History of American Indian Jewelry

Native American jewelry has a history dating back thousands of years. Tribes stretching from the southwest to the northeast have a rich history of jewelry making. These indigenous American peoples jewelry consists of all types including bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings; and are made from numerous natural materials including turquoise, bone, silver, antlers, porcupine quills, copper and other kinds of precious stones and metal. Today there are still many Native American artists who handcraft jewelry the way they did back then.

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There is evidence as far back as 8,800 BC that the Paleo-Indians shaped stones and shells into jewelry pieces by using a thin stone drill. The main reason Native Americans wore jewelry was, as it is today, for adornment. It was also used to signify social class. Although jewelry styles varied from tribe to tribe, major differences were not common since both the finished product and the materials used for making the jewelry were important intertribal trade items. It is a little known fact that the American Indians actually learned silversmithing from the Spanish in the 1850s. Many people assume it is an ancient American Indian art form. Once they mastered the art of silversmithing, many Southwest tribes were able to move to a more mercantile society. When Europeans began arriving in America in the 1500’s, Native Americans began incorporating the beads they brought over into their jewelry. Around the year 1900, Native American craftsmen of the southwest began selling their silver and turquoise jewelry to tourists who had begun flocking to the area.

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Native American jewelry then became popular in Japan. There were many craftsmen and brands, but Goro’s would be the most important in Japanese-Native-American jewelry history. Born in Tokyo in 1939, Goro Takahashi was really the first Japanese man who actually travelled to the United States, and learned the craft for himself from various Native American communities across the country. He became particularly close to the Lakota tribe and was the first non-Lakota to take part in the ‘Sun dance’ ritual. He was granted the title ‘Yellow Eagle’, Eagle being the bird of the east and yellow the color of the east on the medicine wheel. This relationship with the Lakota was a formative experience that laid the groundwork for what would later become Goro’s style.

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There are lots of Japanese-Native-American jewelry brands, and Cultizm started to introduce the first one last year, “North Works”. We got such a great feedback from many in the community and received requests for more brands and products like these. On our last visit to Tokyo in March 2019, we finally met “First Arrow’s”. Both North Works and First Arrow’s are very well-known in Japan, but use different concepts and ideas to make their work unique.

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Summer is definitely the season for jewelry. We highly recommend to try one of these two brands. Cultizm prepared a capsule lookbook for this idea. Please enjoy.

We hope to see some nice accessories around your neck, wrist and fingers!