Specializing in Native American Crafts Since 1916

The History of Navajo Jewelry

The History of Navajo Jewelry

Navajo jewelry got its start in the 1860s. First designed by artist Atsidi Sani, (also called “Old Smith,”), the earliest Navajo jewelry was inspired by the silver trappings by the Spaniards. Atsidi instructed his brother with how to silversmith. Other Navajo people began to craft using silver and turquoise, and to this day, Navajo artists are still making contemporary jewelry styles.

Navajo necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and belts are crafted with a great attention to detail, usually with sterling silver, turquoise, coral, and other materials.

Historically, Navajo jewelry is an important part of the Navajo people’s cultural heritage. A Navajo necklace, bracelet, or earrings was worn to reflect a person’s cultural identity, status, or wealth. Today, Navajo jewelry is immensely popular among native peoples and non-natives alike, fusing fashion, historical significance, legend, religion, and culture into a beautiful piece of artwork.

Turquoise Navajo Jewelry

Turquoise Navajo jewelry is one of the most popular types of jewelry you’ll see online today. There are different types of turquoise, ranging in various shades of blues and greens. As a result, you’ll see a variety of shades of turquoise in Navajo jewelry. These range from pale blue to vibrant green stones.

The different types of Navajo turquoise jewelry you’ll likely see are:

  • Natural turquoise stones. Cut and polished, but unaltered. Natural turquoise stones are beautiful, however, when exposed to light, oils, sweats, perfumes, etc., it may deteriorate. It is also subject to cracking.
  • Stabilized. Stones that have been “stabilized” using a clear epoxy resin. Most Native American Jewelry that you’ll see on the market is stabilized, to preserve the color and harden the stone so that it doesn’t move. Stabilized turquoise jewelry should last you a long time.
  • Treated. This is a low-grade turquoise used for imitation Navajo jewelry.

Turquoise necklaces, pendants, bracelets, earrings, and rings are beautiful to look at and they will complement many articles of clothing. Turquoise isn’t going away any time soon – it is a timeless stone type that works with both casual and formal attire.

The Importance of Turquoise in Navajo Jewelry

The Navajo have long esteemed turquoise as an important part of their religion, history, and culture.

Throughout history, North American and Navajo peoples have regarded turquoise as an important part of religion and spiritual observances. In some legends, it was said that the skies opened up and rained after a long time of drought. The tears of the people dropped into the Earth, forming turquoise stones. Turquoise is thought to have a spiritual connection to rain.

Navajo Necklaces

There are quite a few Navajo necklace styles you can choose from. The Squash Blossom necklace is one of the most common necklace styles you’ll see among  Navajo jewelry.

The necklace is characterized with a unique, impressive pendant that’s called a “Naja.” This design is unique to the Navajo people and dates back to the 1870s.

Squash Blossom necklaces don’t specifically have a ceremonial function. However, they do symbolize a person’s wealth, status, and cultural belonging.

Some of the Squash Blossom necklaces in our store are designed with turquoise stones, oxidized pearl, sterling silver, and other necklaces. Some were made recently by talented artists, but others are vintage, made several decades ago.

Other types of Navajo necklaces you’ll see include turquoise stone clusters, tear drop stone, lariat necklace, etc. These beautiful designs are perfect for gifting to your wife, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, coworker, or friend.

Navajo Bracelets

The Navajo first began designing turquoise bracelets in the late 1890s. Our Navajo bracelets are genuine, designed by talented Navajo artists. Most of the designs are crafted from sterling silver, coral, and turquoise stones and materials.

Many of the Navajo bracelets you’ll see on our website feature intricate heavy silver twist wire stamp work and silver beads. Navajo bracelets can match rings, earrings, and necklaces to make a perfect set.

Shop beautiful Native American bracelets online here.

Navajo Earrings

Hand-crafted with care by skilled artists, our Navajo earrings are the perfect complement to your necklaces, bracelets, and overall apparel. Crafted with turquoise stones, sterling silver, oyster shells, lapis, coral, and silver beads, you’ll find a wide array of Navajo earring choices online. Navajo earrings are designed as dangled earrings, post earrings, or hoops.

Sometimes, you’ll also see important animals designed into the earring. For example, bears represent courage and power. The American buffalo, or bison, signifies humility and the sustaining of life.

Vintage Navajo Jewelry

If your Navajo necklace, bracelet, or earrings are 50 years or older, it is regarded as a vintage piece. Conversely, if it is 80 years or older, it is considered antique.

Some of the Navajo jewelry you’ll see online was designed decades ago. These were meticulously crafted by talented artists who were taught traditional ways of silversmithing and working with stones by the artists who came before them. If you find a vintage or antique Navajo jewelry piece, you have found a one-of-a-kind work of art! These older pieces were crafted primarily for their own use or to trade with other tribes. Shop all vintage jewelry here.

Authentic Navajo Jewelry

Support a Navajo artist by wearing authentic jewelry made from genuine stones and materials. When shopping online, be careful to inquire about the origination of the stones, to ensure you’re purchasing a genuine turquoise piece.

Cameron Trading Post, established in 1916, has been selling genuine Navajo jewelry for over a century. We are proud to sell authentic gifts, made by talented artists from the Navajo nation. In addition to jewelry, we also sell art, décor, clothing, Kachina dolls, carvings, baskets, pottery, and rugs.

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