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

    • Woman Pueblo necklace made of five strands of Kingman turquoise (Arizona), black-jet, gorgone, pipestone and shells Hesihi beads.
Clasp in sterling silver. Length (in inches): 19
The Heishi handcraft is a long and meticulous process: First, rough-cut stones or shells are drilled and then strung on a wire, after which the artist holds both ends of the strand and carefully draws the beads back and forth accross a grinding wheel or other rough surface to shape the Heishi beads.
High-quality hand-made Heishi beads should feel uniform and smooth to the touch, such as these ones. 
Pueblo, Kewa: Native tribe of the South-West, notably known for making Heishi beads, little handmade beads in tubular or puck shapes, composed of different materials and stones (turquoise, black-jet, coral and shell). 
Proudly handmade in USA. 
 
    • Woman Fetishes necklace. Birds carved in stones on two rows of Heishi shell beads strings. Main pendant representing an eagle, incarnation of divine power. 
Length (in inches): 25.5Central piece size (Hxl) : 26mm x 21mmClasp 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. 
Birds are symbol of freedom and lightness. 
Proudly handmade in USA.  
    • Unisex Pueblo necklace in grey shell, turquoise, melo shell, black-jet and apple coral. 
Clasp in sterling silver. Length (in inches): 21
The Heishi handcraft is a long and meticulous process: First, rough-cut stones or shells are drilled and then strung on a wire, after which the artist holds both ends of the strand and carefully draws the beads back and forth accross a grinding wheel or other rough surface to shape the Heishi beads.
High-quality hand-made Heishi beads should feel uniform and smooth to the touch, such as these ones. 
Pueblo, Kewa: Native tribe of the South-West, notably known for making Heishi beads, little handmade beads in tubular or puck shapes, composed of different materials and stones (turquoise, black-jet, coral and shell). 
Proudly handmade in USA. 
Colors may slightly vary.
    • Man One of a Kind piece
Navajo bracelet with seven Carico Lake turquoises (Nevada) set in mat sterling silver. 
The setting of this bracelet is serrated and stamped of Native patterns.  Wrist size (in inches) : 7.1Width (in mm): 15mm
This bracelet is made in sterling silver. 
Proudly handmade in USA. 
    • Man One of a Kind piece
Navajo ring with a beautiful Candelaria turquoise (Nevada) set in sterling silver.
This ring is a stunning designer piece, representative of a beautiful Navajo silversmithing work: the stone is surrounded by a silver twist wire, reminding the need to tame the stone as we tame a wild animal, and the shank is enhanced of Native patterns that are personal to the artist. Dimensions of the stone (HxL in mm) : 25mm x 19mm
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 Zuni ring with a round inlay of Sleeping Beauty turquoise (Arizona), coral and black-pen shell, set on sterling silver. 
This inlay represents a rug pattern, an emblematic pattern in Native culture that we find on traditional rugs.
The handmade Zuni inlay is a gathering 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. Size of the centrale piece (in mm): 16mm x 12mm
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
This beautiful and thick Navajo ring in sterling silver is carved of an oval shape surrounded by rays of oxydized silver. These elements are framed by stamped arrow-heads and arrows.
The arrow is a famous Native design, representing protection. 
Width (in mm): 13mm
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. 
    • Unisex One of a Kind piece
Sterling silver Navajo belt buckle made up of 4 elements, set of Sleeping Beauty turquoises (Arizona) and each one being hand-stamped of Native patterns.
This beautiful type of belt buckle is called Ranger Buckle and is a timeless Western US fashion accessory. 
Suitable for a leather width of 18mm.
Width of the buckle (in mm): 43mm
This belt buckle is in sterling silver. 
Proudly handmade in USA. 
THE LEATHER BELT IS SOLD SEPARATELY - Please contact us for more information. 
    • Unisex One of a Kind piece
Sterling silver Navajo belt buckle handcrafted with the Tufa Cast technique, a traditional silversmithing process used by the Navajos. 
The artist takes a mold made of volcanic stone (tufa) and divises it in two parts. In the first part, he carves a design of his choice, melts silver in, and tightly covers it with the second part of the mold. Once the silver is hard, the mold eventually breaks, making this piece a unique item. This technique creates a jewel of traditionnal rough aspect on which we can clearly see the beautiful lumps of tufa stone. 
Suitable for a leather width of 1.4Size (HxL in inches) : 2.4 x 2.8 
This belt buckle is made in sterling silver. 
Belt buckle back in iron. 
Proudly handmade in USA. 
LEATHER BELT SOLD SEPARATELY. For Leather Belts : please go to category Belts
    • Woman One of a Kind piece
Navajo earrings 
These earrings are made of nine King's Manassa turquoises (Colorado) cabochons set in sterling silver. Dimensions (H x L): 80mm x 10mm
These earrings are made in sterling silver. 
Proudly handmade in USA. 
    • Woman One of a Kind piece
Navajo earrings.
These earrings are made of Ajax turquoise (Nevada) cabochons set in sterling silver.
These cabochons are handcrafted with an impressive finesse: Each stone is perfectly calibrated, carved in sphere or drop shape. Two of them are surrounded by a thin twist wire which is traditionnal of Navajo work: reminding the need to tame the stone as we tame a wild animal.
Dimensions (H x L) in mm: 48mm x 26mmThese earrings are made in sterling silver. 
Proudly handmade in USA. 
    • Woman Navajo earring

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