Jewelry-making developed in indigenous cultures as a reflection and celebration of the colorful and diverse beliefs, principles, and history of Native Americans.
The delicate process through which American Indian jewelry is handcrafted and styled makes each piece a valuable and unique contribution to the field of art. Begin to cultivate your appreciation for fine Native American art by learning about the history and evolution of indigenous jewelry-making!
What did Native Americans use when they started making jewelry?
American Indian jewelry has become famous for its stunning combination of sterling silver and turquoise. Before learning the secrets of silversmithing from Spanish settlers in the mid-16th century though, many tribes would use copper from nearby mines, as well as carved animal bone to forge various jewelry designs.
Early Native Americans would also strategically use materials from the natural world they so revered to infuse their pieces with spiritual meaning and beauty. Seashells, precious stones, animal bone, and wood were among the many resources they used to make the beads, pendants, and fetishes that adorned their jewelry.
What jewelry-making techniques did early Native Americans use?
Native American jewelry-makers relied just as heavily on natural elements to construct their pieces as they did to ornament them! Firm believers of using every part of an animal, they would use tendon to string beads together or carve animal bone to be decorated for necklaces or bracelets. They might also use plant fibers to string beads, or even stitch them directly onto clothing.
Another early method of American Indian jewelry-making that is not as prevalent today is the soaking and stringing together of porcupine quills. Indigenous peoples would often use this technique to make elegant chokers, necklaces, and other jewelry.
How do Native American artists make jewelry today?
Jewelry-making skills and techniques are typically passed down between generations of Native American artists. As a result, many of them still use traditional methods and produce jewelry with authentic, one-of-a-kind value and qualities.
Contemporary American Indian jewelry-makers have combined these historical techniques with modern practices such as using machine-made materials like steel and titanium, as well as finely processed stones. With a combination of different casting, overlaying, stamping, and finishing techniques, Native American artists continue to make incredible, unparalleled jewelry.
If you’re interested in owning your own special piece of Native American jewelry, shop from the distinguished artists we carry at the Faust Gallery! We offer a wide selection of vintage and contemporary pieces to fit all styles and tastes. Browse our jewelry and accessories online today for an extraordinary new addition to your collection!