Native American Indian and Zuni jewelry in Contemporay style sterling silver from the southwest, symbolizing nature through the use of silver and gemstones

   

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O Modern Native American indian jewelry design differs from traditional Native American jewelry most significantly with the wide array of gemstones used. Traditional sterling silver jewelry usually features turquoise, jet, coral, malachite, and/or mother-of -pearl. Contemporary pieces can display these gemstones, plus others, most notably opal and lapis lazuli. Also, contemporary jewelers use gold as well as silver in their designs.
Zuni jewelry necklace made of Sterling Silver jewelry and Lapis representing the Earth and nature in harmony
O Contemporary pieces of Zuni jewelry, still often carry traditional Indian symbolism. The styles vary among the tribes, but there are universal symbols, such as the usage of certain colors. Red stands for life blood. Yellow signifies the first light that came to the universe and the first light of each day. Darkness and death have associations with the mineral jet. Exotic woods, such as ironwood, symbolize the life around us today. Wood, goes back to prehistoric pieces made in Arizona 900 to 1,000 years ago and beyond. Instead of mounting turquoise and coral minerals onto silver, Indians mounted them on wood, shell, or bone.

Click Selections Below to View Our Contemporary Southwestern Jewelry

man in a maze is the symbol of the native american indian man in his meaning of all things represent in Zuni Jewelry

 Horses represented transportation and power to Zuni indians of the southwest

the sterling silver jewelry bear symbolized strength to the native Zuni tribes of the southwest

 Kokopelli is a prehistoric Southwestern personage depicted in this Zuni Jewelry.

 A figure of telling stories and singing to children and often made of clay or wood and more recently of silver

The mixing of gold and silver in the designs of modern native american indian jewelry

small manufactured tubes or beads of silver linked together to form a sterling silver jewelry contemporary necklace

O Shortly following Atsidi Sani's beginning Navajo silversmithing, the craft spread across the area. He taught his sons and they taught others. The craft made its appearance in Zuni jewelry ca. 1872. Atsidi Chon (Ugly Smith) taught his close Zuni friend, Lanyade, the skills. The Zuni were already skilled in metal working making items in copper, brass and iron. Research shows that a forge existed in Zuni in 1852. It is reported (see Rosneck and Stacy) that Lanyade paid Atsidi Chon "one good horse" for his instruction.


Lanyade learned the trade well. He began touring the various pueblos selling his Zuni jewelry. While on Hopi First Mesa at Sichomovi, he taught the first Hopi silversmith, Sikyatala, the skills. As Lanyade was taught by a Navajo and the Hopi taught by Lanyade all the Sterling Silver jewelry of the period was Navajo in style. As a side note this is why provenance (history of origin-ownership) is so important for 19th century indian jewelry in properly identifying its origin. It's too easy to say that because it looks like Navajo work it is therefore of Navajo origin.


During these early years the use of solder was learned and developed. Accompanying this was the skills of making silver dies. The former permitted the artistic and permanent joining of two or more metal pieces resulting in a multitude of design possibilities and the setting of stones. Die making was probably adopted from the many leather tooling dies that existed and were used by Spanish, Mexican and later Indians in both leather work as well as tin smithing.


As the years progressed the styles that were basically of Navajo origin were gradually modified by their pueblo students. For example: the Zuni, since prehistoric times, were excellent lapidaries. These skills slowly changed their work to the fine inlay and channel inlay we have come to associate with them. However, the Hopi change occurred a bit more abruptly. In 1938 the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Arizona, working with Hopi silversmiths, Paul Saufkie and Fred Kabote, began a program of developing a style that was exclusively Hopi. The work was interrupted by World War II. Following the war a government grant helped a silversmith training program with the Hopi Guild. The "overlay" technique they created involved the cutting of designs in a heavy gauge silver sheet and then soldering this to a solid silver sheet. The designs were usually adapted from the pottery shards found in the Sikyatki Pueblo ruins of the 15th and 16th centuries. These pre-Hopi designs were mostly bird motifs. The Hopi Guild also used kachina symbols, animal and clan motifs.


Today's Indian silversmiths are in many cases also goldsmiths and lapidaries as well. They cross tribal design boundaries with a will and with abandon. No longer can one look at a piece and say "It's Zuni jewelry style so it must be Zuni made." The artist of today may incorporate in a single piece all the styles available as well as his or her own innovation. Indian jewelry today transcends tribal styles.

for more on Native American Indian Symbolizm, Visit:

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