Old Pawn Native American jewelry is a specialty of Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Tucson AZ. Our gallery has hundreds of examples of antique Indian jewelry available for sale which can be found online and in our gallery. Medicine Man Gallery buys old pawn Native American jewelry from estates, private collections, as well as new pieces directly from the Native American Artists. Authenticity guaranteed.
Native American tribes of the American Southwest had no history of working metal before the arrival of Europeans. They fashioned their most prized personal adornments from stone, natural surface find turquoise and seashells, both of which were acquired through intertribal trade. When the Spanish introduced silver ornaments, (as well as copper, brass, bronze and iron) these handmade items became highly prized in Native American communities.
Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi silver smith work did not take place until the 1860’s and 1870’s more than 250 years after the arrival of Spanish settlers to the Southwest. Navajos were the first to take up metalwork, learning the craft of blacksmithing from Mexican metal smiths in the villages of northwestern New Mexico, the Zuni learned silversmithing not long after.
By the late 1860s, several of these craftsmen had applied their blacksmithing tools and skills to the production of silver jewelry. This curious fact that Native silverwork arose not from Spanish silversmithing but from working iron. These beginnings would shape Native American jewelry design and technology for decades to come.
Silver craft spread rapidly among the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi and Pueblo tribes. One of the first generation Navajo smiths, Atsidi Chon (Ugly Smith) went to Zuni Pueblo in 1872 to make and sell silver ornaments and while there, he taught a Zuni blacksmith named Lanyade how to work the white metal. Lanyade, in turn, went to Hopi in the 1880s where he taught the craft to a First Mesa resident named Sikyatala. These early pieces of Native American jewelry are rare and demand high prices, especially examples that date before the 1900 time frame.
A few men at Acoma and Laguna had taken up silversmithing by the late 1870s, and in 1879 two of the Laguna smiths had relocated to Isleta Pueblo, initiating the craft among the Rio Grande Pueblos. The cross necklaces of the Rio Grande Pueblos or some of the more sought after pieces. There are many reproductions of these necklaces so it’s important to have a good provenance or gallery authenticity.
Jewelry production thrived at Acoma, Laguna, Isleta, and Hopi in the early 20th century; however, the predominance of Navajo and Zuni smiths had made the craft economically or culturally unattractive to the other Puebloans. Early Pueblo jewelry is much less common than Zuni, Navajo jewelry.
As the largest tribe in the region, Navajos dominated jewelry making although a larger proportion of the Zuni population practiced the craft. Together the two tribes created the Indian jewelry legacy of the first half of the 20th century.