About Navajo Tribe and Jewelry
Navajo are a set of tribal people who migrated to southwest America around 600 years ago. They are one of the largest tribes of Native Americans. Initially, they were herders and farmers. Later they developed skills of silver smithing and evolved into one of the excellent jewelry designers with the association of the Spaniards.
Today, Navajo handmade jewelry is very popular and are made of various materials such as; turquoise, silver, malachite, lapis lazuli, etc. Usage of various oyster shells and onyx are also seen in these jewels. Some of the Navajo handmade jewelry includes necklaces, tobacco flasks, bracelets, buckles, hair jewelry, earrings, bolos, and even pins.
Initially, the materials used for the jewelry were only the ones that were easily available in the locality of the tribe. Later slowly designs and materials have evolved according to the development of the technology and exposure of the people and currently various types of materials and gemstones are being used.
However, regardless of the transformation of technology and designs, the demand for handmade jewelry has not come down. The Navajo jewelry is still mostly handcrafted to meet the demands.
Specialty Designs of Navajo Handmade Jewelry:
There are numerous exquisite patterns of Navajo Jewelry such as; symbols of nature and animals, as well as historical figures. The energy of the tribe is reflected in each of the pieces projecting their lifestyle. There are extraordinary artworks that portray the culture and history of the Navajos.
Atsidi Sani was the first silversmith of the Navajo tribe who later trained his sons in the same field. Tommy Singer is another popular silversmith. The most popular feature of the Navajo handmade jewelry is using beads. The quantity and quality of beads present in the jewelry indicates the wealth, authority, and status of the owner.
The key specialty of Navajo jewelry is that both men as well as women can wear these and the options are endless.
Popular Models of Navajo Handmade Jewelry:
The most significant beads, which are a part of the Navajo culture, are the Wampun beads and Heishi beads.
Heishi beads are one of the oldest versions found in New Mexico. These beads are found in the shape of small tubes and discs and are made of polished stones and organic shells. The word Heishi means ‘shell necklace’. It takes 2 days to 2 weeks to make these Heishi into strings and these are really smooth. Heishi strings made of corals, turqoise, lapis, and carnelians, are very popular.
Wampum beads are considered very sacred and are quite old. These were earlier made of shells and are currently made of gemstones. At times Wampun beads are made using coins too. These are made from various materials that includes whelk shells, quahog with purple and white heads, or clam shells that are really hard.
Naja Sets are another popular types, which were borrowed from Spaniards and these Navajo handmade jewelry were made of coins, metal, silver, or beads and have various designs such as; flowers, beans, and snakes.
Squash blossom necklace is another popular model, which is said to be a modification of the Naja sets. These have ornate designs made of shell and turquoise. These also contain designs of sacred animals.
Navajo handmade jewelry is truly a wonderful collection of artwork that is very affordable with huge range of collections for both men and women.