Navajo

Navajo

Navajo, Indians of the high plains

The Navajo (also called Dineh, meaning "people") are originally from the northern part of the United States. Their nomadic way of life led them to gradually settle in the West from the 15th century. Their current territory is immense: it extends from New Mexico to Arizona and includes a southern part of Utah.

It is while moving west that the Navajo met a sedentary tribe, the Pueblo, known to live in traditional flat-roofed houses called Adobe Houses. The two tribes, after engaging in a territorial war, ended up cohabiting in a cordial understanding and sharing traditions: growing corn, weaving blankets, and making jewelry.

Artists by nature, the Navajo knew how to borrow various know-how, adapt them and create their own style. In the 1850’s, their craft grew and gave birth to the exceptional jewelry we know today. The Navajos generally work the turquoise stone in the most natural state possible, leaving it in its original form, bigger and rougher, to make spectacular pieces.

 

They are also known for particular silversmithing processes:

Applique: this technique is most often identified by squash blossoms(squash is essential for Natives as it represents good crops), leaves and feathers. All these elements are chiselled in thin silver plates and then soldered to a smooth silver frame. On some jewels, the Applique technique is sometimes enhanced by turquoise or coral.

 

Repousse: This process can be recognized by the presence of curved elements, often in the shape of a drop or a moustache, surrounded by oxidized silver stamps. We find this craft on beautiful Native American belt buckles, but also on silver earrings, bracelets, and rings.

 

Sandcast and Tufacast are traditional processes used by Navajo jewellers since the beginning of time. The artist takes a mold of hardened sand (sandcast) or a volcanic stone (called Tufa) and divides it into two parts. One of these parts is carved with a pattern of his/her choice, into which he/she pours the molten silver. The second part covers this pattern and is firmly attached to the first one. Once the silver has hardened, the piece is removed from the mold, which in most cases breaks, creating a unique piece with an antique and original appearance on which the roughness of the Sandcast or Tufacast can be seen.

Some Navajo pieces have become iconics of Navajo jewelry work, such as the Conchas (Concho Belts) and Squash Blossom necklaces.

Conchas are made of a leather strap decorated with silver pieces in oval and a butterfly shapes, embossed and sometimes set with turquoises. You have surely seen these superb Native American belts in westerns, fashion shows or on Jim Morrison, who regularly and proudly wore his.

The Squash Blossom is an impressive ceremonial necklace composed of several silver pieces sometimes set with turquoises, and which central pendant is a Naja, that recalls the shape of a horseshoe.

More generally, Navajo jewelry has become emblematic and can be found throughout history, cinema and fashion. To name just a few examples, think of Johnny Halliday's rings and Lenny Kravitz adornments... all are traditional Navajo pieces available at Harpo. 

Selection of the month

    • Man Navajo bracelet.
This sterling silver bracelet is hand-stamped and hand-carved in feather shape. 
The feather is symbol of peace and freedom of spirit. 
Wrist size (in inches): 7.6 Width (in mm) : 12mm
This bracelet is made in sterling silver. 
Proudly handmade in USA. 
    • Woman Sterling silver Zuni bracelet. 
Cactus Flower set with Sleeping Beauty turquoises (Arizona). This bracelet is handcrafted thanks to the Needle Point process. 
Needle Point: cluster of thinely carved stones. 
Wrist size (in inches) : 6,2Width (in mm) : 40mm
This bracelet is in sterling silver. 
Proudly handmade in USA. 
    • Man One of a Kind piece
Sterling silver Zuni bracelet inlaid with Wild Horse stone. 
The handmade Zuni inlay is made of different stones (most often turquoise, coral, mother-of-pearl, black jet), carved and put together in order to create a thin geometrical pattern. The piece is then polished in order to give a smooth and elegant finish to the jewel. Wrist size (in inches): 69Width (in mm): 9mmThis bracelet is made in sterling silver. 
Proudly handmade in USA. 
    • Woman Liquid Silver necklace with turquoise mix, coral mix and sterling silver tubular beads (Heishi) on nylon string, and with a coral nugget on its center. 
Liquid silver is a traditionnal Navajo work. Tubular beads (called heishi) are hand-strung together in order to create one or several strands. This gives a fluid aspect to the jewel, that makes think to silk or water running on the skin, explaining why the Navajos gave this name to this process. 
Setting and clasp in sterling silver. 
Length in inches: 16
Proudly handmade in USA.
    • Woman Fetishes necklace. Animals carved in turquoise on a Heishi shell beads string. Main pendant representing an eagle, incarnation of divine power. 
Necklace length (in inches): 27.5Size of the centrale pendant (H x L in mm) : 42mm x 51mmClasp in sterling silver. 
In a time when the Zuni tribe lived from agriculture and hunting, the hunters couldn't do with these amulets and would never forget to bring them during their expeditions. The fetishes assure benevolence of the soul. Each animal represents its spirit, its own inner force and protects its owner. 
Proudly handmade in USA. 
    • Unisex Navajo necklace in sterling silver. 
    • Man One of a Kind piece
Navajo ring with a Kingman turquoise (Arizona) set in sterling silver.
The setting of this ring is smooth and refined in order to highlight this beautiful turquoise. Size of the stone (HxL in mm) : 14mm x 10mm
This ring is in sterling silver. 
Proudly handmade in USA. If you don't find this ring in your size, please contact us, we may have it in stock.
    • Man One of a Kind piece 
Navajo ring with a Kingman turquoise (Arizona) set in sterling silver. 
This designer ring is representative of Navajo silversmithing: the darker tone on the below part is due to the oxydation of the silver and the setting is adorned by two wire shape pieces that remind a rope and represent the fact Navajos consider the stone needs to be tame as a wild animal. Dimensions of the stone in mm (HxL) : 23mm x 17mm
This ring is made in sterling silver. 
Proudly handmade in USA. 
If you don't find this ring in your size, please contact us, we may have it in stock.
    • Woman Navajo ring. Sleeping Beauty turquoise (Arizona) set in a sterling silver arrow spiral. 
The arrow is symbol of protection. Width : 20mm
This ring is made in Sterling Silver. 
Proudly handmade in USA. If you don't find this ring in your size, please contact us, we may have it in stock.
    • Unisex Zuni fetish. Unique piece.
Bear carved in chrysocolla with his eyes in Sleeping Beauty turquoise.
We can see three arrows on this fetish, that go from its mouth to its heart. These arrows represent the line of life: The animal's breath, allowing it to dominate and master its prey.
The bear symbolizes strength, health and knowledge. 
Dimensions (H x L x l) in mm:
39mm x 52mm x 18mm
In a time when the Zuni tribe lived from agriculture and hunting, the hunters could'nt do without these amulets and would never forget to bring them during their expeditions. The fetishes assure benevolence of the soul.Each animal represents its spirit, its own inner force and protects its owner.
Proudly handmade in USA.
    • Unisex Zuni Fetish. Unique piece.  
Buffalo carved in gorgone with Sleeping Beauty turquoise eyes. 
We can see an arrow on this fetish, that goes from its mouth to its heart. This arrow represents the line of life: The animal's breath, allowing it to dominate and master its prey.
The buffalo symbolizes plentiness, endurance, and fulfill wishes. 
Dimensions (H x L x l) in mm = 26 x 40 x 11
In a time when the Zuni tribe lived from agriculture and hunting, the hunters could'nt do without these amulets and would never forget to bring them during their expeditions. The fetishes assure benevolence of the soul.Each animal represents its spirit, its own inner force and protects its owner.
Proudly handmade in USA.
    • Unisex Zuni fetish. Unique piece. 
    • Unisex Hatband with 10 conchas and 11 butterflies in Sterling Silver attached with copper grips on the back. Belt in genuine brown cow leather. 
    • Unisex 100% silk scarf, limited edition. 
    • Man One of a Kind piece - Navajo handcraft
Inlaid silver and lapis-lazuli cufflinks. 
The handmade inlay is a gathering of genuine stones, carved and put together in order to create a thin geometrical pattern. The piece is then polished in order to give a smooth and elegant finish to the jewel. 
Diameter: 15mm
These cufflinks are made in sterling silver. 
Proudly handmade in USA. 

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