The art of Western and Southwestern Native American Indians


Western and Southwestern Jewelry –

A special kind of necklace originating from the Kewa Pueblo people, but used by many southwestern tribes, is called a heishe. Heishe necklaces were composed of many small beads shaped into thin discs or tubes and arranged to produce a colorful pattern when viewed. Production of a heishe necklace required a careful hand and dedication to perfection, since these necklaces doubled as valuable items for trading and a single mistake in stringing a bead could ruin the product. Heishe necklaces could bring the same value to a trade as a couple of European safes full of money, and even today, they sell for thousands of dollars. Regional stones like turquoise and jet were frequently used in jewelry, but after the introduction of metalworking to the Navajo in the 1800s, ornate silver necklaces, belts, and bracelets blossomed among tribes like the Hopi and the Zuni.

Southwest Jewelry: When asked how to identify jewelry from southwestern Native American tribes, many people will look for turquoise and silver in the materials used. However, these materials are a relatively new introduction into a craft that spans back thousands of years.

Jewelry of the Apache: Apache men and women both wore different kinds of jewelry, ranging from earrings to bracelets and rings. This website from the Fort Sill Apache Tribe provides more information on the different materials and styles used in Apache ornamentation.

Geometry of Native American Art (PDF): Art and jewelry produced by southwestern tribes is revered for its beautiful, clean geometric lines. This paper examines some of the most popular motifs used by southwestern and southeastern Native Americans.

Use of Turquoise by Indians: You might be familiar with turquoise as a popular jewelry material, but did you know that there are many different types of turquoise? Different geographical regions yield different types of turquoise unique to each tribe.

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