20% Off LIMITED Winter Sale Ends SOON! Use Promo Code "WINTER" At Checkout. Pieces Are Limited.

by Jesús Zabala - 4 min read

History of Navajo Jewelry

Navajo jewelry is more than a century old, but it has never gone out of fashion. Since its early beginnings, it has made a permanent mark in the jewelry-making world due to its unique and eye-catching designs. What's more, the history of Navajo jewelry is almost as fascinating as the jewelry pieces themselves.

At JewelryLab, you can find the best handmade jewelry inspired by ancient cultures, including the southwestern native Americans or the Navajo tribe. To allow you to understand the meaning behind our Navajo jewelry pieces, we will take you on a journey back to the roots of the largest tribe in America and introduce you to their creativity in making jewelry.

History of Navajo Jewelry

Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Jewelzz

The History of Navajo Jewelry

If you understand the motive and history of the jewelry you are wearing, you will get to cherish the unique pieces more. Also, you will feel proud you are wearing a piece with a rich legacy. To understand the origins of native American jewelry, we have to travel back to the second half of the 19th century.

Navajo jewelry got its name after the tribe Navajo that arrived in the southwest of America between the 14th and 16th centuries. The first blacksmith from the Navajo, or Dine tribe, is considered to be Atsidi Sani. He was known as the “Old Smith”.

It is believed that the first generation of Navajo craftsmen started taking up metalwork in the early 1840s. The first metalsmiths were taught by Mexicans in villages located in the northwest of New Mexico.

However, there is another point of view on where the Navajo craftsmen got their skills. There are also conjectures that the Navajo tribe learned the art of making silver jewelry from the Spaniards, which are the native Spanish people.

How did the Navajo make their jewelry?

In the beginning, Navajo artists made different types of jewelry, but the most common were narrow rings, large buttons, bangle bracelets, simple ear drops, and hoop earrings. They also made different decorations for belts.

The metal of choice of Navajo artists was generally silver. However, they also worked with steel, iron, and copper. 

One of the most interesting Navajo jewelry facts is how the craftsmen got their silver to make jewelry. Instead of purchasing ready-to-use silver, they melted silver coins (especially the Mexican currency) and candlesticks so they could have silver to work with.

Once they got the silver, the Navajo continued with pouring it into a simple mold. That’s how they formed ingots, which were later pounded into thin sheets.

Initially, they used primitive tools made from discarded scraps of iron and steel. For polishing, they used fine sand or ashes, and for buffing, the Navajo used buckskin. Later, they traded them for manufactured files, shears, and hammers.

How Did the Navajo Make Their Jewelry

Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Jewelzz

What is the History of Navajo Turquoise Jewelry?

As we said, the early Navajo designs were made only from metals, most commonly silver. Yet, according to the history of Navajo Jewelry, the turquoise elements were implemented in the late 1890s. The metalsmiths started making turquoise jewelry for spiritual reasons. The turquoise, for the Navajo, was a symbol of fortune, healing, protection, and great power.

There are different legends in the turquoise jewelry history about the resemblance of the color in the Navajo culture. One of the widely spread beliefs is that the turquoise stones were formed from the people’s tears of joy when they saw rain falling after a drought. Another Navajo view is that the turquoise stones used in jewelry represent pieces of the sky.

Some characteristics of the early Navajo jewelry were:

  • Jewelry with chiseling of filling groves,
  • Zig-zag engraved lines,
  • Chunky turquoise stones on silver bezels, and 
  • Organic shapes.

Navajo Jewelry Today

Today, there are various jewelry pieces inspired by the Navajo metalsmiths. The designs range from traditional to contemporary. Native American Navajo jewelry today is made from different metals, such as sterling silver, brass, onyx, and coral, and it might have various precious gemstones.

The jewelry is highly popular among all generations because of its beautiful turquoise color and craftsmanship details. What makes it even more attractive is the captivating Navajo turquoise jewelry history.

The most desired Navajo jewelry pieces include bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and rings. There are many contemporary Navajo artists offering turquoise jewelry. However, there is a significant difference in the quality, design, and craftsmanship.

If you are interested in purchasing unique Navajo jewelry that is handcrafted by experienced metalsmiths, we have a few options in our JewelryLab shop. We offer various turquoise rings inspired by the history of Navajo jewelry.

Our Navajo-inspired rings are available in pieces compatible with all kinds of individual tastes. For instance, if you love a traditionally looking ring, we can offer you the astonishing Turquoise Classic Indo Ring.

On the contrary, the ones who want jewelry pieces with impeccable details can pick one of our Indo Snake Design rings, which are available in silver and brass, or the unique Ancient of Days Ring with a minimal turquoise centerpiece.

Tips for Picking Navajo Jewelry

When it comes to purchasing Navajo jewelry, you should pay attention to several things. Firstly, research the experience and reputation of the buyer.  Ensure they use high-quality metals and gemstones when making the jewelry. Check the hallmark stamps and artist signatures.

The more experienced the metalsmiths are, the better quality you will get. This is especially important for handmade Navajo jewelry.

Once you are ensured you are purchasing from the best jewelers, like us, it’s time to pick the jewelry that resonates with your personality and style and order the correct size.

Tips for Picking Navajo Jewelry
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Jewelzz


Navajo jewelry is more than just a magnificent style. The breathtaking turquoise color and unreal metal details are must-haves for every jewelry box. The jewelry is not all about the looks. By knowing the history of Navajo jewelry, you will appreciate the pieces more and potentially add sentimental value to them.

Jesús  is the founder and designer of JewelryLab. He is the Head of Design and also oversees production, quality control, and precious metal sourcing.