Turquoise Jewelry - made by Native Americans

Navajo Indian hand-made silver and turquoise bracelets.
Navajo Indian hand-made silver and turquoise bracelets. | Source

Turquoise

One of my favorite collections I have is of turquoise and silver jewelry made by Native Americans. I have been collecting it since I was young and was influenced by my mother who also collected and wore it from as long as I can remember. I bought my first piece of it in Colorado on a family vacation when I was in my early 20's and I have been collecting it ever since then. According to Native American lore turquoise is supposed to bring happiness and good luck to those who wear it. I have to say, I have had periods of great happiness and good luck during my life so far, so it must be working! I'm not going to mess with success and I will continue to add to my collection rather than get rid of it.

There are many different kinds and types of turquoise here in the U.S., where most of it is mined in the southwest - Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. And, there are several Native American tribes that use it in their silver jewelry making - Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi Indians are the masters of turquoise and silver jewelry making. They learned their silver smithing skills from the Mexican Native tribes when they traded their sheep and cattle for silver smithing instructions. Today, our Native Americans are making beautiful silver jewelry encrusted with beautiful turquoise gems, that they have learned how to make from generations ago.

Turquoise is an opaque, blue to green mineral that is hydrous pohosphate of copper and aluminum. Its chemica formula is CUAle(PO4)4(OH)8 * 4H2O. The word turquoise comes from Old French in the 16th century and it means "Turkish" because the mineral was first brought to Europe from Turkey but came originally from the turquoise mines in Persia, which is modern day Iran. Turquoise is also mined in China and the turquoise from both these places is very popular in jewely today. I just happen to prefer the turquoise jewelry made by Native Americans, although I have worn Chinese turquoise also.

The color of turquoise varies from white to powder blue, to sky blue and from blue-green to a yellowish-green. Blue is attributed to idiochromatic copper and the green is believed to be the result of iron impurities or dehydration of the gem. Turquoise may be peppered with flecks of pyrite or interspersed with dark, spidery limonite veining.

Turquoise is a secondary mineral coming originally from copper. Copper comes from chalcopyrite, malachite or azurite. Aluminum comes from feldspar and phosphorus comes from apatite. Therefore, turquoise comes from a little bit of all these minerals to make up its substance. Climate also plays an important role in forming the turquoise gem as it is usually found in arid regions, filling or encrusting cavities and fractures in highly altered volcanic rock. Turquoise occurs as a vein or seam fillings and as compact nuggets mostly small in size.

Turquoise was one of the first gems to be mined here in the U.S. Many historic U.S. mines have been depleted already, but some are still worked today. Usually they are still worked by hand with no mechanization today. Often turquoise is found as a by-product of large copper mining operations in the U.S.

Today, Arizona is the most important producer of the turquoise gem by value. Several important turquoise producing mines in the state are Sleepiing Beauty Mine in Globe, Arizona and Kingman Mine in Kingman, Arizona. Nevada is another state that is a major producer of turquoise. There are approximately 120 mines which have produced significant quantities of turquoise. The chief producers of turquoise in Nevada are Lander and Esmeralda counties.

Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace
Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace | Source
Bolo tie.  Silver overlay by Navajo silversmith, Tommy Singer, ca. 1980"s.
Bolo tie. Silver overlay by Navajo silversmith, Tommy Singer, ca. 1980"s. | Source

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  • Yes, and I love it!
  • No, but I would like to.
  • No, not my style.
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More on Turquoise Jewelry

Native Americans and Turquoise Jewelry Making

Today, Native American Jewelry making, using the turquoise gem, is defined as the personal adornment and accessories made by the indiginous people of the U.S. The silver and turquoise jewelry reflects the cultural diversity and history of the Native American Tribes here in the U.S. It remains, even today, a major statement of tribal and individual identity to the Indian silver smithers, metal smiths, beaders, carvers, and lapidaries combine a variety of metals, precious and semi-precious gemstones and other materials to create jewelry. Contemporary Native American jewelry can be made from hand-quarried and processed stones and shells to computer-fabricated and titanium jewelry. I prefer the hand-quarried and hand-made turquoise and silver pieces made by the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni tribes who reside in the southwest U.S.

Silversmithing and silver working was adopted by native southwestern artists beginning in the 1850s when Mexican silversmiths had to trade their silverwork knowledge for cattle from the Navajo Indians in the U.S. The Zuni Indians learned silvermaking from the Navajo and by 1890 the Zuni had taught the Hopi how to make silver jewelry.

The Dine` people or the Navajo began working silver in the 19th century. In l853, Atsidi Sani was the first Navajo silversmith and learned his skills from a Mexican silversmith and in 1880 the first turquoise was known to be set in silvers. As time moved on, turquoise became more readily available and used in the Navajo silver jewelry. Today, turquoise is closely associated with Navajo silver jewelry making.

Silver jewelry making was introduced to the Zuni Pueblo native americans in the 19th century. Today, silver smithing and turquoise in jewelry making as always been in use in the Zuni region. They use turquoise as well as jet, argillite, steatite, red shale, freshwater clam shell, abalone and spiny oyster in their jewelry making. Kineshde, a Zuni silversmith in the late 1890's is given credit for first combining silver and turquoise in his jewelry. Zuni jewelers soon became known for their turquoise clusterwork.

The Hopi Indian silversmiths are known today for their overlay technique used in silver jewelry designs. WWII Hopi indian veterans, through the U.S. Department of Interior, learned cutting, grinding and polishing, die-stamping and sand casting of stylized Hopi designs for jewelry. Victor Coochwytewa, is noted as the most innovative jeweler for adapting the overlay technique to Hopi jewelry. Coochwytewa, along with Paul Saufkie and Fred Kabotie, organized the original Hopi Silvercraft Cooperative Guild within their Hopi Indian Tribe.

Overlay is constructed with two layers of silver sheets. One sheet has the design etched on it and then it is welded onto the second sheet with cut out designs. The background is made darker through oxidation and the top layer is polished where the bottom layer of silver is allowed to oxidize. The un-oxidized top layer is made into a cut-out design, which allows the dark bottom layer to show through. I am so fortunate to have a silver Hopi cuff bracelet made of this silver overlay and it is beautiful Hopi Indian craftsmanship.

Surprisingly, except for my trip to Colorado in my early 20's, I have not traveled to the southwest in search of Native American jewelry. I am fortunate to have a great authentic Native American Indian Jewelry store right here in Naples. FL. The last several pieces I have bought have been from this Naples store, so I haven't had to go far for the real deal. The gallery manager, Lisa Milburn, is a reputable buyer of southwest native Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni jewelry pieces, and brings it to us here in Naples. She has another store in Highlands, NC, as well. If interested, you can contact her at:

Silver Eagle

651 Fifth Ave. South

Naples, FL

239-403-3033

or

Silver Eagle

PO Box 422

468 Main St.

Highlands, NC 28741

828-526-5190


I know that over the years, Native Americans have gotten a "bad rap" and have been disenfranchised over gambling casinos and alcohol and drug problems. But, in the area of silver smithing and turquoise jewelry making, Native American Indians are artistic masters. They have spent many hours learning and honing their trade. And, Native American Indians are renowned for their beautiful and creative jewelry making. Their jewelry making represents the best of them, their culture and the great heights our Native American Indians can achieve. They are to be commended for their creativity, originality and painstakingly hours upon hours it takes to make their lovely creations. I hope you will enjoy turquoise and silver jewelry as much as I have, and at the same time, have a beautiful keepsake made by our native country

The links below can help you get started on obtaining information and on starting to buy your own turquoise and silver jewelry crafted by Native American Indians.

Update: I have recently relocated to Taos, New Mexico and I am in turquoise heaven here. The pueblo Native Americans here make beautiful silver and inlaid turquoise of all colors in their jewelry here. It is gorgeous. Now, I can actually visit the Native American tribes and particular silver smiths I mention in this article. Look for more articles on this topic.

Fritz Caruse, Navajo  jeweler, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Fritz Caruse, Navajo jeweler, Santa Fe, New Mexico | Source

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Comments 43 comments

alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Excellent stuff. Reminds me of my trips to New Mexico. Voting this Up and Beautiful.


Arlene V. Poma 4 years ago

Wonderful Hub about turquoise, along with some fascinating history. I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico a couple of years ago, and on a rainy day at the Palace of Governors, I bought a pair of turquoise earrings from a woman whose tribe was known for their turquoise jewelry. I must admit that it was the highlight of my trip, and I want to go back to do more exploring. As well as collect more pieces of turquoise jewelry. Beautiful! Nothing like it. Voted up and everything else. Bookmarked!


sonnynoregon profile image

sonnynoregon 4 years ago from Lake Oswego, Oregon 97035

Great article, so very interesting. My favorite Jewelry

is Native American Jewelry. Keep up the awesome writings.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

alocsin: Thanks so much for stopping by and reading. I enjoyed your comments as well. Santa Fe, New Mexico is on my list to travel to and visit soon. I will definitely check out the Native Indian jewelry when I am there. I hear the area is beautiful and so is the jewelry.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Arlene: Thank you for reading and for your comments. Sounds like you had a wonderful experience in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I would like to visit there someday.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

sonnynoregon: Thank you so much for reading this and for your kind comments and encouragement. I'm glad you enjoyed this and it is nice to meet a fellow "native

American jewelry" lover.


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi suzette, Turquoise is so beautiful, it sounds as though you have quite a collection. The history is so interesting, a great article thank you and voted up!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thanks, movie master: Yes, the turquoise is beautiful and so is the indian craftmanship. My collection is not large, but I do have some interesting pieces. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading this, and thank you for your comments!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago

I enjoyed your outstanding Hub. I learned much about turquoise and the jewelry made with it. My mom is a huge fan of turquoise and wears some every day. She is half Indian as well. Thank you for a good read.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

James: I'm so glad you enjoyed this hub. Thank you for your comments. Yes, Native American jewelry is just gorgeous. I'm glad your mom is a fan of it, too. So, you are part Native American - a really true American. The rest of us all come from different ancestories outside the Americas. You (and your mom) are the real deal!


Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma

I love turquoise jewelry and have several pieces although they aren't all made by Indians. I'm Cherokee and Choctaw and love most native art. Great story.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Pamela N Red: I'm so glad you enjoyed this piece, especially since you are a Native American. I try to buy pieces made by American indians because that is my personal emphasis and like. You look like you are wearing a piece in your photo - the necklace. It is just something I have been interested in most of my life. Thanks for stopping by and reading this.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City

Turquoise jewelry is stunning on whoever wears it. Thanks for providing the background story on this stone.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

L.L. Woodard: Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you liked this.


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

I am a BIG fan of turquoise jewelry suzzette. I loved this hub of yours and might call the lady for pricing etc.

thanks for an informative hub. voted up indeed!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Ruchira: I am so glad you enjoyed this and that it could be of some help to you. That makes me so happy. I just love turqoise jewelry and have all my life. Thanks for stopping by and reading and for your lovely comments.


TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 4 years ago

I enjoyed this hub very much. I am in the jewelry business and when I was more active, I often came across beautiful pieces made with turquoise, so I understand your appreciation for this type of jewelry. Very interesting and well written hub. Voted up.


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

This is a wealth of information on turquoise jewelry! I have a few pieces in my collection. The Native American work is very special, I must admit. I have some from New Mexico but most of my pieces were made here in Peru. One of my favorites is an antique silver fork entwined around a turquoise rock. It's unusual, and no one realizes it's a fork until I point it out! Very interesting hub. Voted up and shared!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

I'm so glad you enjoyed this and that it was informative for you. This is one type of jewelry I love. I have one piece, a necklace with a pendant, that was made in Peru, but bought here in the states. I just love it. Peru's jewelry is so beautiful. Your fork necklace sounds quite unique. Thanks so much for the visit and your insightful comments. Most appreciated!


donnah75 profile image

donnah75 4 years ago from Upstate New York

Interesting article. I love the photos. Turquoise is so beautiful. I appreciate your allegiance to buying from our own country. We have wonderful artisans in this country, and it is important to support them when we can.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

donnah: I agree with you and you are singing to the choir on this one. I think we should always support our American artisans and native American jewelry and art is wonderful, I think. Thank you so much for reading this and for your insightful comments. Most appreciated!


vibesites profile image

vibesites 4 years ago from United States

I love blue and green, and I've been dazzled and fascinated by the color of turquoise. Thanks for providing historical information too. Great hub all around. :)


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

I'm so glad you enjoyed reading this. I have had so much fun collecting Native Indian jewelry. Aren't the color of the bracelets beautiful and it comes from nature. It is amazing. Thanks for your visit.


Glass-Jewelry profile image

Glass-Jewelry 3 years ago from Presezzo, Italy

Hello suzettenaples,

The turquoise used in Italian jewelry is normally different from that of which you speak about American one.

The tonality is closer to a blue sky, and is with no inclusions because Italians like these two features.

In fact it is often imitated in costume jewelry with a paste of turquoise (powder mixed with resin) and then molded into different shapes depending on the requirements of the jeweler.

Of course this paste of turquoise have not the same value of a natural stone.

Beautiful article, voted UP!


jainismus profile image

jainismus 3 years ago from Pune, India

Interesting information.

Here in India also, many tribal communities wear jewelry that is very different from that of other people.

Shared.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thank you Denise and I'm so glad you enjoyed this hub. We have some talented craftsmen and jewelers in our Native American indians. I haven't been to the southwest US much, but out there I hear the jewelry is gorgeous. I hope you can visit the store there in NC.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

jainismus: Thank you for reading and for your comments. Jewelry from your country is beautiful also. Thanks for your visit - most appreciated.


CelebrateUSA profile image

CelebrateUSA 2 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

The turquoise jewelry is beautiful! Truly a historic statement combined gracefully with art.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

CelebrateUSA: Isn't this jewelry beautiful. The talent and master craftsmen of the native American indian tribes are amazing with their intricate work and designs. I just love turquoise jewelry. I am so please you enjoyed reading this and thanks for your comments.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

This is so beautiful! I do wear Turquoise, just because I love the color. Great to know the details of this precious stone. Tribal jewelry in India resembles the designs you have showcased here. And it is beaded in silver only.

Thanks for sharing this interesting hub!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

I love the turquoise! these are the sort of jewelry that I love!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Chitrangada: You wear it also! It is beautiful, isn't it? I do know there is much turquoise in India also as I have seen pieces made there also. So glad you enjoyed this hub. Thanks so much for your comments and visit. Most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Nell: Yes, I love it too and wear it nearly everyday. My mom always wore it and that is how I got started. It is absolutely beautiful and something that is truly American and made here! LOL! Thanks so much for your comments and visit. Most appreciated.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

I have a beautiful piece my husband gave me years ago when we were out in Colorado. After reading your post, I will have to get it out and wear it this summer. Lovely share on this art form and the people who make them so.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

teaches: I am glad you also have experienced the handicraft of native American Indians. Their turquoise jewelry is beautiful and the craftsmanship outstanding. Glad this reminded you of your own piece. Thanks so much for your visit and comments. Most appreciated.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

I would love to own a Turquoise bracelet! My mother is from the Blackfoot tribe. She never had turquoise. Your hub is filled with such great information about this precious stone. Thank you. Sharing.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

vocalcoach: You can start your collection anytime! LOL! I love it and have been out west and have acquired a few pieces. It is beautiful and I am always amazed by the work of our native American Indians. This really speaks highly of them. Thanks so much for your visit and your comments. Most appreciated.


starstream profile image

starstream 2 years ago from Northern California

I enjoyed your article. It is full of information that I didn't know about turquoise jewelry. I have collected a few pieces over the years too. One of the most interesting ways to learn more about this kind of jewelry making is to take a class which could be offered at a local rock hound club in your area. It is a fascinating and difficult craft to learn. There are a couple of these in my local California listings. Usually the classes are economical and offer lots of hands on assistance which is welcomed.


starstream profile image

starstream 2 years ago from Northern California

Beautiful turquoise photo! This gemstone is awesome.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

starstream: I am so happy and pleased you enjoyed this article and are a collector of turquoise jewelry. I had no idea about the jewelry making classes centered around the turquoise rock. I will have to look into this. Thanks for enlightening me about this. I suppose most of them are out west near the turquoise mines. Thanks so much for your visit and input. Most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi starstream: So glad you enjoyed the photos.


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 9 months ago from The Midwest, USA

Hello Suzette, I enjoyed your article on turquoise very much. I love turquoise, and have a couple pieces like earrings and a ring that I got on a special trip. (Including driving home through the Grand Canyon area after our honeymoon!) I was in love with all that I saw and wished I could buy much more.

Over time, I have collected some more, and enjoy turquoise more and more every year. I notice many dye howlite stones and magnesite, so I keep an eye out for that as I often want the real thing. I love all stones however, and just especially turquoise. There is something very special about it. I enjoyed your story you shared, thank you!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 7 months ago from Taos, NM Author

I am a turquoise fan! lol! It is good to meet another lover of turquoise. I have been as far west as Colorado and Wyoming. Colorado has some beautiful pieces, but I would love to get to Arizona one day to check out there.

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