Native American social classes were sometimes represented with bead jewelry.
Even before the birth of Christ, there has been bead jewelry. Many archeological expeditions prove that fact. However, many people attribute this jewelry to the Native American Indians. For all purposes, the tradition of bead jewelry did start with them.
Bead jewelry was an important part of the Indian culture. Not only was it worn on their body, but it also sometimes represented a certain social class. In addition, bead jewelry was often used in the trade of items.
The Native Americans used a variety of materials in their bead jewelry. Sea shells were the most popular and readily available in many places along the coastlines. Animal bone was often shaped and polished for bead jewelry too. What really identified Native American adornments was the use of stones – turquoise to be exact. In fact, you will likely find turquoise used in a lot of bead jewelry today. It is a versatile stone found with a number of striations as well as colors like blue and red. Unlike today where the beads are strung using fabric threads and even monofilaments, the Native Americans many years ago used a variety of stringing materials like sinew (tendons of an animal), hardy fibers of plants and even animal hide or strips of leather.
Some of the most beautiful bead jewelry was created by the Indians in the southwest areas of North America, namely the Navajos. Some historians believe that the Navajos taught other tribes like the Hopi and Pueblos the craft too. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that silver really started being incorporated into the bead jewelry designs. Many believe it was the influence of conquering Spaniards that introduced silver into the jewelry equation.
Today, bead jewelry reflecting the Native American culture is very popular. The combination of silver and turquoise is probably the most sought after pieces. While a lot of attractive bead jewelry is made overseas these days, you can be sure that a lot of it is made by machines. In order to get authentic bead jewelry, be sure to buy it where it is crafted by hand.