Native American Turquoise Jewelry

Native American turquoise jewelry is a trendy way to add flair to your outfit. However, these colorful pieces also carry a much deeper meaning. Native American turquoise jewelry is symbolic of nature, more specifically the blue sky, which Native Americans associate with spirituality.

Turquoise is a precious gem and usually has a green or blue color. The exact color of the turquoise piece is determined by the amount of copper in it. Generally the more copper in a piece the more blue it will appear. Also, turquoise has been discovered in white and dark blue colors as well. Turquoise is found most commonly in the southwest region of the United States and is the stone that can be seen most frequently in Native American jewelry.

Turquoise is a meaningful mineral to the Native Americans. It can be used as a symbol of wealth or status in certain tribes. In fact native Americans often bury loved ones with their turquoise jewelry to be taken with them to the afterlife.

In addition, many Indian tribes associate Native American turquoise jewelry with fertility. For example, the Tewa tribe refers to the stone as The Turquoise Woman or The Turquoise Mother. However, in other tribes such as the Zuni tribe turquoise is given male characteristics and is often called The Turquoise Boy.

Native American turquoise jewelry can also be seen as a gift from one individual to another. However, more commonly in Indian tribes turquoise is considered a gift from the spirits to man. In addition, many tribes, including the Zuni, Hopi, Tewa, and Kresan associate turquoise jewelry with the northern direction. Conversely, other tribes, such as the Tiwa, Picunis, and Sandia, associate turquoise with the southern direction. Despite this inconsistency, most tribes will agree that Native American turquoise jewelry has the power to make just about anything more desirable.
Turquoise Jewelry

Native American Navajo Tribe


Habitat
The Navajo lived in what is now northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona. This land contained peaks, grasslands, deserts, and canyons. The Navajo were a nomadic group of people until they came into contact with the Pueblo. They adopted some of the beliefs and customs of the Pueblo including farming, making pottery, and weaving.

Homes
The Navajo lived in homes called hogans. Hogans were round houses built with forkedsticks. The sticks were covered with brush, packed earth, hides, and whatever wasavailable. The front door of the hogan always faced east to catch the first light of themorning sun. Later the Navajo built a six-sided hogan of logs and mud. The hogan alwayshad only one room. Some had tables, chairs, beds, and wood-burning stoves. Outside thehome a loom for weaving was set up. It was brought indoors only in the winter. A corral for the herd of sheep was close by the hogan. Homes were far apart from each other. The Navajo blessed their homes in a special ceremony to bring it good luck and happiness.

The Navajo make their clothing from deerskin. The men wore breechcloths and leggings. The women wore deerskin dresses. Both wore moccasins. After the 1800’s the Navajo men borrowed the style of the Mexicans and wore blankets draped over one shoulder. Their pants ended halfway between their knees and ankles. They decorated the seams of their pants with silver buttons. The women also borrowed the Mexican style of dressing. The women wore woolen dresses made with two blankets stitched together at their shoulders. The women carried their babies in cradle boards, sometimes strapped to their backs. Later the women traded for calico and made big, full skirts.

Traditional women would wear a traditional dress made of cotton material, having three to four tears in the skirt. Her shirt is typically made of velvet or crushed velvet adorned with coin buttons. She will also wear two types of traditional belts, either at the same time or one at a time. That decision is usually made based on the type of event or reason for dressing traditional. The first belt is a woven belt is named “sash belt”, the second, a leather belt, which is worn on top of the sash; this is called a concho belt. The women have no head dresses, rather a Navajo bun positioned on the back of the head.

A traditional man would wear cotton pants, a concho belt, and velvet or crushed velvet shirt. A man and wife will usually wear matching outfits. The only traditional head dress worn is worn by a man. Aside from the Navajo bun, positioned in the back of the head, there would be a scarf, folded to make a long thin (belt looking) scarf. This would be tied above one ear.

Food
The Navajo were primarily hunters and trappers. They hunted deer, pronghorn antelope, and rabbits. Later they became farmers and sheep raisers. The grew watermelons, corn, beans, and squash. They also gathered wild plants, seeds, roots, and berries.

Customs
The Navajo believed in many gods. The most powerful god was Sun Bearer and one of his wives, Changing Women. The land of the Navajo was marked off by four sacred mountains: white mountains, turquoise blue mountain, yellow mountain, and jet black mountain.

The sand painting was constructed on the floor of the hogan by sifting various powdered herbs, sand and other powdery material. The sick person was given a special herb to drink and told to sit in the center of the dry painting. The shaman touched the head of the figure then touched the patient’s had and chanted. This was repeated with each part of the body. The sand painting was removed before sundown and buried beneath trees that stood to the north, south, east, and west of the hogan. If the patient died his/her body was taken out a new door broken through the north side of the hogan and burned.

Around 1600 the Navajo women began to spin and weave wool. The sheep belonged to the women and the horses belonged to the men. The women sheared the sheep. Navajo women learned from the Pueblo how to weave. The early rugs they made were usually striped straight across. Later the women learned to weave a stripe on a slant and to make a diamond shaped design. The first rugs the Navajo made were dyed with leaves, berries, and insects. The frame of the loom was made of four long poles and set up outdoors except in the winter. The rug or blanket was never wholly completed or perfect because the Navajos believed it would offend the spirits.

Silversmithing
The Navajo started silverwork in the late 1800’s. First they hammered Spanish and Mexican coins into silver buttons. The buttons were sewn onto their clothing and cut off when money was needed. After the Treaty of 1868 the Navajo people were given specialized tools for silver smiting. After this they began making jewelry with turquoise stones.
Turquoise Jewelry

Native American Jewelry

Native American Indians are known worldwide for their beautiful turquoise  jewelry.

Each Native American Indian Tribe has their own unique style of jewelry making. Although over the years various artists from the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi and Santo Domingo have made jewelry that is not considered a style from their tribe.

The Zuni Indian Jewelry techniques include mosaic, channel inlay, cluster, needlepoint and petit point using a variety of stones and shells.

The Navajo Indian Jewelry Artists are famous for their Squash Blossom Necklaces. Navajo Jewelry Artists use larger pieces of turquoise, coral and other stones surrounded by distinctive scrolls, beads and leaf patterns made of sterling silver. Navajo’s are the largest producers of Native American jewelry.

The Hopi Indian Silversmiths use the overlay technique with infrequent use of stones in their jewelry. 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.

The Santo Domingo Indians have been making bead jewelry since ancient times. They use Seashells, Turquoise, Jet and Coral in their jewelry. Our featured Santo Domingo Artists are members of the Palace of the Governors program located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They are held to strict standards in making their jewelry such as Heishi beads must be cut, drilled and ground by hand. This is a painstaking process: a single necklace may require the fashioning of hundreds of tiny beads.

All of the Native American Indian Tribes use Sterling Silver in their jewelry. Sterling Silver is 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. Silver is very soft so copper is added which makes it malleable.

The American Southwest is home to the various Native American Indian Tribes that make our beautiful jewelry.

The Navajo Indian Nation is located in the northern portion of Arizona and New Mexico. It is the largest reservation. The Hopi Indian Reservation is located in Arizona. The Santo Domingo Pueblo is located in New Mexico. The Zuni pueblo is located in New Mexico.

Native American Jewelry making skills are taught from one generation to the next. There are also a variety of schools to learn Native American Jewelry making skills. However, families take pride in continuing the traditions of artist excellence and a sense of pride in themselves and their culture.

Hallmarks
In the beginning it was enough to know which tribe made the Native American Jewelry. Later Native American Jewelry Artists started marking their jewelry with their initials. The stamps used to mark the jewelry are handed down from one generation to the next so the initials may be their parents or grandparents.

Native American Jewelry

 

Turquoise Jewelry

King’s Manassa turquoise is mined at Manassa in south central Colorado, but began its mining days with Ancient Pueblo peoples. The Manassa mine is also known as King’s Manassa or the King’s Mine. Another name for the turquoise that comes from this mine is “Lick Skillet” turquoise which comes from the hard times that the King family and local miners had to suffer through while mining the precious stone. The name comes from Israel Perviose King and his descendants who still mine for turquoise. I.P. King discovered this vein of turquoise while looking for gold. After mining for a while, he soon abandoned the mine after seeing that there wasn’t very much gold, only some strange blue rocks that he took back to his home. He didn’t realize that these stones were valuable until a friend asked about them.
King’s Manassa Mine Turquoise Jewelry