Vintage Sterling Silver Native American Zuni R
Native American jewelry refers to items of personal adornment, whether for personal use, sale or as art; examples of which might include necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings and pins, as well as ketohs, wampum, and labrets, made by one of the Indigenous peoples of the United States. Native American jewelry normally reflects the cultural diversity and history of its makers, but tribal groups have often borrowed and copied designs and methods from other, neighboring tribes or nations with which they had trade, and this practice continues today. Native American tribes continue to develop distinct aesthetics rooted in their personal artistic visions and cultural traditions. Artists may create jewelry for adornment, ceremonies, and display, or for sale or trade. Lois Sherr Dubin writes, "In the absence of written languages, adornment became an important element of Indian communication, conveying many levels of information." Later, jewelry and personal adornment "...signaled resistance to assimilation. It remains a major statement of tribal and individual identity.
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 bead work and quillwork. Metalsmiths, beaders, carvers, and lapidaries combine these materials to create jewelry. Contemporary Native American jewelry ranges from hand-quarried and processed stones and shells to computer-fabricated steel and titanium jewelry.
The Navajo, or Diné, began working silver in the 19th century. Atsidi Sani, or "Old Smith," (ca. 1828-1918) who may have been the first Navajo blacksmith and is credited as the first Navajo silversmith, learned to work silver from a Mexican smith as early as 1853.
Native American Lizard Brooch Vintage Signed Navajo
Zuni jewelry-making dates back to Ancestral Pueblo prehistory. Early Zuni lapidaries used stone and antler tools, wooden drills with flake stone, or cactus spine drillbits, as well as abrading tools made of wood and stone, sand for smoothing, and fiber cords for stringing. With the exception of silver jewelry, which was introduced to Zuni Pueblo in the 19th century, most of the materials commonly worked by Zuni jewelry makers in the 20th century have always been in use in the Zuni region. These include turquoise, jet, argillite, steatite, red shale, freshwater clam shell, abalone, and spiny oyster.
Since pre-contact times, Zuni carve stone and shell fetishes, which they trade with other tribes and even non-Natives. Fetishes are carved from turquoise, amber, shell, or onyx. Today, Zuni bird fetishes are often set with heishe beads in multi-strand necklaces.
Lanyade became the first Zuni silversmith in 1872. Kineshde, a Zuni smith of the late 1890s, is credited for first combining silver and turquoise in his jewelry. Zuni jewelers soon became known for their clusterwork.
Santo Domingo Pueblo, located on the Rio Grande is particularly known for heishe necklaces, as well as a style of necklace consisting of tear-shaped, flat "tabs" strung on heishe shell or turquoise beads. The tabs were made from bone inset with a design in the traditional mosaic style, using bits of turquoise, jet and shell. These beautiful and colorful necklaces are also sometimes incorrectly identified as "Depression Jewelry", however their origin certainly predates the Great Depression, and they are still being made today in large quantities by the Santo Domingo Pueblo.
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