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The History Behind Zuni Jewelry

Zuni jewelry celebrates the history, culture, and beauty of the Zuni people. When you look at a piece of Zuni jewelry, the stones, silver, and the technique the artist used reflect the history of the tribe. In the 1830's, the Zuni tribe started learning how to work with copper. Towards the end of the 1800s, Zuni artists also began incorporating silversmithing techniques into their jewelry craft from their neighbors, the Navajo. Around this time, jewelry designers from the Zuni tribe began creating jewelry with an emphasis on lapidary.

For over a century now, Zuni lapidarists have developed their skill of setting and inlaying stones into metal. Oftentimes, Navajo silversmiths and Zuni lapidarists would work together to design beautiful silver pieces garnished with turquoise and other types of stones.


Initially, the Zuni tribe and other Native American peoples would craft jewelry only for the members of their tribe. Since then, silversmith and lapidarists expanded their talents and began selling to traders and people beyond their tribe. Between the years of 1920 and 1950, Zuni jewelry expanded into several different styles. These include petty point, needle point, mosaic inlay, channel inlay, and fetish necklaces. Today, Zuni jewelry is recognizable for its intricate stone work, animal shapes, and mosaic inlay designs.

Zuni Necklaces

Zuni necklaces will make a beautiful addition to your jewelry collection. As with Zuni rings, necklaces designed by the Zuni people have distinctive turquoise, red coral, black jet, white mother of pearl, mosaic, and animal designs which are unique to their techniques and jewelry style. The stones in Zuni necklaces often fit together stone-to-stone or with silver channels between them. (This is known as channel inlay.)

Perhaps the most iconic Native American necklace you'll see as you browse jewelry online is the easily recognizable squash blossom necklace. It is thought that the Navajo were the first to create the design, however, the Zuni peoples also later adopted it. Today, you'll find beautiful squash blossom necklaces handcrafted by Zuni and Navajo artists alike.

Zuni Rings

Zuni rings are a symbol of love and are an exquisite addition to your existing jewelry collection. With Zuni rings, typically, you'll see turquoise, coral, or oyster shell designs with sterling silver, as well as intricate mosaic designs. Some of the Zuni rings you'll find include animal designs in sterling silver or mosaic styles. Others will have a feather, Zuni headdress, bear claws, horses, or another unique traditional or contemporary design. Zuni rings are specially crafted for men and women alike.

Many Zuni rings are designed with a traditional, contemporary, or a blend of traditional and contemporary styles. As you browse online, you'll find that Zuni jewelry artists meticulously craft rings with brightly colored gemstones and expertly-designed sterling silver. As you shop, beware of non-authentic jewelry that mimics genuine Zuni rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, etc. All of the Zuni jewelry pieces on our website are authentic, hand-crafted by an experienced Zuni artist.




Zuni Bracelets

Zuni bracelets are often crafted with beautiful turquoise and sterling silver designs. As you browse Zuni bracelet collections online, you'll find many bracelet options to choose from - from vintage and traditional jewelry to contemporary styles. The tightly-fitted stones that are distinctly unique to the Zuni artists' techniques will create a striking look on your loved one's wrist.

Zuni bracelets feature gorgeous designs of spiderweb turquoise, red coral, mother of pearl, and other stones. Whether you are looking for a bold, striking design, or simplicity, Zuni bracelets come in many varieties.

Some of the Zuni bracelet designs are quite simple, if simplicity is your preferred taste. Other bracelets are much more bold and intricate with many stones creating patterns in the likeness of the thunderbird, arrowheads, horses, etc.


Zuni Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Stones Bracelet

Zuni Earrings

Our authentic Zuni earrings are handmade by Zuni artists who are skilled in designing turquoise, red coral, and sterling silver jewelry. Each earring is carefully made and showcases the talent of the artist. Zuni earrings feature animal fetishes and mosaic designs.

As you browse for stylish earrings for your loved one, you'll find that many Zuni earrings come as half hoops, dangles, studs, etc. Each of the earrings showcases a wide variety of styles - from intricate carved designs, elegant mosaic stone arrangements tightly fitted together, or simple sterling silver studs with a turquoise stone.

Whether you are seeking a simple pair of Zuni stud earrings, or would like a bold, complex mosaic design, you'll enjoy the beauty of an authentic pair of Zuni earrings. Add a gorgeous pair of turquoise or red coral earrings to your earring collection!




Zuni Pendants & Pins

Do you enjoy collecting pendants and pins? Zuni jewelry artists also design pendants and pins, which feature animal fetishes, birds, traditional and spiritual imagery, or simply a turquoise stone. Artists showcase their talent working with turquoise, red coral, black jet, mother of pearl, and sterling silver designs.

Pendants designed by Zuni artists can include depictions of crosses, animals, religious symbols, turquoise pendants, and more.

Zuni Inlaid Humming Bird Pendant

Zuni Sterling Silver Cross Pendant

Zuni Sun Face Maiden Pendant

Zuni Turquoise Jewelry

Perhaps the most popular stone you'll find in Zuni jewelry is turquoise. Zuni turquoise jewelry is a beautiful nod to the creativity and skilled talent of Zuni artists' talent. Turquoise stones are used commonly in necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, pendants, pins, watches, and belts alike.

Many of the styles you'll find on our website and on the market include turquoise along with red coral, black jet and mother of pearl. In addition, you'll also find Zuni turquoise jewelry with spiderweb turquoise stone designs. Native American jewelry makers as a whole has used turquoise for many generations.




Zuni Symbol Meanings in Jewelry

Zuni jewelry has a lot of symbolic meaning based upon the history, tradition, and culture of the Zuni people. When browsing for Zuni jewelry, you may find pieces that depict the thunderbird, spirit dancers, feathers, headdresses, and animal fetishes. These all have symbolic and religious meaning.

The fetish is one of the most common features you'll see in a Zuni necklace, bracelet, or earring. Native American peoples throughout the centuries believed that a fetish held magical powers and that wearing one as a part of jewelry would protect and empower the wearer. Zuni jewelry commonly includes the following animals, which have spiritual significance in Zuni religion and tradition.

In tradition, the yellow mountain lion is regarded as the guardian of the North. The red badger is considered the protector of the South. Likewise, the white wolf is the guardian of the East, and the blue bear the defender of the West. The brown or multicolor eagle is guardian of the Sky, and finally, the black mole is the guardian of the Inner Earth.

Zuni jewelry with fetishes have religious significance, so when a person wears jewelry with an animal, he or she is thought to take on the strengths of the animal. For example, a necklace with a white wolf design will give that person the strength and unity that is associated with the wolf. Since most retail consumers are non-Native American, today, you'll find that the Zuni will also craft other animals into their jewelry designs as well for aesthetic purposes. 

Who Are the Zuni?

The Zuni people are a Native American tribe (about 10,000 tribal members) who reside in New Mexico in the Zuni Reservation. Their tribe is located approximately 32 miles southwest of Gallup, NM. To this day, the Zuni speak their own language and are still a very religious people. Formerly, corn was the mainstay of their economy, but that has since been replaced by the tourist trade - mainly in jewelry and pottery. In fact, a large percentage of Zuni tribe members are contemporary artists who have skills in not only jewelry making, but also in pottery, carving, and painting. Many of the artists from the Zuni tribe depend on the sale of their art for their livelihood.

Zuni jewelry artists are highly skilled in needlepoint, pettipoint, and turquoise inlay jewelry. With decades of years to perfect their craft, the Zuni produce some of the finest inlay jewelry in the American Southwest.

About Dragonfly Native American Jewelry

Owner, Georgia Fischel, of Dragonfly Native American Jewelry has been an avid collector of Zuni, Navajo, Hopi, and Pueblo jewelry for over 45 years. With decades of personal experience, she has the knowledge and expertise to locate authentically-made Native American jewelry. Every piece of jewelry Dragonfly Native American Jewelry sells is hand-picked by Georgia in New Mexico, Arizona, and the Pueblos and Reservations of the Southwest.

We have been a member of the Indian Arts and Crafts Association (I.A.C.A.), for over ten years now. This is so that you are rest assured that the jewelry we sell is authentically designed by Native American artists. Additionally, Dragonfly Native American Jewelry is also a Member of the Southwest American Indian Arts Association (S.W.A.I.A), as well as a Founding Donor Member of the National Museum for the American Indian (N.M.A.I).

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    David Wurst