Native American Jewelry

Native American Jewelry has been known for its beauty and practicality.

Every American Indian tribe had their own jewelry style. The differences were not at noticeable than with other arts and crafts because Native American jewelry and the materials used for making it were the same. They used beads, copper, shells, silver, ivory, amber, and turquoise, among other items. These were major trade items long that were used even before Europeans arrival in America. After colonization, Native American jewelry traditions remained strong, and were not replaced by new materials. Though eventually, new items such as glass beads and more advanced metalworking techniques would join in the old customized jewelry options. Two very general categories make up Native American jewelry which was metalwork and beadwork. Before the arrival of Europeans, Native American Indian metalwork was fairly simple, consisting chiefly of hammering and etching copper into pendants or earrings and shaping copper and silver into beads.

In the 1800's when the Native American Indian artists learned silversmithing from the Spanish, metal jewelry trading grew in the Southwest. Unique native jewelry like the American Indian silver overlay bracelets, and Indian turquoise inlay rings developed from the mixture of the new techniques along with traditional designs. Very talented and advanced artisans were also continuing to create other Native American Jewelry such as beadwork. They were able to grind turquoise and shell beads into smooth bracelets and necklaces. The Indians took the time to intricately carve wood and bone beads, soak and piece porcupine quills, and stitch of thousands of beads together to create beautiful Native American jewelry. Porcupine quillwork is hard to come by today, but several different forms of beadwork are still being used today. It found that imported Czech seed beads are still among the favorite medium with many Indian artists.

In North America the finest example of Native American jewelry belongs to the artisans who worked silver and semiprecious stones into unique inlay and overlay designs. Southwestern Native American jewelry continues to be a strong tradition today. Their artwork is prized both tribally and internationally. There is also a booming trade among collectors for what is known as dead pawn jewelry. Dead pawn is antique jewelry which was pawned by Indians who were financially destitute and were never able to reclaim them. In some cases the jewelry was stolen from Indians or pawned by thieves. Much of the pawned jewelry was taken from the Indians by some sort of trickery, stolen or traded by Indians suffering from poverty or alcohol addiction.

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