Jewelry creators have always been influenced by arts, cultural characteristics of their times, and most of all, their beliefs. Native American language may not have a word for "art", but native people knew when they had succeeded in creating a visual expression of their feelings, ideas, as well as values dear to them. Artistic creativity in one form or another was a part of literally every household’s daily routine, and an everyday household item could be turned into a piece of artwork. It was especially so when it came to creating jewelry.
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American Indian Turquoise Silver Bangle[/caption]
Native American jewelry production as we know it, dates back as early as twelve thousand years ago. Paleo-Indians used their creativity to transform simple and natural materials available in abundance, like shell and stone, into wearable jewelry, and tribes all across America followed suit. Each region would use the materials available to them to create ornate pendants out of animal and fish bones, and stones, shells, as well as coral could be metamorphosed into tiny beads to be later used in elaborately decorated necklaces, earrings, headpieces, and bracelets. Members of Native American tribes continue to produce beautiful pieces of jewelry up to this day, using contemporary beads as well as gold and titanium wires.
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American Indian Coral Cuff Bracelet[/caption]
Native American Artwork Application in Jewelry Making
Much of Native American artwork that was applied in jewelry creation process was an exploration of regional and tribal styles. Beautiful earrings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants, and rings which were made for friends and relatives were believed to bless them with health and happiness, while promoting tribal identity.
The Yellowstone river, Red Rock, and many other locations in North America derived their native names from a colored pigment found in each of their specific locale. The pigment, in turn, was widely used in creating artworks, decorating household items, and making jewelry. These pigments were mostly of mineral origin.
Various jewelry pieces
would utilize nature scenes and symbol drawings. From the gathering of pigments to be used, and the decoration of jewelry pieces, to the final surface of the jewelry being painted on, the process of painting was surrounded by ritual observations. The colors themselves had symbolic connotations, different in every region.
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American Indian Silver Agate Brooch[/caption]
Glass Introduction to Native American Jewelry Making
The introduction of glass beads by the fur traders, made an enormous impact on Indian decorative art and jewelry making. The trade between the Europeans and Native people started along the coasts, where the use of Indian-made shell beads facilitated the adoption of imported glass beads. Acquiring this steady supply of beads brought about successful adaptations of traditional designs to the beadwork as well.
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Native American Opal Sterling Silver Vintage Cuff Bracelet[/caption]
Beadwork remained a decorative medium of secondary importance until the nineteenth century, when thin steel needles and small “seed beads” became available in large quantities and a variety of colors. Around the same time, floral elements of different styles, and colors and shapes from American folk art also became popular among Indian beadworkers and influenced jewelry creations as well.
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American Indian Silver Coral Turquoise Belt Buckle[/caption]