Steeped in rich history and spiritual depth, Navajo jewelry is a testament to enduring artistry and ancient tradition. At Lema’s Kokopelli, we open a gateway to the vibrant legacy of this resilient tribe, allowing you to wander through the mesmerizing landscapes of Navajo craftsmanship that have captivated the hearts of collectors across generations.
The history of Navajo jewelry is steeped in ancient traditions, transformative encounters, and cultural expression. It is widely believed that Navajo silversmithing originated in the mid-1800s when a Navajo blacksmith named Atsidi Sani came into contact with Mexican silversmiths, who shared the intricate art of crafting silver with him. Embracing this new skill, Atsidi Sani not only incorporated it into his own tribe’s traditions but infused it with distinct identity and style, laying the foundation for what would become a hallmark of Navajo artistry.
As time passed, this art form flourished among the Navajo people, incorporating symbols and materials like turquoise imbued with cultural and spiritual significance. The unique blend of these elements resulted in captivating pieces that resonated with Native Americans and the wider market. By the early 20th century, Navajo jewelry began to garner attention on a national and international scale, appreciated widely for its fine craftsmanship and symbolism, making it a treasured cultural icon in the world of jewelry.
At Lema’s Kokopelli, we’re proud to feature a wide variety of authentic Navajo jewelry. Our collection features earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings that connect you to the whispers of the past and the sacred rhythms of the Southwest. Whether you’re drawn to the spiritual undertones of Native American symbolism or the intricate beauty of traditional craftsmanship, we offer an extensive range of unique and captivating Navajo jewelry for all tastes and preferences.
You’ll notice right away that we only choose the best of the best at Lema’s Kokopelli Gallery. We’re proud to sell some of the finest work that’s currently being created. More importantly, every piece of Navajo jewelry for sale on our website has been individually photographed. So when you find something special, you’ll be purchasing that exact piece.
Our family has been working in this business for three generations, and we offer authentic Navajo jewelry for all types of different aesthetics, occasions, and styles. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions while you browse!
There are defining characteristics of Navajo jewelry, and because the artform is constantly evolving, it helps to have a basic understanding of how to identify Navajo jewelry in the most basic sense. One of the first defining features is that, traditionally, Navajo jewelry tended to have larger stones, and especially stones with organic, freeform shapes. Even today, they aren’t always cut precisely to fit a specific setting. This approach helps retain the natural beauty of the stones. There’s also a heavy use of silver, and for generations, experienced silversmiths have designed inlay settings with exceptionally intricate detail work.
That being said, how to identify authentic Navajo jewelry isn’t always straightforward. Navajo jewelry artists may repeat certain themes or designs, but a key part of this medium—as with all art—is to explore new creative expressions. Navajo jewelry has never been static. The craftsmanship is constantly evolving with new tools. Plus, the easier access to stones has presented new unique opportunities for even more varied and beautiful designs.
For example, we have a wider selection of turquoise to work with today. In the late 1800s, it was difficult for Navajo jewelry artists to get their hands on these stones – even though turquoise has been mined in the American Southwest for upwards of 1,500 years. Early on, being able to set these stones into a new piece was usually only possible if you could find a broken stone from another pendant or earring.
Developing the jewelry making techniques obviously became easier over the centuries. And even more recently, Navajo jewelry artists are able to work with even more “exotic” stones. Combining their knowledge and appreciation of the natural beauty of stones with the technical skills for metalwork means we should anticipate even more changes with this artform.
The world has entered an age with even better technology and tools. Artisans have more freedom to practice new approaches, and there’s more potential to utilize multiple materials and experiment with different combinations. This level of creativity simply wasn’t possible for previous generations to achieve. It’s always interesting to see what will happen next. Honoring the roots of Navajo jewelry is critical, but it’s also wonderful to embrace new artwork too!
Whether a piece of jewelry is “authentic” or “traditional” isn’t so much about the time period when it was created or even the particular style. Plenty of Navajo jewelry artists today are embracing more “modern” aesthetics, and yet this doesn’t devalue the quality of their work. It’s simply a new era. Of course, you still want to be careful about choosing where to buy authentic Navajo jewelry. Simply referring to a piece or design as “Navajo’’ does not automatically qualify it as being handmade by an actual Navajo jewelry artist.
But since there is such wide appeal and appreciation for Navajo jewelry, it’s only natural that some people will want to imitate the styles. That’s why it’s important to find a trusted Navajo jewelry dealer who has an extensive history of working with true, experienced artists. If you’re ready to find something truly special, Lema’s Kokopelli Gallery is here to help!
We’ve been leaders in this industry for three generations—now with Tony Lema Jr., and with his father and his grandmother coming before him. Our inventory continues to change and grow from week to week with new, authentic Navajo jewelry. And being able to work with talented artists has helped ensure that our family’s tradition of providing excellent service and exceptional jewelry will always remain strong.
As you start to browse through the different Navajo jewelry for sale, you might be drawn to different types of stones or Navajo jewelry symbols. Traditionally, the most sought-after Navajo turquoise jewelry is the deep and vibrant blue variety with a “spider web” matrix of black lines. But obviously everyone has their own personal preference. You’ll even find this with the Navajo jewelry artists themselves.
Attempting to interpret each and every one of the Navajo jewelry symbols that continue to show up over the years is no small feat. Although the significance of a raincloud might seem clear enough, does a running horse really represent a “long journey,” or should an eagle always represent “good luck” in a list of Navajo jewelry symbols? There isn’t an underlying system. So again, it often goes back to personal preference.
Many people choose their Navajo jewelry based off the stones, and turquoise in particular. The different types of Navajo turquoise jewelry come in a wide range of colors. Some stones come with unique blotches of either brown or black. Others will include shimmers of iron pyrites or quartz. And interestingly, a single mine can yield all types of turquoise. Certain parts of the world are known for a particular color, but they are by no means limited to that style.
There’s no denying that turquoise holds a special significance in Navajo jewelry. Some ancient stories explain that the stones fell like rain from the heavens. This deep cultural significance is obviously one of the most recognizable Navajo jewelry symbols. In a sense, you might even think that inlay turquoise stones are synonymous with Navajo jewelry. But really, there’s so much more to Navajo jewelry for sale today. The craft is constantly evolving.
As a family-owned business, we really put our heart into featuring the best Navajo jewelry artists working today and showcasing them both online and in our store. We love helping their jewelry make it into the hands of people who value craftsmanship, and of course, timeless beauty with jewelry pieces that are actual works of art.
If you have any questions about our relationships with Navajo jewelry artists or just a particular piece of Navajo jewelry here on our website, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our company is built on three generations of expertise, and we firmly believe that our family’s history in the industry sets us apart. We’d love to help you find something special for yourself, or as a fantastic gift.