Handcrafted works of Native American art require special care. For more information about proper care and cleaning, please read our Care Guide.
In the decades just before and after World War II, Hopi silversmiths developed their own sophisticated jewelry technique called overlay, which involves soldering together two pieces of metal. The artist begins by tracing a design onto a sheet of silver, then sawing out the design by hand, a difficult process requiring a high level of skill. The top piece is soldered to another layer of silver, and the bottom layer is oxidized to create a beautiful contrast with the highly polished top layer.
Designs and patterns often incorporate traditional symbols, including sun, water, cornstalks, bear claws, and the kokopelli. The overlay technique creates highly dimensional and detailed jewelry that demonstrates the remarkable craftsmanship of Hopi silversmiths.
Jewelry has been made and worn in the Southwest since prehistoric times. For thousands of years Native Southwestern people made mosaic inlay and beads of turquoise, shell, bone, or stone. Metal arrived with the Spanish. Native Americans acquired metal ornaments through trade, but it was not until the middle of the 19th century that Navajo and Zuni artisans learned the craft from Mexican blacksmiths and silversmiths. Their early silver jewelry creations were plain, with simple engraved, stamped, or punched designs. Turquoise was first used in silver around 1880.
By the turn of the 20th century, silversmithing was widespread across the Southwest, and Native artists were making more sophisticated pieces like concho belts, and squash blossom and naja necklaces. The Navajo soon became known for their use of silver, emphasizing silver-heavy designs with only a few gemstones, while the Zuni focused on stone work, featuring finely cut clusters of gems in complex patterns. The Hopi and Pueblo tribes also developed distinctive jewelry styles in the early 1900s. Today, silver jewelry is an iconic image of the Southwest. Today, Native American artists draw upon both traditional and contemporary influences, and their shell, gemstone, and silver jewelry is prized and collected by people around the world.
At Shumakolowa Native Arts, we guarantee that your purchase is an original and authentic work handcrafted by Native American artists as defined by the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. We ask our artists to complete an extensive certification process, providing a CIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood) card and other documentation of their Native American heritage. Our team of experts carefully inspects every product to guarantee it is handcrafted using traditional, sustainable processes, and natural materials of only the highest quality. We record the place and date of each purchase, and pride ourselves in paying a fair price that allows artists to make a living practicing their craft. Every work of handcrafted art comes with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by an artist or buyer.
At a time when many commercially made products are being sold as handcrafted Native American art, our in-depth purchase process allows us to guarantee the authenticity of every unique piece of fine art we offer. For more than 35 years, we have made it a priority to visit artists in their studio or home to purchase their latest handcrafted pieces and learn about their work. We have developed lasting relationships with artists, as well as dealers and collectors, and we take pride in being a trusted destination for fine Native American art.