Styles and Traditions
Native American jewelry can range in styles and design due to the sheer number of tribes and traditions held by the Native American communities throughout North America, many of which go back centuries.
Additionally, many modern tribal artists in the American Southwest have a lot of inspiring new designs, whether they’re at independent markets and stores or through a more centralized vendor like the Southwest Silver Gallery.
Native American tribes typically use uncut gemstones that have been smoothed and shaped through water tumbling. By placing these stones in a machine called a rock tumbler, artists are able to give gemstones the smooth, polished finish you see in many pieces.
Pieces that are used for inlays often have to be more directly shaped to fit a specific mold, so these stones are often cut after they are tumbled.
Types of Gemstones
Decide on the Right Design
When it comes to designing your piece, you first should consider the stone you want to feature. Are you using beads or water tumbled stones? Are you casting in silver or working with leather? Your materials will help you dictate your design.
While beads may be a simple matter to string in a pleasing sequence, since water tumbled stones are not created in specific shapes or sizes, you will have to work around the inconsistencies and quirks of your chosen stone. Consider its size and shape when working on your design to ensure it fits correctly.
Let’s say you want to use multiple gemstones in a bracelet or necklace. First, they should probably be small or medium sizes to create a piece that isn’t too big, heavy, or overwhelming. You might also want to think about grouping your stones in a specific way around the piece or clustering them in the ideal design.
Consult with Tribal Representatives
If you consider these tips and pieces of advice, you’ll soon be well-versed in your ability to design Native American jewelry that both honors and respects the traditional culture while still being gorgeous and eye-catching. Discover the beauty of Native American design today!