Native American Indians and Jewelry


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Differences in American Indian Jewelry

The jewelry on our site is made primarily by the Navajo, Zuni, Santo Domingo Pueblo and Hopi Indians of the Southwest United States. To start out with, we'd like to give you an idea of how their style of jewelry making differs from each other. At the bottom of this page are links to more information on each tribe.

Navajo - The Navajo were the first silversmiths. The commonly design jewelry around a stone's natural shape.


When Navajo do inlay, it is bolder than Zuni inlay and usually has silver between the inlaid pieces (called "channel inlay").

Zuni - The Zuni are stonesmiths that cuts stones to fit into a precise geometric pattern or design. They tend to use four traditional colors:

Blue - turquoise
Red - Coral
Black - Jet or Onyx
White - Opal or Mother of Pearl

Their inlay tends to be more complex than Navajo, with more cuts and patterns. They usually don't use silver between the inlaid pieces but produce "stone on stone" inlays.


The Zuni also produce meticulous Needlepoint (narrow stones pointed on both ends) and Petit Point (any other small cut stone shape such as oval, teardrop etc.) pieces, often in clusters.

Most snake designs are done by the Zuni.

Hopi - The Hopi are silversmiths and design pieces mostly of solid silver with a cutout design on top of the main piece. The background is usually oxidized and etched with hashmarks. Two characteristics of Hopi work are two pieces of silver soldered together and minimal use of stones.

Most modern Indian jewelry is stamped "Sterling" and is signed or has a hallmark by the artist. However a lack of hallmarks, initials, or signatures doesn't mean it is not authentic. In the past, most reservation-made Indian jewelry was not signed and had no hallmark.

Rio Grande Pueblo Indians live in pueblos (villages) along the Rio Grande (Big River). Sometimes they are referred to as the Santo Domingo Pueblo Indians but there are many pueblos and Santo Domingo is just one. Others include Acoma, Laguna, Isleta, Santa Clara, Taos and others. In fact pueblos cover an area from approximately Taos, New Mexico to Albuquerque. Each pueblo is very separate and its inhabitants are often of different ethnic groups and speak different languages.

Santo Domingo HeishiThe Pueblo artists, and especially those of Santo Domingo, are famous for their skill in making hand rolled and cut beads known as heishi. Made from shell, turquoise, and other stones, they are painstakingly cut by hand into delicate beads and strung on necklaces.


Navajo Indians    Zuni Indians    Hopi Indians    Pueblo Indians   Lakota Sioux

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