The earliest works were concho belts, bracelets, and necklaces, but eventually expanded to a full range of jewelry. Today, some of the most popular features of Navajo Indian jewelry include silver, naja pendants, squash blossom necklaces, and concho belts.
This Navajo jewelry was worn for beauty and pride- the wearing of a crescent or cross did not necessarily symbolize a respect for Christianity or the Moorish influence on Spain. What began with simple rawhide and pedants, later gave way to stone, shell, silver and other metal beads and intricate ornaments.
To the Navajo tribe, the color turquoise represents happiness, luck, and health. Turquoise is also the most common component of Native American Jewelry. A horseshoe-shaped symbol or a symbol called “Naja” appeared often in tradition Navajo jewelry.
The commonly design jewelry around a stone’s natural shape. When Navajo do inlay, it is bolder than Zuni inlay and usually has silver between the inlaid pieces (called “channel inlay”). Their inlay tends to be more complex than Navajo, with more cuts and patterns. Most snake designs are done by the Zuni.
In short, wearing Native patterns or jewelry is fine as long as you bought them from an actual Native designer. And if there’s something that you really shouldn’t be wearing — i.e. a headdress with special religious or tribal significance — the artist you’re buying from will likely let you know.
In addition to price and labeling, there are some signs to help buyers distinguish authentic from fake Native American Indian jewelry. The presence of a hallmark, a silversmith’s signature, or both, indicates an authentic piece.
After European contact, and especially after Spanish colonists brought horses to the region in the 18th century, the peoples of the Great Plains became much more nomadic. Groups like the Crow, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Comanche and Arapaho used horses to pursue great herds of buffalo across the prairie.
From Wikipedia: “The swastika was a widely used Native American symbol. It was used by many southwestern tribes, most notably the Navajo. Among different tribes the swastika carried various meanings.
A necklace crafted in silver and turquoise consisting of round silver beads interspersed with beads that look like they are blooming, all leading down to what looks like a horseshoe or, some would say, a crescent moon turned on its side.
Blue Turquoise The most-prized turquoise color is an even, intense, medium blue, sometimes referred to as robin’s egg blue or sky blue in the trade.
“ Turquoise stands for water and for sky, for bountiful harvests, health and protection,” said Maxine McBrinn, Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. “Blue-green symbolizes creation and the hope for security and beauty.
The Four Sacred Mountains Blanca to the east, Mt. Taylor to the south, the San Francisco Peaks to the west and Mt. Hesperus to the north. The mountains represent the major parts of traditional Navajo religious beliefs, enabling the people to live in harmony with their Creator and with nature.
Since the early 19th century the Zuni have been known for making silver and turquoise jewelry, baskets, beadwork, animal fetishes, and pottery, all of very high quality. Many Zuni have chosen to adopt only some parts of modern American life and to maintain much of their traditional culture.
Turquoise is naturally a soft stone, but howlite (the turquoise imitation), is even softer. This means that if you scratch your stone and it scratches easily, you most likely have a piece of howlite. But if it’s very difficult to scratch your stone, you’ve got genuine turquoise!
Native American jewelry can be made from naturally occurring materials such as various metals, hardwoods, vegetal fibers, or precious and semi-precious gemstones; animal materials such as teeth, bones and hide; or man- made materials like beadwork and quillwork.