The USA is well-known for its diverse cultures ranging from European settlers and former African slaves to a plethora of immigrants from a wide range of nationalities. However, before any kind of migration to this rich and bountiful land, America was first home to many different Native American tribes. Each one of these tribes possessed their own beautiful culture that gave birth to unique styles of clothing and decorative personal ornaments. These ornaments, which we call Native American jewelry, were more than just fashion statements, mind you. They were also a form of currency, a sign of wealth, and a symbol of social status.
Native American jewelry is still prized today. The astounding craftsmanship that goes into each piece of jewelry readily showcases the timeless traditional designs that have become their standard.
History of Native American Jewelry
Native American jewelry making has a history dating back thousands of years—somewhere between 10,000 to 12,000. Tribes across America used materials such as animal bones, precious stones, and shells to create wearable jewelry to symbolize their beliefs, individuality, culture, and history. Jewelry was even considered an important method of passing on tradition from one generation to the next.
What started as the carving of animal bones into ornate pendants, as well as the crafting of stones into necklace and bracelet beads thousands of years ago, continues in today’s Native American tribes that produce gorgeous pieces of jewelry using precious metals, which is more recognized in today’s society as silver and gold.
Rising Prices and Demand
Back in the 1980s, shoppers paid top dollar for Native American pieces such as Turquoise squash blossom necklaces and feather earrings. And although the boom of Native American jewelry pieces may have lessened through the years, the rising prices of precious metals such as silver and gold have affected both the availability and cost of these Native American pieces.
Of course, these are subject to demand for specific pieces. For example, items such as a bear-claw watchband, which back in the 80s was in high demand, have recently been in very low demand, and therefore become less valuable.
Other than demand, there are a number of factors that prove crucial to the price of a piece of Native American Jewelry.
Like most pieces, age matters. Jewelry made before the boom of Native American pieces in the 1970s may fetch a higher price simply because they are rarer than the mass-produced variety.
Another common factor would be a piece’s condition. In almost any product crafted, items that are in excellent condition will naturally fetch a higher price compared to those that have a bit of damage in them.
The third common factor in commanding a higher price would be the gemstones used in a Native American piece. Most often, rare turquoise or a high-quality coral piece will sell for a higher price point. Other gemstones commonly used are mother of pearl and black onyx.
Volume is another factor to consider. For instance, a thicker band of silver or a heavier golden necklace with an equally weighty turquoise pendant would be higher priced than one with less weight and size.
Most Popular Native American Jewelry Pieces
Native American jewelry is considered a cultural art form, yet it would not look much different from the jewelry worn in these modern times. From necklaces formed from interwoven strands of metal, or stone beads to silver rings with turquoise settings to carved pendants dangling from leather strings—it just proves that fashion, if not tradition, is timeless.
Famous Native American jewelry pieces often contain the beauty of turquoise and silver jewelry in them. A prime example is the Navajo tribe’s jewelry, which is the most popular and widespread today. Some of the most well known Navajo jewelry are the squash blossom necklace, naja pendants, and single or multi-stone pieces of earrings, bracelets, and rings.
Of course, Native American jewelry is not limited to turquoise pieces. There are several other recognizable stones used, such as lapis lazuli, onyx, opal, malachite, tiger’s eye, and agate.
Another notable style is the Hopi overlay jewelry, which features two similarly shaped pieces of silver with unprecedented and desirable aesthetics. Traditional textiles and pottery are the inspiration behind the style, which Native American tribes carved into the top silver layer of the jewelry.
Last, Heishi beads are another famous type of Native American jewelry. Works of art from the Santo Domingo tribe, these tiny disc-shaped beads are strung together, forming necklaces or bracelets embellished with shells, turquoise, and other polished stones.
Tips for Buying Native American Jewelry
If you are drawn to the beauty of turquoise and silver jewelry, having some insight into Native American arts and crafts can help ensure you get the most out of your buck.
First, always buy from a reputable or established dealer who can provide you with a written document that proves the authenticity of a piece of Native American Jewelry. Also, make sure your receipt has all the important information with regard to the value of the piece you purchased. This should be the easiest way to avoid imitations and forgeries.
If you are considering buying from gift shops, as well as Native American fairs and events, be sure you get information beforehand of the different vendors and participants. And again, always get a receipt stating the value and authenticity of the product.
Likewise, if a written document of authenticity is not enough of a safeguard for you, remember that the appearance and pricing of Native American jewelry is a good way to check for authenticity. Moreover, a genuine piece of Native American jewelry can be quite expensive.
Tips for Selling Authentic Native American Jewelry
If you are on the opposite side of the spectrum and are looking to sell your Native American jewelry, Biltmore Loan and Jewelry is the top choice for upscale cash-to-value purchases and loans in Chandler and Scottsdale, AZ. With over 75 years of combined experience, we take pride in being experts in Native American jewelry. Complete our online form now to get your FREE market appraisal.