Let’s talk Native American-made jewelry. Its got its own special kind of magic. It’s huge and small, ornate and incomplex, fundamentally storied and mystical.
Even when the symbolism is overt, these pieces demand explanation. Made of sterling silver and often inlaid with brightly colored stones, the pieces bear witness to the quiet strength, pride and beauty of the United States’ indigenous peoples.
Despite the vast variety of imagery, design and craftsmanship, each piece seems to bear a shared humanity, carrying with it a bit of the person who gave it life. I like to imagine the artists honing a skill passed down for generations, their fingers blackened with tarnish, polishing the pieces to a perfect glow to be displayed on blankets, black velvet or inside cases heavily laden with treasure.
I particularly enjoy the use of finely detailed patterns like the ones that mark the pottery pieces (of which I’m most fond) on this vintage bracelet I bought on eBay (left).
I love how these pieces revere and honor nature, animals and folklore. I would argue that no other genre of jewelry makes the simple more beautiful than pieces rooted in our country’s ancestry.
Living in Colorado, these pieces aren’t just for special occasions, solely paired with denim or reserved for days when cowboy boots are a must. They’re for everyday wear and I take advantage of the opportunity frequently. Today I’m wearing a pair of pendants I bought at the gift shop at the Colorado Convention Center, home of the blue bear.
Many shops that set their sights on the tens of millions of tourists who visit our state annually are a gold mine for these pieces. (Just be careful not to pay too much.) Some of the shop owners will haggle while others hold a stiff line. Another reliable source is the many antique and consignment shops across the Metro Area. I purchased the bulk of the bracelets pictured at the top of this post at the Hampden Street Antique Market.
Adding these pieces to your jewelry stable is a wise investment; their value and application doesn’t ebb and flow like many other styles do. Much like the turquoise stones so regularly employed by these pieces, no matter how long they’ve been worn, they remain cool. (A quick test of the authenticity of turquoise is it will be cool to the touch, even while in direct contact with the skin for several minutes.)
Case in point: During a recent visit to my favorite Denver consignment shop, I marveled at a beautifully bulky hinged cuff bracelet, forged of solid sterling silver in the image of a saguaro cactus. “Isn’t that amazing?!,” the shop owner exclaimed, adding “It’s from the 40s.” I’d never have guessed it was born in the same decade as my parents. Aside from its size, it blended right in with the dozens of other pieces she had for sale that day – some new and some vintage.
I encourage you to blaze your own trail and to make your own statement with bright stones, Hopi overlay, Navajo Conchos or Zuni fetishes, to name just a few. This jewelry gives true meaning to the term “conversation piece.”