All About Native American Jewelry: Your Complete Guide
Jewelry is fantastic. It can take an outfit from drab to fab in a matter of moments. It's more than a fashion statement, too—it's an expression of taste, mood, style.
Different days and events call for different jewelry. For example, a costume party calls for costume jewelry. But everyday wear, something that's beautiful, timeless, and classic, is a different story. That is something to be cherished, maintained, and maybe even passed down from generation to generation as a family heirloom.
This space includes Native American jewelry.
Authentic Native American rings, necklaces, bracelets, and more, can be something kept in the family, something that's cleaned up and polished rather than tossed or donated after some time.
Are you looking for more authentic, high-quality pieces to add to your collection? If so, keep reading! In this guide, we explain all about Native American jewelry—its elements, how to style it, and much more.
The History of Native American Jewelry
Perhaps one of the reasons Native American jewelry is loved by so many is its history.
There is archaeological evidence of jewelry getting crafted from stones, shells, and other available materials from more than 10,000 years ago. In some tribes, particularly those in the Southwest, turquoise stone (both blue and green) was naturally found in large quantities—a significant contribution to the prominence of turquoise jewelry.
Native Americans also used copper and beads to produce jewelry, which they used to adorn themselves or give as gifts. Eventually, this led the way to silver-smithing, which was initially introduced by the Spanish who came to visit Central America and the south. This soft, malleable material was an incredible discovery, as it was easily crafted into jewelry.
Now having a new method of creating beautiful, intricate jewelry, the Natives were better equipped to trade and sell their offerings. Silver, plus turquoise and other semiprecious stones, made for gorgeous, eye-catching wear. By the early 1900s, silver jewelry was a staple of the trading economy.
That means that turquoise itself is as old as jewelry-making. This timeless stone is durable, and each piece is unique, holding different hues and patterns of lines that vary from one piece to the next. This prized stone was especially loved by the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni tribes, many of whom still continue creating these authentic pieces.
How to Spot Authentic Native American Jewelry
Native American jewelry comes in a variety of styles, including:
- Bolo ties
It's predominantly sterling silver with touches of turquoise, whether big or small, green or blue. They often have beautiful patterns and shapes, such as feathers, bear claws, crosses, flowers, and more. When they're not made to resemble a shape, you'll find gorgeous but straightforward designs that make just as much of an impact.
It's also essential when buying or wearing Native American jewelry to know how to spot real vs. fake turquoise. Howlite is often used as counterfeit turquoise, as it's an absorbent mineral that can get dyed to look like turquoise. Knowing how to spot the difference can prevent you from buying anything inauthentic, and allows you to honor a timeless tradition of Native American jewelry-making.
There are, in general, three ways to tell the difference:
- Price - If the price is 'too good to be true,' it may be time to look elsewhere
- Color - Turquoise is often a mixture of vibrant colors, due to the presence of natural materials such as copper. If you find an entirely uniform piece of turquoise, especially for a low price, you can rest assured it's fake
- Overall appearance - The stone should be durable, perhaps even with divets, and strong enough to prevent scratches (especially with a simple fingernail scratch test)
In general, the high quality will likely speak for itself. It'd be easier to spot something fake than something genuinely authentic. So, if your stone seems soft, or has a strangely uniform color, it's worth being skeptical.
When it comes to real vs. fake silver, you can look for that all-telling .925 stamp.
A Quick Guide on How to Wear It
The best part about Native American jewelry is that it speaks for itself.
People love the simplistic yet beautiful look of Native American-crafted jewelry. Both silver and turquoise are timeless materials that have incredible versatility, meaning they can be worn with any outfit—casual, dressy, and everything between.
When it comes to wearing your Native American jewelry, you can keep it simple by wearing, for example, a pair of silver earrings with a turquoise beaded necklace. Or, you can make it more extravagant by stacking multiple bracelets, donning a statement ring, and pairing it with a stack of beaded necklaces.
The options are plenty. Get creative, or keep it classic. Your jewelry will take care of the rest.
It's Time to Step up Your Jewelry Collection
Some pieces are made to last a lifetime. That statement is particularly true when it comes to Native American jewelry.
Classics like that don't go out of style—and if they do, hold onto them, as they're sure to come back. Silver, turquoise, opal, and more, are timeless elements that always look good, whether you're running errands, going to a party, or relaxing at home. No matter the occasion, Native American jewelry can elevate your look tenfold.
At Kalifano, we offer authentic pieces for males and females from Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni tribe artists.
Click here to shop our beautiful, simple, and timeless collection. Our pieces are versatile, allowing you to wear them with any outfit. We also offer 100% satisfaction guaranteed—as well as 15% off your next order if you sign up for our newsletter.