Thursday, 28 October 2010

Distinctly Chic: Southwestern Jewellery

Navajo woman
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Preceding  the Europeans' arrival in  the Americas, Native Indian jewellery was fairly simple in technique, consisting primarily of hammering and etching copper into pendants or earrings and fashioning copper and silver into beads. Then, in the mid-19th century, when Navajo, Hopi and Pueblo artists began to learn the art of silversmithing from their interaction with the Spanish, their metal jewelry designs burgeoned in the Southwest. Native jewelry such as the Squash Blossom necklace design (see the examples below), unique to the region - including Hopi silver overlay bracelets and Navajo turquoise inlay rings - combined and developed from that amalgamation of newly learned Spanish smithing techniques with their own traditional native designs to create distinctly Southwestern-styled jewellery unique to Native Indian culture. 

Example of Squash Blossom jewellery

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Each Native American Indian Tribe has its own unique style of jewelry making. 

The Zuni Indian Nation  (located in New Mexico): the Zuni jewellers' distinctive designs utilize mosaic (to stunning effect - as evidenced in the example below), clusters, channel inlayand what is commonly referred to as the petit point or needlepoint methods, using a variety of hard materials in the form of miscellaneous stones and shells.

Micro-mosaic inlay silver bracelet
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The Navajo Indian Nation (located in the northern portion of Arizona and New Mexico):  are famous for their Squash Blossom necklaces and their jewellers tend to use large pieces of turquoise, coral and other inlay stones. Navajo sand casting is one of the oldest silver working methods; the Navajos are the largest producers of Native American jewelry.

Silver & turquoise necklace, 1960s
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Other examples of Squash Blossom designs, above & below

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The Hopi Indian Nation (located in the region of Arizona): the Hopi silversmiths favour the overlay technique with infrequent use of stones in their jewelry. According to the site,, "Making jewelry with the overlay technique involves sawing the design out of one sheet of silver and then overlaying it on a second sheet to which it is then sweated or soldered. The background is oxidized to darken it with the top layer of the jewelry polished."
Squash Blossom necklace & bracelet by Jack Adakai
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The Santo Domingo Indian Nation (New Mexico): their techniques make use of seashells, turquoise, jet and coral and are known for their bead jewellery.


Zuni Sun-face Squash Blossom necklace
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Traditionally speaking, although Southwestern Indian jewellery is more often than not executed in silver, contemporary designers are finding new ways to express their talents, such as their experimentation in the usage of gold (as the examples below demonstrate). Occasionally, they mix both metals, silver and gold, in the same piece.

 Gold and turquoise

Bisbee turquoise
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Navajo silver, turquoise & coral bracelet
by silversmith Jeanette Dale, signed: 'JDale'

Silver & Morenci turquoise pin by Edison Smith, ca. 1975 
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Contemporary New Mexican jewellery
By Michael Zobel of Atelier Zobel
(Note the combination of gold and silver)

Below are two examples of the work of silver and goldsmith artisan,
Jimmy King Jr.
Inlaid link bracelet by Jimmy King Jr.

Handmade silver cuff bracelet by Jimmy King Jr.

Silver ring made with natural Pilot Mountain turquoise
by Orville Tsinnie
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Zuni Channel turquoise inlay necklace
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An example of Santa Fe native Richard Stump's contemporary design:
A bracelet of silver, turquoise & coral
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The two above images are courtesy of:

Below are examples of coral & silver bracelets:

The above two bracelets are by David Cadman

50-stone row bracelet by Albert Jake

Coral cluster bracelet by Albert Jake
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14K gold & coral bangle by the artisan Edith Tsabetsaye
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Silver & turquoise cuff by Stanley Parker

The jewellery of silversmiths, Wilson & Carol Begay:

Sandcast silver & Royston turquoise cuff bracelet

Silver & Morenci turquoise belt buckle

Sandcast silver cuff bracelet
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Triple turquoise necklace by Charles Johnson
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Silver belt buckle by silversmith Harrison Bitsue
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The following forty-five images are all courtesy of:

Silver & Morenci turquoise cuff by Jay Livingston

Cuff bracelet by Arviso

A Darryl Yonnie silver & turquoise bracelet

Allsion Lee bracelets with Carico Lake turquoise

Silver & Lone Mountain turquoise - marked RM

A pair of R. Chee cuff bracelets with Royston turquoise

Below: a pair of silver & turquoise cuffs by Derrick Gordon

Below is an illustration of what is known as 'Needlepoint':

Silver & turquoise Needlepoint cuff by Calvin Eustace


Tufa cast silver & turquoise bracelet by Harry H. Begay

Silver & turquoise cuff bracelet by Frederick Brown

Cuffs designed for men:
Buffalo horn, silver, gold, turquoise & coral men's cuff by Boyd Tsosie


Silver, gold and turquoise men's cuff by Aaron Anderson


Al Joe Easter silver & turquoise cuff

Fossil ivory, silver, turquoise & coral cuff by Richard Tsosie

Silver & turquoise cuff by Richard Tsosie


Aaron Anderson silver & turquoise beads cuff

Tufa cast heavy bracelet by Aaron Anderson & Tommy Jackson

Tufa cast silver, turquoise & coral men's cuff by Olin Tsingine

Turquoise & silver belt buckle by Vernon Haskie
The work of Wes Willie:

Gold, coral & turquoise bracelet

Tufa cast silver & stone inlaid cuff

14K gold cuff with stone inlays
An example of silver and gold used in one piece:
Silver, gold, turquoise & coral bracelet
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Zuni cuff by Don C. Dewa:

Silver, turquoise & coral

Navajo bracelet by David Tune:

Silver and various inlaid stones
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The Irrepressible Millicent Rogers:
Avid collector & lover of Southwestern art, jewellery & artifacts

Standard Oil heiress Mary Millicent Rogers was considered one of the most sophisticated fashion icons of her day. Acclaimed for her chic and immensely wealthy, she had "A passion for life's aesthetic pleasures inspired a journey that led her to the beautiful and historic land of Taos, New Mexico ... She believed the Southwestern Indian culture was a precious part of America's heritage that had to be recognized and preserved." (Quote:


"Her designer friend, Gilbert Adrian, introduced her to Taos in New Mexico. In 1947, she, like so many other celebrities, was drawn to the area's beauty, dry climate, and the Indians and Hispanic peoples. She was fascinated by Indian art and began collecting jewelry, blankets, baskets, textiles, and santos (folk representations of saints done mainly in wood). She lived in a simple, remodeled adobe house."  (Quote:


Millicent Rogers amassed a massive collection of Navajo jewellery, textiles and artifacts. Her namesake museum in Taos, The Millicent Rogers Museum, built to house her extensive collections, opened in 1956 by her family to preserve and showcase her extensive collection of the Southwestern art that she had lovingly assembled during her lifetime. Astoundingly, just of Millicent's vast personal collection of silver and turquoise Southwestern jewellery alone, the museum contains over one thousand pieces .
Suggested readings:

A Guide to Indian Jewelry of the Southwest (1999), by Georgiana K. Smith: Western National Parks Association 

The Beauty of Hopi Jewelry (1999), by Theda Bassman, Ph. D. Bassman & Gene Blazer: Kiva Publishing

Totems to Turquoise: Native North American jewelry arts of the Northwest and Southwest (2004), by Kari Chalker, Lois Sherr Dubin, Peter M. Whitely & The American Museum of Natural History: Harry N. Abrams

Fine Indian Jewelry: The Millicent Rogers Museum Collection (2006), by Shelby Jo-Anne Tisdale & The Millicent Rogers Museum: Museum of New Mexico Press

Contemporary Southwestern Jewelry (2007), by Diana Pardue, Craig Smith & Heard Museum: Gibbs Smith


  1. How Gorgeous everything is on your Blog!
    You are definitely a dreamer.
    The necklace is beautiful and looks like a dream it's self.
    Anyone would be blessed to have it!

  2. Dear reader - believe me, your comment is well appreciated! This particular posting was one of my earliest ones and therefore, is very dear to me... I've always had a penchant for Southwestern jewellery; simply put, they're distinctly & absolutely chic!

  3. just wonderful, a pleasure for eyes and mind .... lovely . thanks .

    1. Dear Anonymous - I'm so pleased you enjoyed this, one of my earliest postings. I do hope that you continue to explore & enjoy other topics on this site.

      Best regards,
      ₵. Ð.

  4. Great post! I really like this great job. I love bracelet and pendent because it is very cool. Thanks for sharing the post.

    Jewellers in Mohali

    1. Breathtaking, isn't it? I'm utterly mad about Southwestern silver & turquoise jewellery - so distinctive, so unique.

      So glad you enjoyed it as well.

      With best regards,
      ₵. Ð.

  5. Hi I just enter your site ,excellent job.Wondering about pic no 16 the Jimmie King Jr. bracelet.I have one in gold and silver.Is it rare and what is it worth. I have inherited and don't know anything about it.

    1. Dear Anonymous:

      I've no idea what the value of such things may be; I wouldn't exactly consider myself to be a jewellery expert by any stretch of the imagination.

      My suggestion in regards to your Jimmy King Jr. bracelet is that you find a jewellery expert - preferrably someone specifically knowledgeable about Southwestern jewellery - & have it properly appraised; it will take some time & effort but, in the end, if you really want to have it accurately appraised, you'll find it's worth the work involved. (You may consider starting the process by contacting some of the more reputable auction houses & seek the advice of some of their jewellery experts.)

      I hope that's been helpful.

      ₵. Ð

  6. Wow... Such a nice post. You have shown here excellent pictures describing the products.This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. You know You definitely put a new spin on a subject that's been written about for years. Great stuff, just great! To know more about our Navajo Turquoise Jewelry products you can visit us.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Mr. Jain; so glad to hear that you enjoyed & appreciated it.

      I've had a look at some of your turquoise jewellery items - (turquoise being one of my favourite stones & colours) - & they look positively delectable!

      Wishing you well in your enterprise,
      ₵. Ð.

    2. Thank you Ŧhe ₵oincidental Ðandy, I am also very happy that You have gone through our products and appreciated those. I am also waiting to read more post of yours.

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      Best of luck..