Navajo Jewelry is well-known for its distinctive bold design, and use of silver inlaid with large, bright gems. Turquoise is a very popular gem used in Navajo jewelry, and this bold blue jewel is native to the Southwestern United States where the Navajo lived. You can find genuine Navajo jewelry even now, made by Navajo craftsmen. You may have to look a little bit to find the genuine article rather than a copy, but it is much more satisfying to obtain a keepsake created by an artisan who is passing his or her tradition down through making unique jewelry.
The Navajo call themselves the "Dineh". Their first contact with Europeans was in the mid 1500s. There are some who believe that they learned their silversmith techniques from the Europeans, and others believed that they developed the method themselves or from neighboring tribes. Silver was and still is plentiful in the Southwest, and precious gems can easily be found. This is the reason that Navajo Jewelry is characterized by large silver pieces and gems, unlike other Native American jewelry, which uses small beads to create patterns. It is for this reason that Navajo jewelry can sometimes be more costly than other forms of Native American Jewelry, but the combination of fine silver and gems and the expert craftsmanship make good quality Navajo jewelry an instant heirloom.
The Navajo's technique of working with silver was quite advanced. They developed a forge soldering technique that allowed them to join several pieces of silver together to create one piece of Navajo jewelry. Today, you can find Navajo jewelry in almost any design you can imagine. A popular item is a large silver bracelet with a single large piece of turquoise or coral in the center. Patterns of gems may be inlaid in silver. Navajo jewelry also makes use of animal images, such as snakes and foxes.
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