Jewelcraft: Making Native American Silver Jewelry

How to design, decorate and create your own hand-made silver Indian jewelry and accessories using turquoise and other precious or semi-precious stones.

Sometime during the mid eighteen fifties, the Navajos were the first Indians to learn the art of silversmithing from the Spaniards. "Silversmithing" can be defined as "shaping silver into different shapes by hammering it." The Navajos flattened, engraved and stamped pieces of silver, and turned them into necklaces, bracelets, pins, pendants, bolo ties, concho belts, earrings, belt buckles, and accessories. Stamping is the practice of using a metal stamp to make a design onto metals. Through the years, other Indian tribes also learned the art of silversmithing, and even today, some Indians still make Native American Silver jewelry.

This type of jewelry is either hand-made by using only silver, or, it is often embellished with precious or semi-precious stones, in particular, Turquoise. Turquoise is often considered to be sacred by many Native Americans. Other items can be used to decorate a piece of Indian jewelry, and these can include animal teeth, bear claws, oyster shells, et cetera.

If you would like to try your hand at making your own Native American Silver jewelry, you actually have many choices for the design, as well as for the technique. The simplest technique to make a metal bracelet, for example, is to cut designs out of a piece of silver. Then, the silver is carefully bent and formed until it is in the shape of a bracelet. You can even cut and insert precious or semi-precious stones, such as Turquoise, Coral, Sugilite, or Gaspeite, just to name a few, into the cut-out designs.



Necklaces and pendants are also relatively easy to make, as long as the design you choose is simple, and not complicated, as are many Native American designs. For example, you could select and purchase a small piece of silver, along with a coordinating silver necklace chain, or, a piece of black cord. Then, you could engrave or stamp the silver with a design of your choice. Then, place a hole through the top of the silver so it can lay flat on your neck when you're wearing it. String either the chain or the cord through the hole, and you're necklace is ready to wear, and show off to your family and friends!

You might also choose to make some "inlay" jewelry, for another example; it is also a popular Indian art form. It is made by "inlaying" or "inserting" either precious or semi-precious stones into a metal framework. Each stone must be cut so they fit snugly into each space within the frame.

Then, there is handmade "overlay" Native American jewelry. Overlay jewelry is two pieces of silver soldered together, one on top of the other. The top piece can have designs cut out of it, so the bottom piece is visible.

However you choose to make it, the first step in any successful project is to first plan it out. After you have designed the piece of Native American silver jewelry that you want to make, you'll need to select and purchase the materials and tools that you'll need. You can either visit a local jewelry supply store, or, you can perform a search on the Internet in order to find everything you need.

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