Native American jewelry refers to items of personal adornment, whether for personal use, sale or as art; examples of which might include necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings and pins, as well as ketohs, wampum, and labrets, made by one of the Indigenous peoples of the United States. Native American jewelry normally reflects the cultural diversity and history of its makers, but tribal groups have often borrowed and copied designs and methods from other, neighboring tribes or nations with which they had trade, and this practice continues today. Native American tribes continue to develop distinct aesthetics rooted in their personal artistic visions and cultural traditions. Artists may create jewelry for adornment, ceremonies, and display, or for sale or trade. Lois Sherr Dubin writes, “[i]n the absence of written languages, adornment became an important element of Indian communication, conveying many levels of information.” Later, jewelry and personal adornment “…signaled resistance to assimilation. It remains a major statement of tribal and individual identity.”
Native American jewelry can be made from naturally occurring materials such as various metals, hardwoods, vegetal fibers, or precious and semi-precious gemstones; animal materials such as teeth, bones and hide; or man-made materials like beadwork and quillwork. Metalsmiths, beaders, carvers, and lapidaries combine these materials to create jewelry. Contemporary Native American jewelry ranges from hand-quarried and processed stones and shells to computer-fabricated steel and titanium jewelry.
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