Bead Necklace

Learn how the American Indian bead necklace varies with the style of beads and colors available from tribe to tribe.

Bead Necklace

It was said that the island of Manhattan was sold for a bead necklace, and if you look at a traditional Native American bead necklace, you might be able to understand why.

Traditional Native American beads consisted of shell, coral, turquoise, precious stones, copper, amber, ivory, animal bones and teeth and other materials. The kinds of material used for the typical Native American bead necklace depended on the region and the tribe.

Obviously, Native Americans who lived close to water were more likely to create a bead necklace out of shells, and tribes who lived in dry, Southwestern regions often used turquoise and other stones that are commonly found in that region.

Glass beads were not used in the traditional Native American bead necklace until Europeans introduced glass beads to the American continent. Once the Native Americans perfected the method of producing glass beads, small pieces of colored glass became a popular commodity among tribes and the use of glass beads was incorporated into traditional Native American designs. 

The design of a typical Native American bead necklace depends on tradition and the aesthetic tastes of a particular tribe. Beads simply may be strung together simply, or tiny, colorful beads are combined to create intricate, geometrical designs and are sewn onto hide backgrounds. You can also find a simple pendant consisting of a large stone inlaid with Navajo silver.

A Native American bead necklace is a very popular item of jewelry and makes an excellent gift. If you are looking for an authentic Native American bead necklace made by a Native American craftsman, it is easy to get fooled by claims of authenticity on the internet or in tourist shops. Instead, it is better actually to travel to places where Native American artisans work and to purchase your bead necklace there. You can, therefore, be certain that you are purchasing a genuine product.

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