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Native American Rings

Since the earliest of times Native American Indians have produced some of the most dazzling jewelry that is so much admired all over the world. Rings in particular have contributed to the Native American Jewelry mystique by more than just the beauty and excellent workmanship that they are famous for, but also to communicate a fashion statement that is full of meaning and symbolism.

Dating back for over 2000 years, Indian jewelry has captivated man’s imagination with precious creations including bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. It is rings though that represents a fashion philosophy believed to have been revealed from heaven above with the guide of the spirits of ancestors, the souls in the animal kingdom and nature itself; buffalo and the eagle, clouds and rivers, mountains and valleys, fine colored sands and silent stones, all have helped to inspire each jewelry piece made, each offering a one of a kind message.

Framing a rich culture and a majestic civilization born in prehistoric times, the talents of Native American Indians have been uncovered in Archeological digs with some jewelry artifacts dating back to as early as 200 BC. Resplendent discoveries of copper, silver and gold jewelry are now exhibited in major museums in every corner of the world.

The history of the Native American Indian can be told from a mosaic of sources. Jewelry is one of those sources, especially in rings. Designs and symbols found in ring jewelry discoveries help to identify historical data and give us an insight into the way the American Indian lived. In general, jewelry can tell us how their economy progressed, how their spiritual beliefs developed, and how important their royal lines were. Jewelry was used not only to be worn but also for trading purposes. Rings were a sign of leadership, affluence, and status. As in the past, native American Indians still use their jewelry today in ceremonials and everyday life.

American Indian jewelry is made from many materials. The traditional silver and turquoise jewelry is very well known. Jewelry makers also use copper, gold, and all sorts of beads, seeds, amber, semi-precious gems and stones, and coral and sea shells. Today the jewelry making tradition lives on. Following their ancient ways, American Indian jewelry continues to dazzle the discerning eye with creations using techniques passed on from generation to generation.

A stone that emits strong symbolism is the turquoise. American Indians found this semi-precious stone in copper mines and mineral deposits in the southwest part of the United States.  Widely used in Indian jewelry making turquoise is used by many tribes in North America to continue fashion beautiful and unique jewelry pieces so much loved and popular all over the world.

A turquoise ring is not only a fashion statement but also gives its wearer an added insentive. It is thought that turquoise is the stone of life and can bestow good fortune. American Indians call the turquoise the “sky stone,” because it depicts the blueness of the sky along with the clouds. More and more people today are using turquoise jewelry.

 

Native American Jewelry History

 

Native American Jewelry is made by many tribes in North America. Although the materials used by all of them are similar, there are some distinct design features that differentiate them from each other. The Navajo tribe creates the most often known. However, the Hopi and Zuni tribes also create popular jewelry.

Hopi Jewelry:


Sterling silver is their favorite metal. The Hopi Tribe makes beautiful rings for all needs. The intricate designs they use are made by soldering silver designs and overlay them over a silver background. The work is then processed according to ancient traditions to create a contrast between layers.

 

Zuni Jewelry:


Their designs involve inlay techniques over silver. The Zuni Tribe also makes beautiful rings of all kinds. They work with turquoise, coral and sea shell. Meticulous in their designs, Zuni jewelry is fine workmanship.

Navajo Jewelry:


Stamping over silver is their best known work. The Navajo Tribe makes the most popular Native American Jewelry. They make rings set with turquoise, coral, lapis and other gem stones. The Navajos have been the masters at jewelry making and reflect their expertise among the other tribes.

The Navajos acquired their jewelry making abilities from the Spanish conquistadors back in the 16th century. Navajos learned to make rings, necklaces, and earrings. Eventually the Navajo extended their expertise in design jewelry to belt buckles, bracelets and even key chains, a growing popularity. The old design ways can still be found in traditional pieces. The influence of the Spaniards can sometimes be reflected in the Navajo design with images of pomegranates, handed down to the Spanish by their own experience with the Arab moors.

The relationship the Navajos and the Spaniards had together became complex and intertwining. Trading became a big factor. The Spanish valued Navajo jewelry and traded for it with supplies and other goods, such as pots and silverware. Examples of cross cultural inflections that the Navajos used from the Spanish incorporate the Christian cross and Islam’s crescent. 

Around the 1800’s, when modern silver smelting methods were found, the Navajos increased their silver jewelry manufacturing. Silver came from many sources, but the most common was from Spanish and Mexican silver coins. Anything with silver would do. Indians began to make silver jewelry out of nacre shells. They made rings, bracelets, necklaces and other miscellaneous pieces. Other Indian tribes learnt the Navajo way.

As trade increased, so did the relationship between Navajos and the Mexicans. Called plateros, Spanish for silver smith, the Mexicans had additional influence on Navajo jewelry designs. This influence is reflected in today’s Indian creations.

As modern times approached, the customer market and competition among tribes for Jewelry sales increased. Many tribes began to offer jewelry made out of copper, brass and iron. Each tribe developed their own style.

With the advent of technology and modern jewelry making methods, Native American Indians have become models of industry growth, sharing their living tradition and contributing their ancient inheritance with a grateful world. The years do not tarnish their history, and the brilliance of their handiwork lives on.