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Navajo Jewelry

The Navajo Nation, also known as the Diné Nation, is the largest Native American tribe in the Southwest and is the creator of Navajo jewelry. They began as a semi-nomadic group of hunters and gatherers who traded with Pueblo tribes and Spanish explorers.

Various adornments, such as jewelry or beads, are a vital part of the cultural heritage of the Navajo people. Elaborate ornamentation is considered to be a sign of wealth for their culture: the bigger and more elaborate a piece of jewelry was, the more respect the wearer commanded.

Sterling silver, large stones, and organic shapes are all common among Navajo jewelry designs. Navajo jewelry focuses on the innate beauty of Southwest rocks and minerals. Typically, the stones are either rough, polished, or carved into geometric shapes. 

Navajo Bolo Tie With Feather Overlay And Sun Carving

Navajo Jewelry Designs

The two most common designs in Navajo jewelry are the single stone and multi-stone pieces. Whether it be earrings, rings, bracelets, or necklaces- you are bound to see these designs used in Native American jewelry

The main difference between the two designs is that the single-stone jewelry style utilizes one stone as the centerpiece. While the multi-stone design has more than one stone that is put together to create a unique style such as a row, cluster, or inlay. 

Navajo jewelry designed in a row style has a pattern that uses more than one stone. This design is created by placing the stones in a straight line, the most common is horizontally, but you may see vertical or diagonal row designs as well.  

The cluster design spaces the stones close together rather than in a line; this is what separates the two. Native American artists freely place similarly sized and shaped stones in a linear or non-linear fashion to form eye-catching pieces. In unique arrangements, these stones don’t necessarily match one another exactly.

There are two different types of cluster designs, the second being the arranged cluster. The arranged cluster is the classical or traditional cluster design and has been used for many generations by the Navajo. Random cluster designs are when the grouping of stones is placed in a seemingly random fashion. Random clusters highlight stones that would arguably lose some of their brilliance if shaped down into a stone that would likely be found in an arranged cluster.  

Lastly, the inlay jewelry style gives designers complete freedom to create designs of their choice. This lapidary style incorporates flattened stones that are measured, cut, shaped, and carefully laid in place to create a design. Channel inlay is exactly like the inlay designs described above, made of flattened stones that are measured, cut, shaped, and carefully laid in place to create a design. Yet, channel inlay has its unique rendition of the art and is a significantly more rare and traditional style.

Navajo Necklaces

Vintage Navajo Turquoise Squash Blossom NecklaceThere are many different styles of Navajo Necklaces to choose from, such as a wide selection of colored stones, strands, necklaces, chokers, but the most famous style of Navajo necklaces is the Squash Blossom. The Squash Blossom necklace is usually crafted with Sterling Silver beads interspersed with Squash Blossoms. The necklace ends with a pendant that looks like an upside horseshoe, called a “Naja.”

Squash Blossom is originally an image that was found in ancient caves and rock drawings that existed before the Europeans came to the New World. The Squash Blossom Necklace is a unique Navajo design dating back to the 1870s after the Navajo people made contact with the Spanish. We have a large selection of authentic Navajo necklaces in many styles for Women and Men. These include inlay with coral, turquoise, opal, different styles of hammered and etched sterling silver, and naturally shaped stones. When you shop with us you are helping these artists continue their work and pass on the skill to future generations. 

Vintage Kingman Turquoise Graduated Disk Necklace

 Navajo Bracelets

The beginning of silver Navajo jewelry making was in 1865 when they learned the trade from the Spaniards. The Navajo began making turquoise bracelets around the late 1890s after the first turquoise stone had been set in silver. Navajo Turquoise Bracelets have become highly valued by Jewelry collectors worldwide. Since the introduction of the internet, the demand for Navajo Turquoise Bracelets has escalated dramatically. Dragonfly Native American Jewelry has a wide selection of high-quality Turquoise Jewelry and Navajo Bracelets!

Ira Custer Horse & Hooves Bracelet

We sell an assortment of Men's and Women's Navajo Bracelets handcrafted by Authentic Navajo artists. The southwest has a variety of turquoise mines available to be made into beautiful turquoise stones in sterling silver settings. From the palest, cleanest Sky Blue stones to vibrant green stones, there is a color of turquoise that will be perfectly matched to every Navajo Turquoise Bracelet and cuff in our handmade jewelry.

The fascination with Turquoise has steadily increased down through the centuries, and it has been prized for thousands of years throughout many countries of the world. We at Dragonfly Native American Jewelry choose quality, and often hard-to-get stones for our pieces. Take your time and enjoy shopping at our online store, and you will see why we are the online leader in Navajo jewelry!

Opal Bracelet

Navajo Turquoise Jewelry

The Navajo traded with other Native people for turquoise beads and shells. It was a natural fit to put it in the silver jewelry made by the Navajo Silversmiths.

Navajo turquoise jewelry quickly became popular with the Navajo people, and once the Indian Traders took their Navajo Jewelry to the markets, the demand by the Californians grew quickly as well. Tourists coming to see the Grand Canyon as well as travelers on the railroad loved Indian turquoise jewelry, and many took the Jewelry home with them as souvenirs.

California began being a big market for Navajo turquoise jewelry and continues to be today. Navajo sterling silver and turquoise jewelry began to be worn in movies as the movie stars from Hollywood had also fallen in love with the Navajo jewelry. Indian turquoise jewelry of all types, including Zuni and Hopi as well as Navajo, is admired worldwide today, and it has become a major part of the Native and American heritage. Designer Ralph Lauren has featured Navajo jewelry in nearly all of his clothing collections for decades.

Read more on the history of turquoise jewelry here

History Behind Navajo Jewelry

The first of this jewelry was made by a Blacksmith known as Atsidi Sani around 1865. He admired the silver adornments worn by the Spaniards and their horses when they came to the area. Atsidi Sani convinced the Spaniards to teach him how to work with silver and began making Silver concho's, adornments, and the first Navajo jewelry. Atsidi Sani found an immediate market for his jewelry to his own Navajo people, who appreciated these pieces. Atsidi taught his brother how to be a Silversmith, and they both taught many others as there was an immediate demand for Navajo Jewelry by the Navajos as well as many others.

Shortly after the turn of the 20th-century, tourism began in the Southwest mainly due to the Railroad. Some of the most popular items that tourists would buy of Navajo Jewelry were Navajo rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. By the 1920s, Navajo Jewelry began being sold at popular stores and places, such as the Indian Trading Posts, at the Grand Canyon.

The Navajo jewelry business boomed and became a major industry throughout the Southwest. Today, Navajo Jewelry is still in vogue and in high demand as well. People all around the world come to the Southwest to buy sterling silver and turquoise jewelry and appreciate the jewelry. Navajo jewelry has an important role in the history of the American Western Frontier and is very much a part of the American Heritage.

Navajo Symbol Meanings in Jewelry

Bear Paw EarringsNative American jewelry is very popular among both American Indians and non-natives alike. Navajo jewelry typically features silver, and often with turquoise, shell, coral, or other kinds of stone, these pieces of jewelry are not only fashionable but also very meaningful. Traditional designs reflect the important symbols, motifs, and beliefs of the tribe by which they are crafted.

For many of the Navajo people, the jewelry's meaning can be spiritual, cultural, monetary, or aesthetic, or a combination of these beliefs. It traditionally represented its wearer’s status. Designs have a special meaning too.

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
  • Buffalo: humility and the sustaining of life
  • Butterfly: transformation, peace, a messenger from the Spirit world
  • Cactus: endurance and protection
  • Circle: air, water, fire, earth; alternatively seasonal changes, death and rebirth, and mankind’s first four tribes
  • Coyote: ancestors, craftiness, intelligence
  • Crow: intelligence, fearlessness, creation
  • Dragonfly: resurrection, encouragement
  • Eagle: conquest, power, victory
  • Falcon: decisiveness, knowledge, vision
  • Feathers: trust, wisdom, strength, honor, freedom
  • Fire: renewal, cleansing, purification
  • Fox: cunning, responsiveness, cleverness
  • Horse: freedom, nobility, strength
  • Moon: protection, harvest, serenity
  • Rain: fertility, renewal, change
  • Raven: healing, medicine, self-transformation. Messages from the Spirit world.
  • Snake: healing, rebirth, good luck
  • Thunderbird: the iconic symbol representing power and warning
  • Turtle: Earth, health, longevity
  • Wolf: communication, loyalty, fierceness, compassion

Jewelry is meant to be worn and loved. Some believe that turquoise holds the life force of its previous wearer. This powerful stone is renowned in Navajo Jewelry, and if you are acquiring a piece that has been pre-loved, which is very meaningful, you may wish to “cleanse” your stone with white sage smudging.

Owning and wearing authentic Native American necklaces and other traditional jewelry pieces gives the wearer access to unique cultural and spiritual designs. Native artisans work hard to create authentic pieces that reflect the beliefs and cultures of their people, and estate jewelry is that little bit even more special, having a one-of-a-kind history attached to each piece.

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