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History of Hopi Jewelry


The Hopi Indians started crafting Sterling Silver Jewelry in the 1890s. Hopi Native American jewelry has been adorned by artists and jewelry enthusiasts who admire its unique style. 

The distinguishing feature of Hopi jewelry is that there are two silver pieces fused one on top of the other, this is called an overlay. The end designs are characteristically bold, and yet they complement all types of different aesthetics, and that’s what makes Hopi jewelry so appealing! The pieces are easily wearable as everyday accessories, and they stand out for special occasions.


In the 1930s to 1940s, with the formation of The Hopi Silvercraft Guild on Second Mesa, the Sterling Silver Overlay technique was developed. Returning Veterans were taught this new technique which made Hopi Jewelry very unique in the Native American marketplace. The process involves using a top layer of Silver with hand-sawn designs. The under layer is textured and oxidized by hand. Turquoise stones are often used as accents to the overall design. Renowned Hopi artist Charles Loloma, from Hotevilla Village, at Hopi, set an example of “ New Hopi '' Jewelry using Turquoise from many American mines plus Red Coral, Lapis Lazuli, Mother of Pearl, petrified wood, ivory, gold, diamond, and other precious metals. His sophisticated designs and techniques in 1972 brought Hopi Jewelry to the forefront of Native American Jewelry. Today his work is highly collectible and brings very large prices on the open market and at auction. If you have any questions about our inventory, please reach out! We’re always happy to have a conversation and share our knowledge with both new and returning customers.

Hopi Rings 

Hopi rings will make a beautiful addition to your jewelry collection. Hopi rings designed by the Hopi people have distinctive turquoise and sterling silver designs, which are unique to their techniques and jewelry style. The stones in Hopi necklaces often fit together stone-to-stone or with silver channels between them. 

The Hopi people developed a sterling silver overlay technique where they create a model for the ring then fuse on the second layer of silver, which has the traditional designs from the Hopi people. Because of the two layers, and the oxidation technique they use, the jewelry has a unique depth and sheen. Various artists incorporate the Hopi symbols of Kokopelli, water, waves, and clouds. These unisex rings are perfect for everyday wear and are guaranteed to help you stand out in a crowd.

L. Bruce Hodgins Sterling Silver Repousse Ring

Hopi Necklaces

The Hopi tribe has resided in the Southwest for many centuries and has played a significant role in the world of Native American jewelry and art. As with many Southwestern tribes, ornamentation began with carvings and crafting with stones, wood, shells, and even bone. It was not until the 1890s that Sterling Silver was used. Before that, jewelry was made from a rough cut or natural pieces of Turquoise. The Turquoise was set on a rough mosaic design on cottonwood root.

The purpose of these earliest adornments was for spiritual functions. The jewelry and art featured symbols and pictures of spiritually-connected images and were used to connect the wearer to a spiritual path or belief.

The Hopi have stayed true to their roots of symbolism and carving adornments. Much of the Hopi jewelry is made of silver and features imagery that is central to their culture. The authenticity of the beautiful jewelry still holds many spiritual meanings and is often worn not just for its precise and stunning shape.

Today, the Hopi artisans continue to create gorgeous adornments that are unique to the tribe. Shop our Hopi jewelry and accessories to view a truly historical and cultural collection of Native American Jewelry.

Hopi Bracelets

Our genuine sterling silver bracelets feature beautiful Hopi designs and traditional symbols. These beautiful bracelets are ideal for daily use and their beautiful designs are perfect with any wardrobe.

Hopi bracelets are most often crafted from sterling silver and sometimes gold. As you browse Hopi bracelet collections online, you'll find many bracelet options to choose from - from vintage and traditional jewelry to contemporary styles. The bracelet will create a striking look on your loved one's wrist.

Some of the Hopi bracelet designs are quite simple if simplicity is your preferred taste. Other bracelets are much more bold and intricate, telling stories of life at Hopi. Thepe is called storytelling bracelets. They are very detailed and required a skilled Hopi silversmith with a steady hand.

Hopi Turquoise Jewelry

Since turquoise is highly valued in Native American culture, the Hopi tribe members use a variety of turquoise patterns that give each piece of jewelry its own distinct style. We have described just a few of the turquoise patterns shown in stones from many turquoise mines.

  • Birdseye Turquoise: This design consists of small turquoise pieces surrounded by a darker color that resembles a bird’s eye. 
  • Ribbon Turquoise: This pattern is when the veins of the main rock in which the turquoise lives, are cut through to add pieces of turquoise within the veins, appearing as an accent and ultimately highlighting the mother rock.
  • Spider Web Turquoise: The turquoise is cut into small pieces and cemented together within the mother rock, which has a darker blue design.
  • SeaFoam Turquoise: This pattern appears to have a foam-looking, rocky nugget shape that is usually polished. Unlike the other patterns, jewelry makers do not cut the stone unless it needs to be flattened so it can be set in jewelry. 
Ladies Turquoise Watch

The History Behind Hopi jewelry

The Hopi tribe used to call themselves, Hopituh Shi-nu-mu, which means “The Peaceful Ones.” This concept of peacefulness and balance permeates Hopi life and culture. Finding peacefulness and reverence with all things is central to the Hopi way of life. 

Hopi jewelry often features animals, important to the Hopi as spirit guides. Other common themes include fertility, represented by crops and plants, and the spirit world.

Hopi’s are best known for their intricate overlay designs. Their overlay designs are cut out entirely free-hand from sterling silver. In a typical Hopi piece, the top layer is highly polished, and the bottom layer is textured and oxidized. It is a unique, striking look. The subject matter can range from simple symbols, such as rain clouds, to extremely intricate scenes depicting various cultural elements. Turquoise, coral, and others are used in modern pieces to enhance the silver design.

Hopi Symbol Meanings in jewelry

While the Hopi jewelry designs can vary, you generally won't find many pieces that include stones. This puts the focus on the different types of Hopi jewelry symbols instead. The various overlay jewelry designs can also include a lot of animal designs. Other common designs include weather-related symbols, which are hugely important and prominent in Hopi jewelry. You’ll also find the Hopi flute priest, also known as the Kokopelli, in plenty of pieces that tell about Hopi life.

These pieces tell many stories about the origin of Kokopelli. Some acknowledge him as the god or deity of agriculture and fertility. Others just relate to Kokopelli as a fun musician. As he dances, sings, and plays his flute, he’s bringing good luck to anyone who listens to his songs.

Some common Native American symbols used in jewelry and their meanings include:

  • Arrow: bow and arrow; protection and defense. A broken arrow represents peace between tribes.
  • Bear: a sacred sign of courage and physical power
  • Coyote: ancestors, craftiness, intelligence
  • Crow: intelligence, fearlessness, creation
  • Dragonfly: resurrection, encouragement
  • Feathers: trust, wisdom, strength, honor, freedom
  • Fire: renewal, cleansing, purification
  • Raven: healing, medicine, self-transformation. Messages from the Spirit world.
  • Wolf: communication, loyalty, fierceness, compassion

There are many spiritual meanings in the various Hopi jewelry symbols. People are drawn to different Hopi jewelry symbols for their own personal reasons. Whenever you browse through Hopi jewelry for sale, it’s easy to notice that the pieces can feel both modern and yet steeped in history and tradition. The initial appreciation for its uniqueness. Then you might begin to reflect on its meaning to you, personally.

  • Post author
    David Wurst