History of Native American Jewelry Style Guide

By Gemexi Team | Jewelry Education
  • Updated On Mar 14, 2023
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History of Native American Jewelry Style Guide

The significance of jewelry is simply incomparable! While it sparkles and adds shimmer and beauty to anyone’s personality, it also fills you with pure delight from within. Embedding rich and diverse elements like gold, silver, platinum, gemstones and more alluring options, the jewelry gamut contains countless choices that cater perfectly to different people’s choices and taste. While some jewelry types stay in fashion for a certain time, there are more categories the charm of which never fades. In a nutshell, the latter type of jewelry can be simply called timeless jewelry – the jewelry which always remains in our hearts as well as in fashion trends! Native American Jewelry is one such timeless jewelry that has never lost its attraction, lure and popularity. Instead, the demand and following of this jewelry has always increased with time.

If you are a jewelry aficionado who would love to enhance his/her knowledge and understanding of Native American Jewelry, this is the place where you should be! Scroll down and get acquainted with this hypnotic jewelry. From its history and types to style tips and more, we have covered it all, just for you!

Native American Jewelry History

Native American jewelry has a rich and complex history, spanning centuries of cultural and artistic development. The jewelry created by Native American tribes has been an integral part of their cultural expression and identity, and has been used for both personal adornment and ceremonial purposes.
  1. How Did Native Americans Benefitted from the Advent of Silver?

The word Native American jewelry paints a picture of jewelry before us that has shells, conches and other natural elements in it. The archaeological discoveries suggest that such jewelry creation is more than ten thousand years old! The excavation of such jewelry examples clearly indicated that Turquoise was one of the chief elements of earlier discovered tribal jewelry. Nonetheless, the presence of other elements like beads, copper, etc was also noticed. While the ancient Native Americans were already using jewelry as adornment or as a delightful gift for their loved ones, they got happier and comfortable and excited showing more interest in jewelry when the Spanish introduced them to silver and its easy smithing. When the Spanish came to Central America, they spread the qualities of silver including how easily it could be embedded and used in jewelry making. The Native Americans loved the virtues of silver and soon included the same in their jewelry making, selling and trading. While Turquoise and several other gemstones were already playing a pivotal role in their jewelry, the advent of silver made the Native American Jewelry even more attractive and also benefitted the Native Americans with a significant increase in profit in their jewelry business. Till 1900, Native American Jewelry became quite popular across the world. Due to its large use of Turquoise in it, the jewelry is sometimes referred to simply as Turquoise jewelry too. 
  1. Significance of Turquoise 

The most alluring fact about Turquoise gemstones is that each gemstone exhibits a unique pattern and shows a mix of shades and linear patterns. The main cause of the blend of colors in this gemstone is the presence of natural minerals in it. This quality was loved by the Native American tribes and including Hopi, Zuni and Navajo people, many more fell for the stone. The durability was yet another feature that made this gem popular during ancient times too. The durability and uniqueness of each piece made turquoise a game-changer item in the world of trade. The Native Americans soon realized its significance and started profiting a great extent with the inclusion of turquoise in their business. 
  1. Meaning

The associated meaning of Turquoise also increased its value. The stone having tranquil blue green shades were often connected with water and the sky. Historical sources suggest that once the gemstone’s demand increased so much that many people fulfilled it using fake specimens!

Types of Jewelry

You would be surprised to know that ancient Native American jewelry had almost the same basic concepts as the modern jewelry of Americans today. Necklaces, pendants, bracelets, rings earrings and even chokers were in use at that time. It is worth mentioning that wampum beads were a special element of the jewelry. These beads comprised the purple and white mollusk shells. The wampum beads were used almost in every form of jewelry including the earrings, necklaces and more. Given below are different types of Native American jewelry that caught the attention of jewelry lovers. Be it the Wampum beads or the mix of beads, shells and bones, the different variations in the Native American jewelry made it look rich and also added diversity to the entire range of jewelry.
  1. The blend of beads and jewelry – The Native American jewelry had a distinguished feature of creating alluring patterns that involved both beads and jewelry elements. This combo served as a captivating option and became so popular that it broke the boundaries of remaining confined to the jewelry world! The bead-jewelry combo was also observed in apparel, gauntlets and even shoes. 
  2. Wampum beads symbolized status–Just as a few jewelry items like original diamonds, gold jewelry or more such options have become a status symbol, the wampum beads served the same objective in the past. They were also, sometimes, used for communicating messages. 
  3. Ear spools – The stone ear spools also made a vital part of Native American jewelry. They had various stones as well as beads to create an attractive look. 

Midwestern Jewelry

The Midwestern jewelry was designed and created by the  Midwest tribes including the Chippewa, the Sioux, the Blackfeet, etc. They used bones, shells and a few other natural elements to carve astonishingly beautiful beads. As the traders from Spain and Mexico introduced silver, the Midwestern jewelry artists fell for it and initiated making beautiful jewelry that now comprised silver, turquoise, beads, etc. The Midwestern jewelry had a unique feature of using the stamp or the hammer technique in which an alluring pattern was carved and created using hammer or stamps.

The popular techniques and varieties of Midwestern jewelry included the following:
  1. The stamping technique of creating patterns
  2. The hammering processes
  3. Patterns that were inspired by nature, traditions and culture
  4. The Sioux bracelets created with the help of animal bones
  5. Shell necklaces, earrings and ear spools
  6. Iroquois beadwork
  7. Seashell jewelry 

Eastern Woodlands Jewelry

The beautiful Eastern Woodland Jewelry also served as an integral part of Native American adornments. Especially, the pendants of Eastern Woodlands jewelry were very much in demand. These pendants were made of shell, metal, bones and beads. The beads were mainly carved out of the shells and were strung creatively and carefully to make fine pendants that enhanced the beauty of the wearer.

Western and Southwestern Jewelry

  1. The Heishe Necklaces

The description of the Western and Southwestern jewelry remains absolutely incomplete without mentioning the Heishe Necklace. This necklace originated from the people of Kewa Pueblo. It soon became popular among other people also and was also used by most of the southwestern tribal people. In the Heishe necklace, the beads were used quite creatively. The carving of beads into a disc-shape further enhanced the look of the beads and these disc-shaped beads served as the main element of the Heishe necklace. The variety of beads produced a vibrant colorful look and the Heishe necklaces looked very lively and captivating. The stringing was done very carefully and it was an obvious fact that even a small fault in stringing could lead to the destruction of the whole jewelry item. Again, the Heishe necklaces were first confined to several beads, Turquoise and other gemstones but with the introduction of Silver, they also witnessed and upgrade. The inclusion of silver bought a whole new look to these necklaces and made them even more splendid. 
  1. Apache Jewelry

The Apache jewelry provided unique and different jewelry choices for both women and men. The wide range of Apache jewelry included bracelets, rings and earrings in many alluring patterns.
  1. Jewelry inspired by geometric patterns

The geometric designs were also used and applied in the Native American jewelry items. The clean impactful geometric patterns made the jewelry look unique and remarkable. While the Native American jewelry range is quite comprehensive, the common feature worth mentioning is that each type of this jewelry has its own style and worth. Be it the geometric linear patterns, the nature-inspired designs, the hammering technique, the stamping processes or the use of beads, bones, shells, silver or other items, each Native American jewelry category adds tons of beauty to anyone. Today, the online shopping has made a dream come true where we can shop for our favorite jewelry in the blink of an eye. However, you must follow the basic rules while buying this beautiful Native American jewelry. Let us now discuss the same below.

What Should You Remember While Buying Native American Jewelry?

It is crucial to consider a few facts while shopping for the Native American jewelry. Though the given below tips might look simple to you but at the same time, they are quite efficient in getting your hands on good jewelry and bagging the best pieces. 
  1. Consider the price – If you come across Native American jewelry that is astonishingly cheap, you must reject that option and consider buying this jewelry from some other place. The original and authentic jewelry always comes at a certain price range and demands you to spend a reasonable amount of money.
  2. Check the color carefully – It is very much essential to remember that turquoise gemstone often offers a blend of shades. This is so because many types of natural minerals are present in it that give their own shade to this gemstone. As the Native American jewels include turquoise as one of the most important elements, you must check the turquoise closely and carefully. In case, you get a jewel that that has turquoise with a uniform shade, and also the price of that jewel is quite low, you must conclude immediately that it is a fake piece. 
  3. Check the durability and do the scratch test – Take note that turquoise is a durable and strong gem. Also, it must resist scratches. You can quickly check the gem with a simple finger scratch. 

Effective Tips to Look Your Best with Native American Jewelry 

Lastly, it is time to discuss some style tips with this beautiful jewelry.
  1. Create stacks – Be it the Native American necklaces, bracelets or rings, you can for the stacking trick. Stacking refers to wearing the same category of jewels in layers. When you adopt this trick, you will get a lovely vibrant look. 
  2. Consider a single piece – If you are interested in drawing attention to your particular piece of jewelry, go for the single piece. Instead of wearing your favorite pendant, ring and earrings together, wear a single piece like only the ring, or just the pendant. 
  3. Shop for pieces with different colors – Have as many jewelry pieces as you want but ensure choosing different shades. This will help you mix and match your jewelry easily with different apparel. 
  4. Try the contrast rule – It is not essential that you always match the color of your jewelry with your dress. Sometimes, trying the contrast rule works magically for your overall look. For instance, you can pick to wear a pair of chunky colorful earrings with your single-color dress in black, white or any other shade. This will give you a super attractive look. 
  5. Make rings your style statement – One of the most in-demand options in the Native American jewelry is the ring. The bold and super captivating look of these rings has been loved by both commoners as well as celebrities across the world. You too can shop for these rings and use them as your style statement. 
It is also interesting to know that there are no set rules for wearing this beautiful jewelry. Hence, you can also create your own style tips and show off a unique appearance. Last, but not least, you must always shop the Native American Jewelry from the most authentic and reputed places. Gemexi is an online gemstone and jewelry store that caters to different jewelry needs. Providing original and natural gemstones and passionately crafted premium quality jewelry, Gemexi has become the no.1 choice for numerous customers worldwide. Explore the comprehensive range of jewelry at the store today and shop the best quality jewelry and gemstones online.

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