Native American Jewelry

Our gallery focuses on the sale of antique Native American jewelry dating from the late 19th century through the 1950s, including works by Navajo and Pueblo (Zuni, and Hopi) artists. The makers of the majority of these works remain unidentified as the artists did not begin to sign their jewelry until the late 1940s.


The Navajos learned silversmithing from the Spanish. From 1870s-1900, they worked primarily in ingot silver, using hand-made tools. Silver is a difficult medium to work, requiring extremely high temperatures in the firing, but the Navajos mastered it and developed designs using dies, chisels and stamps. By about 1900, the Navajo began to incorprate stones into their work. The silverwork, however, remained the most important part of the design of the jewelry that they made (most especially bracelets, necklaces, brooches, rings, earrings and ketohs).

The Pueblo and Hopi Indians are descendants of the Anasazi Indians. They learned jewelry-making from their ancestors. The Zuni focused primarily on fine stone-work, utilizing turquoise, spiny oyster (spondylus), coral, onyx and clam shell, some of which was acquired by trade with coastal peoples. 

Pueblo silverwork is often difficult to distinguish from the Navajo during the earlier days of silverworking. However, in the 1930s and 1940s, the Zuni began utilizing a lot of very small stones, sometimes setting each stone in its own bezel, sometimes setting it in a silver channel, and sometimes setting it with precision next to other stones.

The Indians from Santo Domingo Pueblo worked almost exclusively with stones, making necklaces and earrings of heishi and other stones or setting stones in old battery casing or phonograph records (1930s-1940s).

The Hopi developed a distinctive style of silverwork using silver overlay after World War II, a method that continues through to current times.

Stamping the jewelry with the maker's name as well as silver content of "sterling" doesn't really begin until after World War II. Even then, it takes at least a decade for signatures to become common. Some of the jewelry made at Zuni during the tenure of C G Wallace is attributable by the items that sold at the Wallace sale at Sotheby Parke Bernet ins 1975. In the catalog for that sale, C G Wallace identified makers of specific items in the sale.