Silver jewelry rings crafted by Native American artists are particularly prized. No metal is more intimately associated with traditional Native America than silver jewelry rings. Silver is a soft, shining, durable metal, easily styled into stunning Native American art forms.
Silver Jewelry Rings: A Careful Look At Supply and Demand
Around the 16th century, the Navajo began to notice the silver jewelry rings and other ornaments worn by the Spanish; particularly noting the social status that the jewelry bestowed. Being an enterprising people, they began to desire to create similar jewelry for themselves and for sales purposes. In fact, silver jewelry rings and the squash blossom necklace will sometimes have a pomegranate design, an early Moorish/Spanish influence handed down through generations of Navajo craftspeople.
Silver Jewelry Rings: Enough Time For Crafts
Planting crops and raising sheep for food gave the Navajo a permanent place to dwell and time to develop a spiritual life with ceremony containing figures such as the Kachina doll. Instead of devoting their efforts to roaming in search of sustenance, they now had the time and opportunity to develop a culture of artistry. They began to develop the crafts of rug weaving, pottery making and silver jewelry rings and ornaments.
First Silver Jewelry Rings
The Navajo used the next 200 years to perfect the jewelry craft, and begin a brisk trade with the Spanish for the ornaments. A silversmith named Atsidi Sani is considered to be the first Navajo artisan creating silver jewelry rings and other silver pieces in the 1860’s.
Silver Jewelry Rings: Raw Materials
The Navajo did not mine silver, but they saw a business opportunity in the silver coins they procured from settlers, as well as silver candlesticks, teapots and vases.The kitchenware was recycled into silver jewelry rings, necklaces and bracelets. When defacing American coin became illegal, the Navajo sought Mexican silver coinage to use for silver jewelry rings.
Mexican silversmiths taught the Navajo how to cast shapes for silver jewelry rings and other ornaments. They decided to carve molds from sandstone and poured the molten silver into them. When the silver jewelry rings or other pieces cooled, a great deal of time and craft were put into filing and smoothing the pieces. Sometimes the silver jewelry rings and bracelets were engraved with symbols.
Silver jewelry rings, bracelets, concha belts and necklaces were the first Navajo jewelry styles. The turquoise stones within silver jewelry rings that we see today did not exist. The Navajo began using turquoise in the squash blossom necklaces and silver jewelry rings in the 1880’s, when mined turquoise became available. Today silver jewelry rings are resplendent with turquoise and other precious stones.