Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Native American Jewelry

The first Native American silversmith is believed to be a Medicine Man, Spiritual Leader, Ceremonial Singer, and a Navajo Chief called Atsidi Sani which translates as “Old Smith”. Having learned to blacksmith from Mexicans to make iron bridles for the tribes horses, Atsidi Sani applied these skills to and developed a proficiency to working with silver sometime in the mid nineteenth century.

Sani passed his skills along to his sons and also became a paid teacher. One of his students, a Zuni tribe member named Lanyade taught his people and through exchanges and trading these skilled were spread throughout the southwestern tribes.

Different tribes adapted varying techniques in the creation of silver jewelry.

The Navajos typically fashion jewelry with the emphasis on the silver, often only using a single type of stone in its settings. The designs engraved or stamped onto the metal were often based on those used to decorate leather goods like harnesses. Conchos, najas & squash blossoms are trademarks of the Navajo silversmith.

Zuni silver work is characterized by its primary focus on the stone work, the silver being the canvas for inlaying complex, ornate designs using a variety of stones including turquoise, coral and jet, among others. The display of stones in clusters and mosaics sets Zuni silver jewelry apart from that of other tribes of the southwest.

The Hopi tend to use a variety of designs based on cultural symbols including those of animals, nature and clan. These designs may signify a symbolic reference to a historical, tribal or personal event. A trademark of Hopi silversmithing is their silver overlay technique which employs the fusing of two flat pieces of silver, a blank, plain base overlaid with a pierced top.

As the Native American jewelry trade has developed so has the industry of replicating Native American designs in mass production. Those interested in authentic Native American jewelry need to be educated in how to tell the difference. Otherwise, buy what you love and it will always be valuable.

Here are some SATeam creations that portray the essence of Native American Silversmith designs.
















The SATeam blog features artisan handmade creations by the etsy starving artists jewelry team. SATeam members create handcrafted jewelry and beads. More information about our team and its current etsy shop owner members can be found at SATEAM.etsy.com.



14 comments:

Cat said...

A very interesting post and great examples!

galadryl said...

Wow, lot of information, very interesting, love the jewelry pieces, like to have them all.

BeadSire said...

Great post - I've learnt something new and these are awesome pieces as well! Thank you.

Carole said...

Thanks for the great information.

mcstoneworks said...

Great article. Love the copper pendant by DreamSome.

N Valentine Studio said...

I adore Zuni and Hopi work. It's a good thing I live where I do or I'd have a large collection! I try and pick up pieces when we travel but rarely get the chance. Lovely work!

Wambui said...

Great post. It's always nice to learn something new.

ShinyAdornments said...

Lovely choices. Quite a diverse team!

faeriiidust said...

Very pretty designs!

Beadorigami said...

Fascinating article and beautiful jewelry!

thisnortherngirl said...

Thanks for this great post. I love Native American jewelry! I spent a summer in Arizona a number of years ago, near the Navajo and Hopi reservations. The silver jewelry was a real feast for the eyes. I fell in love with the Hopi style of jewelry - the overlay technique leads to some really stunning pieces.

tjrjewellery said...

Great information - very informative!

Bonnie said...

What fascinating information.. Thank you for sharing.

Leilani said...

This was such a fascinating article!