Native Jewelry Makers
Variety and innovation in Indian jewelry were not always welcome by buyers of Indian art. Many contemporary
Native American jewelers began working in the 1970s when the model for Indian jewelry, originating in the late
1800s or early 1900s, was still confined to silver and turquoise.
For in depth information on Native jewelry makers from various tribes click the links below:
Yazzie Johnson and Gail Bird
Increasingly, some jewelers did not want to create solely within this specified formula, and they began to
experiment with new materials and designs. In the 1960s, their efforts to move away from traditional formats
and materials were initially met with resistance. Expanded efforts in the 1970s marked a turning point in
Native American jewelry making, freeing southwest jewelers to choose from an array of techniques and
materials and to create something totally new.
Centuries ago, Native jewelry was formed from shells, stones or semiprecious stones such as turquoise or
garnets as well as ivory, bone and other natural materials. Native peoples also traded with other peoples from
distant lands for diverse materials, which then were used in various aspects of life as well as for adornment.
Desert peoples inhabiting what we now call Arizona and New Mexico traveled by foot to the California coasts
for seashells exotic to the Southwest and to Central Mexico for parrot feathers to use in ceremonies.
By the 1500s, explorers from European countries brought glass beads to exchange with Native Americans for
food and other goods. Beads and other trade items such as brass thimbles, brass bells and buttons began to be
incorporated into Native jewelry and cultural arts, adding a new dimension of creativity. Copyright 2012