How to Make Native American Jewelry

Published on August 3, 2014 by Carol

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Native American Jewelry

Native American jewelry is traditionally made using natural materials such as semi-precious gems, shells, bones, and feathers. Since Native Americans also traded goods with other tribes and people they encountered items such as glass beads, metals and various other materials, incorporating them into their jewelry. Elaborate jewelry such as the squash blossom necklace made by the Navajo or simple beaded pieces are examples of Native American jewelry. Explore how to make Native American jewelry of your own, inspired by a few facts about heritage and tradition.

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1. Study a piece of Native American jewelry you might own or look at photos of jewelry. You might begin to design your own jewelry by using a finished piece as a template or draw out a plan of your own.

2. Gather materials that are often used in crafting Native American jewelry. Beads, stones, shells, horn and other materials are usually used. Feathers are sometimes added as well. Historically, Native Americans strung their jewelry with plant fibers and leather.

3. Invest in a semi-precious gemstone. Design your jewelry using a special piece of turquoise, coral or other stone as the focal point.

4. Understand that there are two classifications of Native American Indian jewelry-bead work and metalwork.

  • The use of sterling silver, extensively used by many Southwestern Native Americans such as the Navajo, came about through association with the Spanish. Navajo jewelry, which often uses turquoise and silver, most frequently comes to mind when you think of Native American jewelry. Crafting this type of jewelry takes great skill and you must learn to work with metals such as silver and copper.
  • Bead work has the longer history going back thousands of years. The use of glass beads came later after association with Europeans and are usually used today in bead work. Prior to that, raw materials found in nature were commonly used. Wood, bone, teeth, shells and stone were carved into beads.

5. Consider enrolling in a school or workshop that teaches you how to make Native American jewelry if you are serious about craftsmanship.

6. Explore the different types of jewelry made by Native Americans including, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings.

  • Bolo ties are unique to the jewelry of the Southwest. Worn around the neck in place of a tie, a bolo is often made of braided leather, metal and ornamental stones.
  • Concho belts are made of a standard leather belt decorated with metal and embedded stone. Often the belt buckle is especially ornamental.

7. Create your own version of Native American jewelry by incorporating symbols and designs used historically by a certain tribe. Every Native tribe has its own style of jewelry and traditions. Not all Native American jewelry is the same.

Source: wikihow Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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