In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we want to take a look back at the history of Indigenous American Jewelry and the influence that it has had on modern designs.
Indigenous American jewelry is renowned worldwide for its distinctive style and unique design. Studies show that it has been influenced by the spiritual beliefs, land, cultures, and legends of each unique tribe. Archaeologists have found a wealth of evidence that American Indian jewelry making dates as far back as 12,000 years ago. We wanted to take a moment to highlight specific tribes, their unique designs and their impact to DYLAN LEX designs as we create new styles that meld old and new.
Let's take a look at 2 jewelry styles that originated from Indigenous American tribes:
1. Squash Blossom Necklace
Across the Southwest, the Squash Blossom necklace is acknowledged as the most notable piece in any collection of handmade Indigenous American jewelry. Over the centuries, It has been re-interpreted by many artists and has taken many forms. The Navajo artisans are credited with combining the use of turquoise stones and Hispanic silversmithing first seen around 1850. One of the most notable designs is the squash blossom seen above.
Meaning "crescent shape" or the "curve", the impressive central piece is called a Naja. The shape is said to have been used to ward against the evil eye.
Originally, Indigenous American silversmiths melted down US dollars, Mexican pesos, and any other type of silver they could find to create these necklaces. By the 1890s, turquoise was a popular addition. The squash blossom beads are named 'the beads that spread out' which is said to originate from the appearances of actual squash or pomegranate blossoms. Indigenous Americans pulled inspiration for their designs from the natural resources they used in their everyday lives.
2. Sterling Silver with turquoise stone
Model Quannah Chasinghorse at the Met Gala in 2021, representing her indigenous roots through her turquoise and silver jewelry that reflects her ties to the Navajo tribe.
Turquoise has been known to be used by southwest American Indian tribes since around 200 B.C. The turquoise stone represents happiness, health, and luck, and was used in jewelry, ceremonies, art, and trade. Today, turquoise jewelry is still being made by American Southwest tribes such as the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni.
Before the Europeans came to America, Native American metalwork consisted of hammering and etching copper into pendants. After American Southwest tribes artists such as the Navajo learned silversmithing from the Spanish in the 1800's, metal jewelry arts blossomed, new artistic styles and methods were introduced, and distinctive native jewelry like the Navajo turquoise inlay rings developed.
The ability to work with silver combined with semiprecious stones such as turquoise permitted their jewelry to become more desirable and gave the native people ability to trade more successfully with the newcomers. In the early 1900s when tourist and settlers swept across the land, the silver and turquoise jewelry was established as a staple of the trade economy.
Native American jewelry continues to have a notable cultural significance and is still highly treasured, worn all over the world in countless ways. Here are some of our pieces that were inspired by Native American tribal jewelry:
If interested in supporting local Native American artist, here is a link to T.Skies where you can purchase authentic jewelry made by Native American & Southwest tribes. 5% of all purchases goes to the T.Skies Co-Op to support artisan's way of life.