Collections Week: Navajo Jewellery

As some of you know, I am 1/8th Innu. I never come across Innu jewellery at the Value Village. Sometimes I’ll find some examples of Zuni style inlay or maybe the odd Hopi pieces. I’ve found exactly three Inuit pieces and some Haida designs. What I find all the time is Navajo jewellery. This partially because the Navajo are prolific and talented silversmiths. But somewhere along the line, Navajo style jewellery became shorthand for Native American jewellery. The last time I went to a pow wow, everyone was selling turquoise studded rings and bracelets adorned with the Thunderbird. Its all part of Pan-Indianism, I reckon.

The bangles pictured above are of a newer vintage and at least one is Navajo-made (one is signed TAHE). I have more, I just don’t have good photos of them. Below is another Navajo beauty — an amethyst pendant signed T&R.S.

As a crazy watch person, of course I would have to have a selection of bejewelled watch tips. The watch cuff on the far right is signed W. Long. The one set with Malachite is signed with a thunderbolt. The one set with turquoise and lapis has marks I can’t make out.

Not all Navajo jewellery is silver. Below are two copper pieces that I have, both signed Bell Copper. Founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1935 by Jack Michelson, Bell Copper (aka Bell Trading Post) made jewellery for the tourist trade. Navajo artisans made the jewellery, but it made with less expensive materials with “typical” native motifs (check out the thunderbird, tipis and bows) and a lightweight design that could be more easily reproduced. They then sold them at truck stops and trading posts along the interstates of the south west.