Navajo silver and turquoise Jewelry information and photos

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Most Navajo Indian Jewelry were sold in Trading Posts

The Navajo originally made their jewelry for themselves, but after the railroads appeared in the late 19th century, they began making their jewelry to sell to American settlers who came through trading posts of the West.

They put these big attachments on the leather straps of the horse bridals. They made pendants to dangle between the horse's eyes.

They were breathtaking pieces and the Navajos are still doing it, except now they're using sheet silver instead of the heavier silver ingots. You'll see these bridal pieces in a rodeo or parade today.

Navajo Silver and Turquoise Jewelry

When people think of Indian jewelry they think of turquoise and silver. While there are many beautiful pieces of Native American handmade jewelry that do not use turquoise at all, the importance and reverence attached to turquoise by Native Americans has guaranteed a place for this gem in their jewelry.

Worldwide, turquoise has been found in burials over 7000 years old. There are references to it in the bible. Turquoise figures in the myths, religions and lore of hundreds of cultures.

It is hard to say why turquoise holds such beauty and significance for us. Perhaps because of its colour - that of the sky - in marked contrast from the usual skin tones of the earth. Turquoise is prominent in the religious cosmology of every Native North American culture that I know.

 silver and turquoise navajo jewelry
Navajo silver and turquoise jewelry bracelets an rings

Turquoise jewelry is technically hydrous copper aluminum phosphate. It forms this way: feldspar and apatite are hanging around in the ground minding their own business when the Earth gets a little heartburn and sends hot, copper-rich lava through fissures up to the Earth’s surface. The hot lava releases phosphoric acid in the apatite and melts the aluminum out of the feldspar.

navajo jewelry silver and turquoise
Navajo Silver and Turquoise Jewelry

The copper from the lava takes a deep breath of oxygen near the Earth’s surfaces and then cozies up to the phosphoric acid and aluminum in little cavities, most of which aren’t any wider than an inch. Just add a little water and a lot of time and you have turquoise.

Turquoise likes to be close to the surface of the earth and deposits are often visible on the ground. Native Americans probably became acquainted with it in that way and then began to dig for it. There are ancient mines here in North America.

One of the oldest – the Cerrillos mine near Santa Fe in New Mexico - has been mined by Native Americans for almost 2000 years. Turquoise from this mine has been found 1400 miles south in Tenochtitlan, the “Rome” of the Aztecs over the ruins of which Mexico City stands today.


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