Southwest Indian Jewelry


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Southwestern Indians have been using shell and stone to make jewelry since prehistoric times. After the arrival of the Spanish, they added silver to the materials they used. Fine examples of older jewelry are available at the gallery, including necklaces made of shell and stone from Kewa (Santo Domingo Pueblo), Zuni turquoise cluster work and Navajo silver cuffs and earrings. Most of the jewelry dates from the time period just after the Second World War.

The History and Lore of Turquoise

Turquoise was a ceremonial gem and a medium of exchange for Native American tribes in the southwestern US. They also used it in their jewelry and amulets. The Apaches believed that turquoise attached to a bow or firearm increased a hunter's or warrior's accuracy.  Turquoise is found in only a few places on earth: dry and barren regions where acidic, copper-rich groundwater seeps downward and reacts with minerals that contain phosphorus and aluminum. Turquoise is one of the world's most ancient gems. Archaeological excavations revealed that the rulers of ancient Egypt adorned themselves with turquoise jewelry, and Chinese artisans were carving it more than 3,000 years ago. Turquoise is also the national gem of Tibet, and has long been considered a stone that guarantees health, good fortune, and protection from evil. Turquoise is among the world's oldest jewelry. It was referred to by the Egyptians as Mefkat, which also means joy and delight.