The allure of the American Southwest comes to life in Southwestern Jewelry
Although Don Lucas has been designing southwestern jewelry for almost 40 years, the traditional designs of southwestern jewelry go back hundreds of years. The Don Lucas collection is renowned for beautiful designs and quality craftsmanship based on traditional southwestern styles. To wear a piece of our southwestern jewelry is to bring to life a melody of traditional craftsmanship and unique design.
Native American jewelry styles have evolved from the cold hammering of silver and copper and traditional beadwork to sterling silver and polished turquoise. Inspired by traditional Navajo and Zuni styles, Don Lucas taught himself silver-smithing in the early 1970’s. He has added a modern flare to the traditional styles of Native American jewelry by choosing colorful combinations of turquoise and hand selected semi-precious stones set in the finest sterling silver.
The History of Southwestern Jewelry
Native American tribes excelled at hand crafts like ceremonial items, clothing, baskets, blankets and jewelry. These crafts allowed Native American Indian tribes to communicate status and cultural beliefs through art. Although most modern southwestern jewelry is characterized by sterling silver, turquoise and semi-precious gemstones traditional styles center on beadwork and natural materials. Beads used by southwestern tribes were made from a variety of local materials including turquoise, silver, ceramics, shells, wood, bone, and porcupine quills. Southwestern Indian tribes also traded for more exotic materials like mother of pearl, spiny oyster shell, abalone and conch.
Turquoise is an essential component of most southwestern jewelery. Turquoise has been prized for its ornamental beauty since ancient Egypt. The history of turquoise in the Americas goes back nearly as far. The Aztecs inlaid turquoise and other semi-precious stones and gold into mosaics and ceremonial objects such as masks, knives and shields. Turquoise was originally mined in the American Southwest by pre-Columbian Indians because of its ceremonial value, beauty and depth of color.
Native American metalwork, particularly silver and copper, is also a distinguishing characteristic of southwestern jewelry. Before contact with Europeans, traditional metalwork consisted largely of cold hammering of copper and silver. Copper was etched onto pendants and copper and silver were fashioned into beads. After contact with European explorers southwestern jewelry evolved to incorporate new materials, styles and techniques. Both glass beads and more advanced metalworking techniques added to the artistic choices available to tribal artists. The distinctive southwest jewelry style originated in the late 19th century. Southwestern Native American tribes like the Navajo and Hopi southwestern jewelry by combining traditional designs with European influences.
The distinctive style of silverwork associated with most modern southwestern jewelry started in the 1850’s after the introduction of new metalworking techniques from Mexican silversmiths. By the 1880’s, the new silversmithing techniques combined with use traditional semi-precious gemstones such as turquoise spread to the many southwestern tribes including the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi and Pueblo. These Native American tribes combined traditional designs with European influences pieces such as squash blossom necklaces, heishi necklaces, concha belts, silver pendants and zuni bracelets.
Don Lucas Jewelry offers many jewelry collections featuring southwestern bracelets, necklaces, earrings, pendants, concho belts and more. To wear a piece of our southwestern jewelry is to bring to life a melody of traditional craftsmanship and unique design.
“Turquoise has grown up, and should be treated accordingly” –reported the Wall Street Journal in October of 2010. We couldn’t agree more. Browse Don Lucas Jewelry collections featuring southwestern necklaces, bracelets, earrings, pendants and concho belts find the piece that echoes the traditional and timeless spirit of the Southwest.