop their jewelry-making skills further by learning silversmithing techniques from Mexican immigrants who’d moved into the area in the mid-1800s – creating sturdy silver Navajo rings and bracelets amongst much else.

This strong foundation soon allowed more creative flair in decoration as the addition of gemstones encrusted with gold opened up more options for expression through innovative design ideas included artistic mapping patterns (Navajo rug) on concho belts inspired by blankets handcrafted for protection during wars fought between tribes or as Partridge said “those worn out fighting enemy��.

Navajo jewelry today continues what ancient tribes started so long ago – representing beautiful stories with modern adapted elements while preserving age old craftsmanship. Through its unique evolution it remains an important part of both traditional Navaho folklore and America’s rich cultural heritage – enriching those who wear its wonderful creations with meaningful meaning.

Through the Ages

Navaho jewelry is one of the most iconic and beloved art forms in Native American culture and has been appreciated for generations. Although it has evolved over time, its beauty and intricate detail remain unparalleled. From traditional techniques to modern styling, Navaho jewelry has been a mainstay in Native American culture.

Traditional Techniques

While there are no definitively identified origins of Navaho jewelry as we know it today, many historians agree that its broad history can be broken down into three distinct periods. Dating back to before the colonization period, early Navaho jewelry was often distinguished by its utilization of repousse-a metalworking technique used to create motifs from thin sheets of silver or gold.

This rudimentary technique was used to create both simple decorations and semi-precious stones for adornment purposes as well as necklaces, bracelets, amulets and other tribal relics.

The Transitional Period

During the colonization period, Navahos began meshing their traditional aesthetic with Spanish design elements – leading to the emergence of an entirely new style known as “rug pendants” or “Keystones” – which featured silver medallions surrounded by delicate leather fringes or colorful beads strung together along chains or cords.

During this transitional period – or mid nineteenth century – Navahos also experimented with different crafting techniques such as filigree (cutting small shapes out of flattened metals), wire cutting (wrapping thin wires around metallic bases) and soldered-overlay works (joining several layers of metal).


By the late 19th century, traders began arriving in the region prompting increased adaptation of colonial designs. This led to the development of festive belt buckles featuring intricate Navajo motifs – which could take up to a month for even an experienced artisan master crafter to complete.

History of Rose Gonzales Jewelry

Additionally throughout this period, coins became increasingly popular amongst tourists visiting the southwest increasing demand drastically along with further experimentation with new materials like turquoise and coral-which had already become commonplace earlier on among traders somewhat assimilated into Native American cultures throughout Mexico and Central America since Colonial times.

Navajo Jewelry In the 1800s

The Navajo people were some of the first native Americans to embrace jewelry craftsmanship. In the mid-1800s, most turquoise jewelry crafted by the Navajo was sourced from local sites in New Mexico, and Arizona. Early jewelry designs focused on taking advantage of the unique properties of turquoise by cutting it into various shapes and setting them together.

Notable aspects of early 1800s Navajo jewelry include:

  • The use of rare and common turquoise stones mined from nearby New Mexico & Arizona sites
  • Individual pieces crafted using traditional tools like stone files, needle files and awls
  • Designs centered around repeated geometrical patterns that highlighted each stone’s natural beauty
  • Beadwork for earrings, bracelets and necklaces made with both polished turquoise and metals

At this time, Turquoise Jewelry held a significant cultural value for the Navajos. Wearing it often signified personal accomplishment or conveyance after going through certain rites such as puberty initiation rituals. Moreover, members of specific social classes were made to wear certain pieces so their status could be visually established within society. Additionally, the more beautiful a piece was, the more they symbolized an individual’s prowess as a leader or negotiator.

By the late 1800s, interaction with Anglos had introduced higher quality silver setting methods to Navajos allowing them to create ornate pieces featuring intricate engraved details on sandy-smooth backgrounds. Instead of just incorporating lone stones into settings aiming to highlight their shapely qualities, Navajo silversmiths began creating masterpieces by layering several stones patterns cut in vibrant colors. This created multi-hue compositions accented with ribbons of sterling silver that further enhanced each individual piece’s splendor.

Crafting Techniques & Style

Navajo jewelry is iconic, featuring intricate detail and rich history. It is renowned for its beautiful silverwork, which dates back to the 19th century. During the decades that followed, Navajo silversmiths began to experiment with different techniques such as stamping,engraving and inlaying stones and turquoise into their metalwork. This gave rise to iconic traditional designs such as the squash blossom necklace.

Early Silversmiths & Popular Techniques

Some of the earliest silversmiths were taught by Mexican artisans because there was limited access to materials and tools at this time. The most popular techniques during this period were copper overlays and hand stamping patterns onto sheet metal.

Jewelers would use an array of tools including punches, mallets, gravers and even small hammers to achieve these effects. As a result of these techniques, sterling silver became more widely available allowing for larger scale production of jewelry pieces during the late 19th century.

Introducing Turquoise & Stones

The introduction of turquoise and precious stones brought about a new style in Navaho jewellery making – clipping designs from sheet silver and then intricately inlaying it with gems or turquoise chips – usually beveled pieces of stone arranged into complex shapes such as flowers or birds or animals.

This technique gave way to other interesting variations like repoussé technique (hammering sheet metal into shape from behind), overlay technique (laying sterling silver on top of another material) and tufa casting (using pumice molds).

These new techniques allowed for more complex designs with better decoration and finer details than ever before.

Pieces featured delicate engraved lines on either side of each design along with finely crafted grain patterns formed in the background made from soldering fine wires onto one another piece by piece. This craftsmanship combined with the vibrant colours offered by gems such as amethyst, lapis lazuli, opal was simply breathtaking.

Symbolism in Navaho Jewelry

The symbolism and design of traditional Navaho jewelry is rich with symbolism, reflecting the Navajo culture, their spiritual connection to nature and their intricate beliefs. From patterned stones to beaded bracelets some jewelry items are over a century old still remain popular today. The connection between the tradition of Navaho jewelry and cultural identity is unique and almost unifiable through its vibrant artwork.

The items and design of Navaho jewellery are likely created from memories, connections with nature, or simply as a way of expressing one’s inner self. Many pieces contain natural elements like turquoise stones, wood beads, or feathers that represent particular aspects of life such as protection or luck. Certain colors are also associated with certain moods and ceremonies in regard to Navajo energy cycles in which associated prayers were used during the creation process of the pieces.

Popular Designs & Crafting Techniques

Common designs in Navaho jewelry include animals symbols like bears or eagles – which symbolize strength-, geometric shapes – triangles for unity – or patterns like chevrons that represent journeys. In terms of crafting materials metals such as silver and copper are commonly used right alongside leather, wooden beads and feathers. However each region may have different preferences when creating traditional jewellery as they may seek different sourced materials from rivers, grasslands even mountains.

For centuries weaving has been the most popular technique for creating Navajo jewellery items such as necklaces bracelets using threads made from human hair recovered from barbershops; leather reeds collected from local vegetation; intentionally bent wire taken from door hinges; pressed sterling God eyes; and rolled silver calumet tubes also referred Spanish needles.

Silver mastered by silversmiths has been a staple material for most Navajo jewellery due to its malleability that allowed them to create complex works by only hammering it into desired shapes thus allowing them to craft intricate filigree drop earrings concho belts squash blossom necklaces etc.

Contemporary Navaho Jewelry

Navaho Jewelry has a rich history that can be traced back centuries. Jewelry was not only used as decorative pieces but also to represent tribal allegiance and cultural beliefs. Originally, jewelry was created with materials from certain shrubs, seeds, stones and shells. By the 1860s, the Navahos began utilizing silver and gold for their designs. Pieces of jewelry were painstakingly handcrafted with hammering, stamping and embossing techniques and later enhanced with colorful stones and beads.

Over time, the use of modern machines allowed for efficient production of intricate designs. This paved the way for more complex ideas that contemporary silversmiths can now incorporate into their pieces. Many current jewelry artisans choose to use sterling silver as its malleability allows them to create all kinds of works of art with unique patterns and beauty.

The hallmark of Navaho Jewelry is that often it incorporates both native symbolism as well as modern abstract designs that stand out in its own right. Fleur-de-lis (feathered stars) are common symbols incorporated by silversmiths in many traditional jump rings, bracelets and belts. Animal symbols such as turtles or sun circles have been popularized with new contemporary styles like pendants or cuffs.

History Of Micro Mosaic Jewelry

Yet another example of how far Navaho Jewelry has come is its popularity among not only Native Americans but people throughout North America as well as abroad. As more people become familiar with this style of jewelry, prices have gone up accordingly since there is an increasing demand for these products due to their quality craftsmanship and eye-catching design elements.

People like buying authentic Native American jewelry from Amazon or major department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue; they recognize this style for its unique beauty coupled with a distinct story related to the culture it came from originally.

Unique Birthstones & Gemstones

Navajo jewelry is a popular style of southwestern jewelry that originated from the Native American tribe found in Arizona, New Mexico, and other surrounding areas. Navajo jewelry features intricate designs with beautiful colors and natural materials that incorporate elements of the Native American culture.

It has been around for centuries as it was originally passed down through generations of artisans who crafted items like necklaces, earrings, pendants and rings. The tradition continues today with families still adding their own unique styles to traditional pieces.

Types Of Material Used

  • Silver – Silver is a popular material used when crafting Navajo jewelry as it brings out the design’s details. Navajo artisans typically use sterling silver or fine silver in their works.
  • Leather – Leather is a material that’s often featured prominently on Navajo necklaces, bracelets, and other items as well.
  • Turquoise – This stone is one of the most recognizable symbols when it comes to Navaho jewelry and can be found on many traditional pieces.

Popular Symbols & Stones

Native American cultures have rich and complex symbolism associated with their jewelry. Popular symbols found in Navajo designs include Thunderbirds, feathers, kachinas (spirit Dolls), Kokopellis (a trickster God), Yei (warrior spirit) among others. Many of these symbols are thought to represent strength, wisdom or fertility while others are believed to bring good luck and protection.

Turquoise is one of the most widely used stones when it comes to Navaho Jewelry as it adds brilliant blues and greens that capture the beauty of nature’s southwest terrain. Other stones oftentimes incorporated into pieces include opal, lapis lazuli, coral, amber, quartz and more.

Ethical Value & Legacy

Each piece created by an artisan is a reflection of his or her expertise combined with history and culture which makes each item special in its own unique way. The ethical values associated with Navaho-style jewelry involve preserving ancient traditions while striving for sustainability throughout every step taken during production. The legacy attributed to each item pays respect to generations past as well those who will carry on the tradition for many years to come.

Exploring Color & Design

Navaho jewelry dates back to the early 20th century and is considered an important part of Native American culture. These pieces are historically meaningful, exquisitely crafted from silver and other materials, and deeply rooted in aesthetic symbolism. Navaho jewelry has long been a popular choice among those seeking to add a touch of style with spiritual significance to their wardrobes.

Navaho jewelry is renowned for its distinct color schemes and intricate designs. The colors vary from piece to piece, but blue turquoise and red coral often feature prominently. Turquoise is said to represent courage and Luck while red coral symbolizes joy and happiness.

Silver is another popular material used in these creations as it is thought to increase wisdom. Each jeweler has a unique style that reflects both personal preference and traditional tribal values; two distinct images typically emerge: bear claw motifs for strength, beauty, health, fertility as well as squash blossom designs for abundance, sustainabiility, hope and life cycle recognition.

Notable Features of Navaho Jewelry

  • Intricately designed rings.
  • Pendants intricately created with beads.
  • Earrings featuring small stones or shells.
  • Belts ornately crafted with metal work.
  • Bracelets adorned with bright turquoise stones.

For many Native Americans, jewelry making was seen as a way of preserving artforms passed down through generations; this tradition continues today in the modern productions inspired by authentic artifacts found within museums or private collections. The appearance of Navaho jewelry often incorporates themes related to spirituality – eagle feathers, thunderbirds or natural imagery – such symbols create meaningful connections with historically significant Connections reflect significant religious beliefs an actively tie one’s look to heritage.

This type of jewelry makes it easy for anyone looking to make bold fashion statements without abandoning respect for cultural traditions in the process.


Navaho jewelry has been passed down through generations for centuries, becoming an integral part of the culture and traditions of Navahos. Though it is impossible to trace the exact origins of this craft, it is believed that many of its techniques were brought by traders from the Middle East.

As time went by, these techniques evolved into a unique art form which incorporated local symbols and materials that defined Navaho jewelry. Using silver, turquoise and various other gemstones, today’s Navaho jewelers create stunning pieces that are cherished for their timeless beauty.

Landscape also had a big influence on the designs that are common in Navaho jewelry. During their travels, Native Americans drew inspiration from places all over the Southwest – dramatic mountainscapes, canyons and deserts informed how they crafted ornate teardrop earrings, squash blossom necklaces and intricate bracelets. Certain pieces even featured symbols associated with ceremonies or totems shared among certain tribes in order to pass on knowledge between generations.

The long-standing tradition has since flourished and extended beyond one particular region or group; it has become renowned around the world as some of the finest tribal jewelry available. It also continues to serve an important role for Native American communities where young people can learn from older generational wisdom about how to create meaningful pieces honoring their heritage.

Open air markets have also been established in cities such as Gallup and Santa Fe so locals can share their craftsmanship with others. Whether you visit an esteemed gallery or pick up something at a weekend fair in New Mexico, or shop online for authentic badges crafted by contemporary indigenous artists – Navaho jewelry will remain as evidence of cultural adaptation still strongly alive today and celebrated worldwide by many cultures alike.

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