Native American Indian Turquoise Jewelry
It is a general consensus that the first Navajo Silversmith was Atsidi Sani who was introduced to working silver between 1850 and 1860 by the Spaniards. Turquoise was introduced into Jewelry shortly after as it was already worn in the form of beads that were traded from the Santo Domingo Indians. Native American Turquoise Jewelry began around 1880 and was appreciated by the Navajo people as well as the Indian Traders who immediately began marketing it.
Early Traders to the Navajo realized their Silver Jewelry was one of the items that was marketable for trade. Shortly before 1900 Indian Trading Posts arose and the proprietors of the Trading Posts began encouraging the Navajos to make Indian Turquoise Jewelry as well as plain Silver Jewelry for trade to the settlers, now known as Vintage Turquoise Jewelry.
When the railroad made its way through the southwest to California, the Fred Harvey Co. as well as others set up Trading Posts to sell Indian Curios and Native American Turquoise and Silver Jewelry to tourists. Shortly after the turn of the century route 66 was built, it went through New Mexico and Arizona and Indian Trading Posts went up one after another.
Jewelry supply companies and rock shops began to spring up throughout the Southwest. Once Silver, Turquoise and tools were readily available, Silver Jewelry making became a standard occupation for the Native Americans as well as Anglos and Hispanics of the Southwest.
Throughout the 20th century, Native American Turquoise and Silver Jewelry (Navajo, Hopi and Zuni) became one of the prime crafts that tourists purchased while traveling through the Southwest. By the 1940’ s, Native American Indian Jewelry was being sold in retail stores and theme parks throughout Arizona, New Mexico, California and beyond.
Silver Jewelry production shops began springing up throughout the southwest to make Native American Turquoise Jewelry, which would be run primarily by Anglo Americans. Better control of materials, use of production techniques, and total control of the designs being made good sense to the traders. Typically, shop owners hired Native Americans as well as others to work in conjunction, in a production manner, to create the designs developed by the shop owners based on customer demand.
At the same time, individual (more artistic), Native
American Silversmiths continued to work out of their own homes to create their own unique styles and designs. Collectors, then and now, seek out these individual Silversmiths for their “one of a kind” pieces. Generally, these unique pieces command much greater values then production shop Jewelry.
In the 1960’s, Native American Turquoise Jewelry had become very popular throughout the world. Turquoise became highly sot after and prospectors began searching hard for additional resources to supply the market. Turquoise was found in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.
In the 1970’s, there was an explosion of interest in Native American Turquoise Jewelry of all sorts. This period brought the interest level to never seen before heights. The industry grew exponentially and it seemed as though there was a new gold rush.
Today, the Silver Turquoise Jewelry market is as strong as ever, however, with the advent of Global Trade there are many manufacturers, worldwide, making Turquoise Jewelry. Native American Turquoise Jewelry, without a doubt, is known as the standard of the best quality Turquoise Jewelry in the world!
You can find good examples of Native American Turquoise Jewelry as well as contemporary Turquoise Jewelry from the well known Indian Trading Company, Durango Silver Company in Durango, Co.
Visit Durango Silver Company's Silver Jewelry educational presentation for more information on Southwestern Silver Jewelry.