Turquoise is one of the favored materials used in Southwestern Native American jewelry. It has been found in the ancestral Native American sites of Chaco Canyon and is atill popular all these centuries later. Turquoise jewelry made by Native Americans is beautiful, is a good investment, and gives the wearer a special look.
Turquoise is usually found in dry climates like those in the southwestern United States, Egypt and Persia. It generally forms near the surface of the Earth to around 200 feet. Conditions have to be just right for turquoise to form, making it rare and highly prized. Native Americans have thusly treasured it for over two millennia.
Without banks wealth had to be carried with the people in their jewelry. The early Native Americans mined turquoise, and made it into beads they made into necklaces. These were used in trade as well as being signs of honor. They were also used in ceremonies.
Native Americans use of turquoise took a new turn with the introduction of silversmithing by the Spanish. The Native Americans then combined their skill of stone cutting with the new craft of silver work. Turquoise cross necklaces were among the earliest types of jewelry made. The Navajo led the way in those early days.
The Zuni Indians learned silversmithing from the Navajo around 1872. By the 20th century their inlay,petite point and needlepoint styles made their work some of the most recognizable forms of Native American art. Probably turquoise is the most popular stone in their jewelry, though they also use stones such as coral, jet and mother of pearl.
The Santo Domingo tribe favor necklaces where they make turquoise and other stone "heishe" beads. These are made into beautiful necklaces. The Navajo and Zuni, while making necklaces, make things like turquoise earrings, rings and bracelets as well. The Hopi tribe use some turquoise in their jewelry, but their "shadow box" style often has only silver without turquoise or other stones.
The turquoise used in Native American turquoise jewelry takes its names from the mines it comes from. For example "Lander Blue" turquoise is from a mine in Nevada. The turquoise has a very tight web in a black or dark brown matrix. In good light it looks like little turquoise dots in a dark sea. For decades it has been one of the most expensive types turquoises. The Arizona ""Sleeping Beauty" turquoise is a uniform light to medium blue, much without matrix. "Blue Gem" comes from another Nevada mine. It is very hard with a deep blue-green color. This type of turquoise seems to have visual depth.
Turquoise jewelry made by Native Americans can be looked at from many angles. It has had an important role in Native American life for a long time. Turquoise jewelry is a good investment, but more important it is a beautiful art form. Turquoise jewelry also has the added benefit of setting apart the person who wears it!