Who Are the Navajo? – Part Three

Navajo Clothing

The Navajo are the best known of the Native Americans when it comes to weaving. For hundreds of years, the Navajo have used a simple two-bar vertical loom for weaving, and it is with this that they have long created their unique Native American blankets. These blankets were referred to as “Chief’s blankets” due to their value.

In traditional Navajo culture, men did not wear shirts, but only breechcloths (loincloths) of animal fur, tanned skin, or woven cloth. The women wore skirts woven from fiber from the yucca plant, which is native to the deserts of the Americas. Both men and women wore deerskin ponchos and rabbit fur cloaks as well as moccasins to keep warm in cold weather. Later on, many of the Navajo wore clothes woven from sheep’s wool.

Navajo Craftsmanship

The Native Americans of the Southwest are world-renowned for their “Indian” silverwork. This craft from the Navajo was born in 1853 when the Mexican silversmiths introduced the craft to the Navajo. Many of the ornament types and decorative modes now associated with the Navajo actually date to earlier silverwork performed by the Native Americans of the eastern woodlands, the Rocky Mountains, and the plains.

The Navajo first passed on the craft of silver smithing to the Zuni in 1872, and as the Zuni had long been carving turquoise, this semi-precious stone was soon incorporated into the jewelry designs. In fact, while turquoise is widely associated with the Navajo, it is actually the Zuni who were originally responsible for the extravagant use of turquoise in silver Native American jewelry.

Navajo Native American Jewelry

The Navajo silversmiths began to create Native American bracelets, necklaces, rings, and more from the turn of the last century.  The primary source of silver at this time for jewelry crafting was American coins – this was the case until about 1890. These coins were substituted for Mexican pesos from 1930.

Navajo jewelry is distinguished from that of other tribal peoples by its unique designs that are die-stamped into the silver; this is very rarely seen in Zuni jewelry pieces.

Navajo silversmiths introduced turquoise into their designs from the early 1900s and this boosted the appeal of Navajo Native American jewelry. Turquoise is important to the Navajo, representing luck, health, and happiness.

Visit Indian Traders

Visit Indian Traders today for an exceptional range of Native American jewelry particular to the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni. From modern pieces to estate items from the past, every piece is authentic and very, very special.

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