Navajo Jewelry

Contemporary Navajo jewelry shows dynamism and innovation as modern artists build on the foundation of early silversmithing techniques.  Top Navajo jewelry artists pay homage to the techniques of the past while pushing into new expressions with exotic metals and stones gleaned from around the world.  The culmination is an array of jewelry expression from classic Navajo concho belts and bracelets to modern forms expressed in precious metals and sparkling gems. (Continued below)

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Royston Turquoise Necklace and Earring Set by Randy Boyd

Royston Turquoise Necklace and Earring Set by Randy Boyd (#01)

$3,045.00


Persian Turquoise Bracelet by Verdy Jake

Persian Turquoise Bracelet by Verdy Jake (#54)

$3,250.00


Natural Smoky Bisbee Turquoise Bracelet by Allison Snowhawk Lee

Natural Smoky Bisbee Turquoise Bracelet by Allison Snowhawk Lee (#209)

$3,500.00


Southwest,Baskets,Navajo,Native,American,Art,Jewelry,Pottery,Weaving,Rug,Blanket,Manta,Necklace,Turquoise,Twin Rocks,Zuni,Santo Domingo,Fetish,Hopi

Navajo High Grade Morenci Turquoise Bolo Tie - Allison Lee (#196)

$3,750.00


Kingman Turquoise Belt Buckle by Verdy Jake

Kingman Turquoise Belt Buckle by Verdy Jake (#57)

$4,500.00




"Tour of the Southwest" Necklace by Kai Gallagher (#011)

$5,200.00


Northern Lights Turquoise Double-Strand Necklace by John Huntress

Northern Lights Turquoise Double-Strand Necklace by John Huntress (#18)

$6,000.00


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 Navajo metalsmiths were not only responsible for the inception of Navajo jewelry, but the introduction of silversmithing to Hopi and Zuni artisans.  One of the most prominent early Navajo jewelry silversmiths, Atsidi Sani, learned metalsmithing techniques from a Mexican man living near Mount Taylor, New Mexico.  He is often credited with the emergence of Navajo silver jewelry, first by teaching his four sons and they in turn, teaching others in the newly formed Navajo Nation.

Early Navajo jewelry consisted of simple earrings, ketohs, belt fasteners and bracelets.  Traders provided tools and supplies such as silver coins and slugs.  More important, traders gave Indian silversmiths a place to trade and sell their work.  In the 1920’s sheet silver replaced silver slugs, allowing artists to work more quickly since they no longer needed to melt and pound the slugs flat.  A Navajo jewelry style evolved, typified by heavy silverwork hammered, bent and molded, either alone or sometimes around stones.

One early technique still used by Navajo silversmiths is making silver castings in sand or stone molds.  The artist carves a design into damp sand or tufa, a porous volcanic stone, and then secures a second flat stone on top to complete the mold.  Using a crucible, the artist then pours melted silver into the mold through a carved channel.  Air vents allow steam to escape, preventing air bubbles from forming in the cooling silver.

After the silver has cooled and hardened, the artist removes the piece from the mold.  Any silver not part of the overall design is cut off and the edges are filed smooth.  All surfaces of the jewelry are ground and polished.  Sometimes, artists add stones as a final accent.

Early Navajo jewelry emerged from blacksmithing techniques that required the heating and softening of metal interspersed with hammering to work the metal into desired shapes.  Great skill is required to balance these opposite forces.  Too much heating and hammering causes the piece to become “work-hardened” making it brittle and prone to cracking.  Too little force can lead to a poorly shaped piece with shallow, inconsistent design work.

After shaping the piece, the silversmith uses a graver or die stamps to inscribe designs into the metal.  Many artists create their own carved metal stamps to add design elements such as lines or swirls to their jewelry.  The artist places the designed end on the desired spot of the jewelry piece then strikes, stamping the design into the metal surface.  A good silversmith strikes the stamp evenly each time, producing a consistent design.

----Excerpt from A Guide To Indian Jewelry in the Southwest by Georgiana Kennedy Simpson


Artists who create Navajo Jewelry:

Aaron Anderson
Aaron Anderson
Darryl Becenti
Darryl Becenti
Sheila Becenti
Sheila Becenti
John Begay, Jr.
John Begay, Jr.
Lee Begay
Lee Begay
Eugene Balone
Eugene Balone
Ray Bennett
Ray Bennett
Kenneth Bitsie
Kenneth Bitsie
Randy Boyd
Randy Boyd
Hmerson Brown
Hmerson Brown
Adam Cadman
Adam Cadman
Darrell Cadman
Darrell Cadman
Chris Charley
Chris Charley
Leonard T. Chee
Leonard T. Chee
Gary Custer
Gary Custer
Jeanette Dale
Jeanette Dale
June Defauito
June Defauito
Will Denetdale
Will Denetdale
Roland Dixon
Roland Dixon
Melvin Francis
Melvin Francis
thomas Francisco
thomas Francisco
Kai Gallagher
Kai Gallagher
Delbert Gordon
Delbert Gordon
Derrick Gordon
Derrick Gordon
Guy Haskie
Guy Haskie
Toby Henderson
Toby Henderson
Huntress, John
Huntress, John
Dan A. Jackson
Dan A. Jackson
Tommy Jackson
Tommy Jackson
Albert Jake
Albert Jake
Verdy Jake
Verdy Jake
Carlton Jamon
Carlton Jamon
Harrison Jim
Harrison Jim
Kenneth Jones
Kenneth Jones
Navajo Silversmith Allison Snowhawk Lee
Allison Snowhawk Lee
Eugene Livingston
Eugene Livingston
Ray Lovato
Ray Lovato
Johnathan Nez
Johnathan Nez
Norbert Peshlakai
Norbert Peshlakai
Benjamin Piasso
Benjamin Piasso
Happy Piasso
Happy Piasso
Genevive Ramone
Genevive Ramone
Ray Scott
Ray Scott
Benson Shorty
Benson Shorty
Richard Singer
Richard Singer
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Robert Taylor
Robert Taylor
Sean Taylor
Sean Taylor
Wilbur Taylor
Wilbur Taylor
Navajo Silversmiths Jack and Mary Tom
Jack & Mary Tom
Tsosie Orville White
Tsosie Orville White
Ben Yazzie, Jr.
Ben Yazzie, Jr.
Geraldine Yazzie
Geraldine Yazzie
Harrison Yazzie
Harrison Yazzie
Kee Yazzie, Jr.
Kee Yazzie, Jr.
Unknown Artist
Unknown Artist

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This site was last updated on October 15, 2019.

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