Native American Jewelry
Dandelion's collection of Native American Jewelry is full of treasures hand-picked in New Mexico by Leslie and Beth. Beth, Dandelion's founder, also founded a sister store called Tumbleweed Trading in Manayunk that primarily featured Native American jewelry. So with her experience and Leslie's wonderful eye for jewelry, the two traveled to New Mexico and chose a beautiful collection to share in the Dandelion stores.
Leslie and Beth visited trading posts and met artists, learning about their work. Their craft is often passed down through the family, so the techniques are true to tradition, but the new generation has added a modern twist. Many artists make one piece at a time and when they complete their piece, they bring it to the trading post to sell and then start a new piece. The artists are very passionate about their art; the image below shows the Palms Trading Company, where the wall is filled with photographs of artists holding their work.
The Dandelion collection is primarily from three tribes; the Zuni, Santa Domingo, and Navajo. All of the pieces are made in a traditional style, usually in a home studio, using basic hand tools, sterling silver, and genuine stones.
Over 1,000 years ago the Anasazi people lived in Chaco Canyon. They were people who lived in permanent homes, grew corn, created pottery, clothing, etc. For a still unknown reason, they left Chaco Canyon and created new settlements, mostly in New Mexico. When the Spanish arrived they called all the sedentary people "pueblo" (village) people. The Zuni, Santa Domingo and Hopi are Pueblo people. The Navajo people were hunter-gathers that migrated to New Mexico. Although each tribe has distinct styles of jewelry that they tend to create, we can see evidence of their techniques and designs influencing each other's work. For example, the iconic squash blossom necklace is originally a Navajo design, but due to the close interaction between the Pueblo and Navajo people beginning in the 1800s, the design was adopted by the Zuni Pueblo. The Zuni artists incorporated turquoise into their creations, which the Navajo were not doing at the time but later adopted from the Zuni.
The Navajo people were the first Native Americans to become silversmiths, an art which they learned in the 19th century from the Spanish and Mexicans. Navajo artists traditionally create pieces that feature flat embossed silver, decorative leaves, feathers, flowers, and other symbols. Stamping techniques are used to create beautiful patterns in the metal. Their work often includes bezel-set cabochons of turquoise and other stones, usually larger in size and in organic shapes, from various mines throughout the southwest.
Jewelry created by the Zuni artists is generally finer and more delicate than the Navajo jewelry. They use small cut pieces of turquoise inlaid into silver or set in a "needlepoint" style, where the tiny stones are set in individual settings and are arranged to create a larger design.
The Santo Domingo artists are the creators of the fine heishi bead necklaces. To make these necklaces the stones are thinly sliced, holes drilled, strung, then the work begins. Traditionally, the strung stones were worked by hand in fine sand to create a smooth line of stones. The smaller the stones, the smoother the piece, the dearer the necklace.
The image above shows the beautiful Mesa Zuni in New Mexico, which Leslie and Beth visited on their trip. We can see how the beautiful landscape and the views of the sky have influenced the designs of the artists here! The Navajo people believe that turquoise is a piece of the sky that has fallen to Earth for its inhabitants, referring to it as the “fallen skystone.” Many of their beliefs about this stone are similar to the ancient Mayans and Aztecs, who associated turquoise with healing properties and good fortune. Also, according to Navajo legend, when it rains after a long drought, turquoise is formed from the human tears of joy soaked into the Earth. Turquoise represents life, with the colors of blues, greens, and browns connecting the Earth and the skies above.
These are very special pieces, capturing the natural beauty of materials like American-mined turquoise, silver worked in traditional jewelry-making techniques, and the long history of the art and symbolism of these cultures.
We also would like to note that we will be donating a portion of proceeds from any items sold from this collection to the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Relief Fund.