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Navajo, Zuni, Hopi

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Native American Sterling Silver Stone Bracelet
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5 3/8" to 6 1/4" wrist
Native American Sterling Silver Stone Bracelet
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Native American Stone Bracelets

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Native American Jewelry Blog tips and iinformationThe stone bracelets in our store are made primarily by Native American artists of the Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi tribes 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.

Navajo Silversmiths

The Navajo were the first silversmiths. They 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 Silversmiths

The Zuni are stonesmiths who cut 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 Silversmiths

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", for sterling silver, 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.


Native American Indians use many types of stones in making bracelets and other jewelry. Read about different kinds of stone here.

The traditional stone used in southwest Native American stone bracelets and other jewelry is turquoise.

Turquoise comes in all shades of blue, to blue-green, with a possible shading towards brown-veined greens. Matrix (veining) may or may not be present in any color(s). It is the natural variations in turquoise that make it appealing. The color of turquoise in American Indian jewelry ranges from brownish green to bright blue.

Found in veins sandwiched in between layers of mother rock, the turquoise can show some of the influence of the mother rock in its matrix or veining. The matrix colors range from blue to golden brown to black and sometimes with golden flecks (sometimes called "fools gold" or iron pirite) which is very desirable.

The more blue, the higher the copper content. The more green, the higher the iron content.

Sometimes turquoise is cut so that it takes some of the mother rock with it. This is referred to as "Boulder Turquoise" and happens to be very popular right now as it shows great contrast between the turquoise and the rock which surrounded it.

Not All Turquoise is Created Equal

If you are looking at two turquoise bracelets one at $30 and the other at $500, what is the difference? Well, there are many uses and misuses of the word turquoise.

Natural Turquoise is a stone that has not been altered in any way. It is the way it was found in nature. Natural Turquoise looks very real and beautiful but, over time, when exposed to light, sweat, perfume, makeup, oils and detergents, it can deteriorate (crumble) and lose its color or change color to a pale green. It can also lose its structural stability and crumble and crack. To deal with these problems, methods have been developed to preserve turquoise. Manufacturers and dealers use the following terms in a non-standard fashion, so if you are ever in doubt when purchasing a turquoise item, you should ask about the origin of the turquoise and its treatment.

Enhanced Turquoise usually refers to a natural stone that has been treated with electrical currents that hardens the stone and enhances the color. Nothing else is done to the stone. Enhanced turquoise should not change color over time.

Stabilized Turquoise has been impregnated with an acrylic or epoxy to harden the stone and enhance the color. Almost all turquoise used for heishi necklaces and fetish carvings is stabilized because otherwise the heishi would quickly fade and break.

Compressed stones have been hardened by extreme pressure.

Fracture-Sealing uses resin or polymer to harden the matrix in the stone. (Matrix is other minerals mixed in the turquoise or portions of the "mother rock" in which the turquoise formed. Matrix appears in the turquoise as uneven areas of brown or black).

Artificial or Imitation Turquoise - There are a number of manufactured turquoise products, some of which look like real stone and others that look like plastic. Some minerals, like howlite, can be dyed to look like turquoise.

Synthetic and Lab Grown Turquoise have the same chemical composition and physical look of natural turquoise.

Block Turquoise is manufactured in blocks and is made to look like turquoise. It may be all plastic polymer or it may have crushed or powdered turquoise or other stone mixed with resin or polymer. Block Turquoise sometimes has swirls or blobs of dark dye added to simulate the look of matrix.

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