History of Native American Jewelry

Like the history of the tribes themselves, the story of how Native American jewelry came to be is one that is rich and diverse. Now that the jewelry has, once again, become widely popular to wear, it’s worth keeping in mind how these designs came to be in America, notably in the Southwest.

Remembering that past, which goes back to the prehistoric times, offers infinite value to what you wear today.

Although the Native American tribes, as a whole, are known for their turquoise jewelry, each tribe has a style to call their own. For example, the Navajos, which produce the most jewelry of any tribe, are known for their Squash Bottom necklaces, which are pieces of turquoise, coral, and stones that have distinct patterns inscribed in them. The Santo Domingo tribe, on the other hand, has made bead jewelry out of turquoise and heishe, or shells, for centuries, if not millennia.

There is also a history of trade in the development of Native American jewelry. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Navajo, along with other Southwestern tribes, traded their goods for silver from Mexican blacksmiths, which would later be incorporated in their jewelry. On the East Coast, Northern tribes like the Iroquois eventually used European glass beads for their necklaces; over time, the wardrobes of tribes further south changed, as the European fashions became more popular across the land.

We enjoy telling these stories at DC Knits, because we are proud to offer a wide selection of the best Native American jewelry around. Come see the histories of these tribes in action, and experience their beautiful work today!