By Bennett Owen
Archaeologists say the original inhabitants of the desert southwest started using turquoise for jewelry as early as 200 BC. But it wasn’t until around the 1850s that their descendents, the Hopi, Pueblo and Navajo tribes, began using silver. In doing so, they took on Spanish influences and that’s why many designs feature Christian and even Moorish symbolism.
To get the silver, they’d trade with Mexican merchants. And as Concho jewelry gained status, ranchers would bring silverware or candelabras to be melted down and turned into exquisite jewelry, for the Indians of the southwest proved to be extraordinary craftsmen.
The Navaho especially had a penchant for personal adornment and in their quest for raw material the artisans would even melt down US coins which at the time yielded the best silver for smithing….(kind of makes you wonder what kind of sludge they’d come up with if they tried it these days!)
A Navajo woman and her daughter, wearing a First Phase concho belt, taken in New Mexico in 1900 by William C. Orchard. Credit: indiansummervintage
Initially used as decoration for bridles, saddles and the like, Concho jewelry seeped into fashion and soon it seemed some of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century just couldn’t get through the day without a good, stiff belt:
Julie Christie and Warren Beatty. Credit: imdb.com
Johnny Cash. Credit: johnnycashonline.com
Jim Morrison. Credit: feelnumb
Ralph Lauren. Credit: lunch.com
Our friends at Waddel Trading Company carry some of the finest native American jewelry you will find. After all, it’s not just the joy it brings you today but it remains distinctive and timeless.