The Native Americans in the Southwest who are especially known for their jewelry are the Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo peoples. The Eye’s Gallery is pleased to have just received a beautiful collection of such jewelry. The pieces really are unique and fantastic.
The Hopi are known for the use of an overlay technique, developed in the late 1930s and 1940s. Hopi Overlay Jewelry consist of two silver layers that are formed into flat pieces of the same shape. Designs are cut into the top piece with a jewelry saw. The bottom piece is textured and oxidized with liver of sulfur, thus turning it the black color. The two pieces of silver are then soldered together with the cut out designs on top. The designs are religious and secular, ranging from realistic to symbolic. Many are inspired from ancient sources.
Turquoise and sterling silver characterize classical Navajo jewelry. Navajo designs employ several fabrication methods including inlay, stamp work, hammered silver, and bezel setting.
Navojo jewelry can often be identified by certain characteristics. Cuffs, for example, constitute the most likely construction of Navajo bracelets. Navajo rings often employ a three-prong shank, often with multi-stone clusters or a large gemstone featured centrally on the ring.
The Zunis are famous for a particular type of stonework called inlay. Stones are worked and then fit together, sometimes side by side, called stone-to-stone, or with silver channels in between, known as channel inlay. The Zunis do not cast the silver. Each piece is meticulously fabricated. The predominant colors and stones used in traditional Zuni inlay are turquoise, red coral, black jet, and white mother of pearl. Symbolically, red represents Mother Earth and turquoise Father Sky. The black and white of the other stones is a further representation of dualities. Other stones that may be used in Zuni jewelry are pink coral, abalone, green snail shell, orange or purple spiny oyster, melon shell, and fossilized ivory.