Native American jewelry has been adorned and loved in the Americas for thousands of years. Over the millennia, this jewelry has changed from simple beading and stonework to complex silver and inlay work. Each tribe has honed their own jewelry making skills and each now have their own specific style and medium preference. Jewelry made in the southwest region of the United States really began to evolve and grow after the arrival of the Spaniards hundreds of years ago. With new technologies and mediums to work with brought by the Spanish, it allowed the tribes of the area to expand their jewelry making knowledge. By the early 1900s, many Southwest traders had begun seeing some of the beautiful new jewelry that the local Native American tribes were making and began to sell this jewelry for them, allowing for a much bigger audience.
As time went by and jewelry evolved, bracelets have seemed to be the one piece of jewelry that has changed drastically over time from simple stone and beadwork wrapped around the wrist to crudely made silver bracelets to the works of art that that we see today.
The three largest Southwestern Native tribes that make jewelry are the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo. These three tribes all have their own style of jewelry making. From Hopi overlay, Zuni petit point, or intricate Navajo inlay bracelets, they all stand out on their own. Some Hopi bracelets of today may look fairly similar to older ones, as the Hopi overlay process has relatively stayed the same. The biggest advancements have been newer technologies and finer materials being used, such as 14k gold. The Zuni pueblo is known for needle and petit point designs and also inlay. Again, with new technology and advancements, the Zuni create some of the finest bracelets made with some of the highest grade Sleeping Beauty Turquoise and Mediterranean Coral. Navajo bracelets may have come the farthest in advancement over the last hundred years. Using stones and shells from all over the world, they create some of the most complex and beautiful bracelets. Spiny oyster shell, Gaspeite, Coral, White Buffalo, and all colors of turquoise can be found in Navajo bracelets today.