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Pawn & Vintage Jewelry

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The antique, vintage, and old pawn American Indian jewelry has its own special character and appeal apart from the beautiful contemporary Indian jewelry of today. Antique Indian jewelry, from the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s, exemplifies the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the early Native American artists. During this era Native Americans made jewelry primarily for their own use and to trade with other Native American tribes. While many of the Pueblos of the Southwest had been carving pendants and bead necklaces for centuries using turquoise from native mines, silversmithing was in its infancy. The Navajo silversmiths made beautiful silver concho belts, necklaces and turquoise bracelets and earrings using silver obtained from coins. Stamps used to decorate the silver were not readily available so these artists made their own from old iron files and tools. Turquoise pieces were cut, shaped, and drilled by hand. The Zuni Indians became masters of lapidary cutting and shaping turquoise stones to create beautiful designs in pear shaped and round clusters, thin, uniform needlepoint, and tiny, round, delicate petitpoint turquoise bracelets and pins. The tools available to create such work were crude, but the Native American’s sense of balance and artistry combined with the fine and careful hand craftsmanship defied and transcended the primitive means available at the time. The art of American Indian jewelry began to flourish with the new technologies available in the later 20th century and non-Native demand for Indian jewelry. Native American Indian jewelry began to be viewed not just as adornment but as an art in its own right. Certain artisans began to distinguish themselves and many silversmiths and lapidaries created new techniques and unique styles. Many Native American artists began signing their jewelry pieces, although surprisingly not until the latter half of the 20th century. The unique quality of turquoise itself enjoyed a new appreciation as certain mines dried up and overseas sources for turquoise changed. Certain types of turquoise such as Bisbee, Morenci, Lone Mountain, and Persian became and remain highly desired because of their quality and scarcity. Pawn jewelry became a popular source for Indian jewelry by older artists and for bracelets, earrings, and necklaces containing rare turquoise from closed mines. Today the demand for antique Indian jewelry, vintage pieces, and old pawn jewelry is greater than ever as available pieces disappear from the market. The Cameron trading Post endeavors to maintain a quality selection of older American Indian jewelry for collectors and appreciators alike.