A Brief History Of Navajo Jewelry

The Navajo people have been making silver and turquoise ornamentation for centuries. They began in the fifteenth century when Spaniard explorers arrived displaying silver decorations on the saddles and bridles of their horses as well as on their clothing. It is disputed whether or not the trade was learned at the hands of the Spaniards, from other tribes or by inventive self teaching but the resulting Navajo Jewelry was as highly prized then as it is today.

The earliest efforts of these crafts men were tailored after the medallions found on the Spaniards horses. They soon developed a market for their wares with their own tribes and that market eventually grew to include other tribes and the European explorers and travelers who were passing through their territory. Their work was highly sought after because of the beautiful accents they were able to develop.

They created a silver forge that improved the look of their pieces and expedited the time spent making them. Many of the necklaces and belts they made were traded to settlers and soldiers for silver plugs that could be melted down for new designs. The plugs became less important when silver sheeting became available. They no longer needed to melt the silver and hammer it flat before starting new projects.

Many celebrities wear turquoise pieces as a trademark of their style. These people have been responsible for the rise and fall of popularity and sales. The fashion industry has also been instrumental in creating a market for the pieces found on reservations and in trading posts nationwide. The necklaces and bracelets made of silver and displaying large pieces of turquoise or coral are very distinct and recognizable.

Jewelers today often arrange the stones in the form of animals or craft the silver into them for ear rings or broaches. They have also branched to other gem stones like opals and mother of pearl. The quality of the work when created by authentic Native American artists mirrors the work of their ancestors in beauty and design.

A technique that has proven to produce a more ornate look for larger pieces is die casting. With metal dies the artist imprints images on the silver by striking the die with a hammer. This technique, if done properly produces a crisp, sharp image of foliage or hieroglyphs into the body of the piece. Other designs are also available from individual artists.

You may find that some of these pieces can be rather pricey. This is true especially if you are looking at the pieces offered by authentic artists. You can find the mass produced pieces that come from factories at a much lower price but you will sacrifice the unique quality and look you receive from the silversmiths who do one piece at a time and detail them as one of a kind.

The pieces can be large and showy or small and ornate. What you select is a personal decision but either way you can expect to receive something that you can be proud to wear and display. Many collectors consider them to be family heirlooms.

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