Jewelry and beads were made from a variety of materials including the claws, bones and teeth of animals, stones, ivory, hide, vegetable fibres, woods, shells, quills, precious and semi-precious gemstones such as turquoise and various metals including copper, gold and silver.
Native American Jewelry Fact Sheet
- Native American Jewelry Fact 1: The many different tribes created their own styles of jewelry and adornments from the natural materials that were available in their locations.
- Native American Jewelry Fact 2: The range of materials and types of jewelry was extended to some extent through trade with other tribes but it was the Glass Beads brought by European fur traders that revolutionized the types of jewelry worn by Native Indian men and women
- Native American Jewelry Fact 3: Copper, initially traded from tribes near the Coppermine River was worked into jewelry before European contact
- Native American Jewelry Fact 4: Some of the world's finest and most beautiful turquoise jewellery is produced in Arizona and in New Mexico by the Native Indian tribes of the Southwest
- Native American Jewelry Fact 5: Elaborate necklaces, bracelets and rings were made from turquoise and silver by the Apache, Navajo, Pueblo and Pima tribes
- Native American Jewelry Fact 6: The tribes of the Great Plains made various items of jewelry and adornments from a range of materials available in the location including the bones, hide, claws, and teeth of animals, stones, vegetal fibres, seeds, woods, shells and quills. Through trade they acquired shells and glass beads which they used to decorate their clothes and make items of jewelry
- Native American Jewelry Fact 7: A famous adornment created by the Plains Indians were the Hair Pipe Breastplates that were favored by tribes such as the Kiowa, Comanche, Sioux, Crow and Assiniboine people. The name 'Hair Pipe' was used to describe the long, slim, hollow, cylindrical beads that were originally used as hair decorations and then for breastplates and chocker necklaces
- Native American Jewelry Fact 8: Plains warriors traded for metals from the Mexicans and Southern tribes using the material for headbands, pectorals, buttons and armbands
- Native American Jewelry Fact 9: The Northeast Woodland and Great Lake Tribes favored jewelry made from beautiful shells and mother of pearl which were often carved into intricate pendants. These tribes also used copper and silver for their adornments
- Native American Jewelry Fact 10: "Wampum" referred to the cylindrical white shells of the whelk or the purple quahog shells that were so highly valued that they served as a form of currency. Jewelry made from wampum included necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Round shell discs, up to three inches in diameter were used to make pendants called "moons" and were a highly valued item of adornment
- Native American Jewelry Fact 11: Tribes of the Pacific Northwest Coast used Abalone and Dentalium shells and precious metals. Bracelets were expertly carved from walrus ivory. Valuable items of jewelry were given away as gifts at Poltlatch ceremonies
- Native American Jewelry Fact 12: Southeastern tribes and the Cherokee tribe made gorgets - polished, carved shell pendants
- Native American Jewelry Fact 13: Small bird and animal bones were hollowed out and strung together to make homemade beads used to make earrings and necklaces
- Native American Jewelry Fact 14: The teeth of animals such as bears, foxes, cougars, coyotes and wolves that were native to a tribes location were used in making Native Indian Jewelry
- Native American Jewelry Fact 15: Large claws and antlers of predatory animals were also another favored element in a warrior's adornments. Necklaces made with Grizzly bear claws were highly valued and worn only by important tribal leaders and medicine men
- Native American Jewelry Fact 16: Ear ornaments and earrings were a mark of distinction, wealth or honor. The men and women of many tribes pierced their ears in many places along the outer edge of the era to permit the wearing of several earrings and ornaments
- Native American Jewelry Fact 17: Men and women often wore earrings that consisted of long strings of shells hanging from their pierced earlobes to their waist
- Native American Jewelry Fact 18: Indian Peace Medals were distributed to tribe representatives during the late 1700's and early 1800's by the U.S. government. The medals were highly valued and worn as necklaces
- Native American Jewelry Fact 19: During the early 1900s, the American Government removed all necklaces from Native Indians on the reservations because they represented a tie to the past - they were not re-introduced until after WW2
Examples of the many different types of authentic Native American Jewelry for both men and women can be seen via Native American Pictures.