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A lot of Soul:

A thousand years of tradition

The jewelry of the indians in the southwest of the USA today has an exceptional position among the products of ethnic groups. The use of turquoise, coral, shells and onyx has an ancient tradition for the tribes of the southwest. Since 1000 a.d. the Hohokam and Anasazi used turquoise and shells to decorate their pottery. Although they found enough of the stone of the southwest, the turquoise, the shells and coral came there from the Hohokam along the trading routes of the Gila and Salt River, and from the tribes at the pacific coast and the californian gulf as well. The Hohokam were the first to make jewelry of these materials. The Zuni continued with these prehistoric traditions up to now successfully. In particular their fetish carvings are little works of art. A necklace with hundreds of handcarved fetish animals, made of mother of pearl, coral, turquoise and the black onyx is the culmination of their jewelry.

NAVAJO jewelry

Tradition and innovation
In 1835 some Navajo learned the use of metal by mexican silversmiths. Around 1900 the art of silver jewelry already obtained a great perfection and since then turquoise and coral were combined with silver. The navajo often leave the stones in their natural shape. So they create Bracelets or rings in a special size and beauty. Their heavy squash blossom colliers, influenced by spanish design, which itself show the influence of the moors from north africa, are very popular. Also their concha belts and the silver decoration of the bridle and the saddle show their spanish origin. The silver ist either melted and casted into sand stone ("sand cast") or hammered, and only finest sterling silver (925) is being used. Although other tribes, in particular Zuni and Hopi, are extraordinary silversmiths, american indian jewelry is automatically being associated with the Navajo. They have the main part in the trade with american indian jewelry.

Further information

ZUNI Inlay

Abstract beauty - both, modern & archaic
Around 1855 the Zuni learnt the silversmithing from the Navajo. The Zuni put little turquoise and coral-pieces in sterling silver with a special skill and thus create the artful Needlepoint rings, Bracelets and brooches. The Zuni inlay mosaic designs in silver, with mother of pearl, turquoise, coral and onyx, influenced by ancient motives are typical for the Zuni artists.
Zuni Jewelry looks really modern with its abstract beauty, and that's why it has no age.
Therefore you will find archaic influence on modern art in a direct traditional line.

Further information

HOPI Overlay

Elegance and prehistoric symbols
The Hopi are mainly silversmiths. Jewels and stones are used more rarely. Their fine Overlay techniques differ from the Navajo style, as they manufacture the silver in two layers. The upper layer is sawn out in asymmetric designs and ancient Hopi symbols and brought upon another. The clan symbols, like bear, eagle and others are important as well.
Hopi jewelry attracts by its simple elegance.

Further information

The best silversmiths in the world?

Since about 1965 the jewelry of the Navajo, Zuni and Hopi reached such a level, they got a reputation to be the best silversmiths in the world. As "new high fashion look" the american indian jewelry became famous far beyond the USA, shown in fashion magazines like "Harper's Bazar" and "Vogue".
Oppositional young people in the USA are wearing the american indian jewelry as a symbol of freedom, famous artists, because they acknowledge it in its expression. The former US President Johnson gave a necklace by Hopi Charles Loloma to the Queen of Denmark as a gift. Exhibitions in London and Paris caused big sensation lately.

Their secret

What is the secret of the american indian jewelry? Hopi artist Charles Loloma said: " I create from my inside, I know about the beauty of our (Hopi-) history, know our rituals, the altar ... that explains our sense of harmony."
"A lot of soul" - perhaps this US american term describes best the specific character of the jewelry of the Navajo, Zuni and Hopi.
The art of the American Indians in the southwest of the USA combines prehistoric traditions with modern commerce. American indian jewelry is and has been an economic factor as well. Also social political aspects and the question of identity have meaning in this context. Because of this please avoid buying cheap imitations and let qualified traders do the job for you.

Authentic american indian jewelry doesn't necessary need a die. On the contrary: Not long ago dies like "Sterling Silver" were an indicator for imitations, because there is a law saying that the american indian artists in the USA don't have to put it on their works.The growing international response caused many American Indian silversmiths using dies today. Some of the artists engrave their name or initials on the pieces as well.

Dagmar Herok

translation by Henning Ahrens