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The earliest Navajo jewelry was made by Atsidi Sani around 1865. During the early 1900’s Atsidi Sani was a Navajo Blacksmith who admired the silver trappings of the Spaniards, as well as their horses who were adorned with silver decorative elements. The Spaniards had arrived to the southwest in search of gold and silver. He learned the trade from Spaniards who had traveled to the southwest....
Atsidi Sani taught the trade to other tribespeople, including his four sons. Atsidi also taught the art of silversmithing to the Zuni tribe. This led to more unique silver and turquoise jewelry designs from the Southwestern U.S. It was around this time that the Southwestern tribes started trading jewelry and using it as money.
Navajo jewelry is known for large turquoise stones and big, heavy silver. The color turquoise represents happiness, luck, and health and the stone is one of the most used stone in Navajo jewelry. Navajo artists also incorporate inlay or cluster style stones, although they tend to use heavier silver than other Southwestern tribes, such as the Hopi or Zuni. Navajo artists may also keep the original free-form shape of the stone, rather than polishing and/or cutting the stone. The Navajo often create chunky and heavy weight jewelry.
The earlier Navajo jewelry was made with cheaper metals, such as brass and copper. The Navajo were defeated by the U.S. government in the late 1860s and forced into reservations. It is here that they had more access to other silversmithing techniques. These techniques were developed after their release. As time went by, many new techniques were developed and the Navajo mastered this new found art and created their own unique style.
And then in the 1900’s, as people took to the road, the Navajos created jewelry for the tourist market, including turquoise men Navajo rings, onyx, amber, and coral rings and rings for women and children. I traveled frequently with my parents through the southwest during the 1950’s where my mother enjoyed bartering in a respectful appreciative way with the Navajo people for turquoise jewelry. She had a beautiful collection of Native American pieces which she appreciated and enjoyed wearing.
Check out great deals at silvercity925.com for a wide range of vintage Navajo mens rings along with rings for children and women. A variety of other gemstones, such as onyx, coral, amber, blue lapis, spiny oyster, jade, mother of pearl, abalone rings, and more are also available for purchase.