A History of Southwest Turquoise Jewelry
The important connection that people make with turquoise cannot be ignored. It is difficult to direct any focus toward turquoise without hinting at this connection throughout the world. However, when it comes to southwest turquoise jewelry, there are plenty of sources within the area that provide a historical reference.
Going back as far as Paleo-Indian culture; Indians worked with stone, bone, wood, and vegetation fibers to create their jewelry. The skills to mine materials to create southwest turquoise jewelry might have been the task of one or a few people in the tribe as it is a rather exhausting process. However, there are signs that these mines were used as far back as the pre-Columbian period before there was European influence.
Not to say that there was not already some system formed since it would appear that turquoise was traded to the Mesoamericans during the pre-Columbian era.
The Artistry of Southwest Turquoise Jewelry
A significant change in southwest turquoise jewelry took place when the Spanish met with the Pueblo Indians. It appears that they were very influential on showing the Pueblo Indians how to become silver smiths. This made a big difference on their southwest turquoise jewelry designs.
In the earliest examples of southwest turquoise jewelry, metals were weaved or forged by hammer. There are indications of this where the striking patterns are very plain to see. Many times, they were also woven into clothes. It was not until the evolution towards mass production that bezels were used to hold the turquoise into place. This was more common from the 1800’s into the 1900’s
It was not until the 1930’s that mine operations begin in the Southwest where the turquoise was imported. Silver was the dominating choice metal for southwest turquoise jewelry, and very little gold or copper was used. This is perhaps because with silver it is much more pleasing and accepting to buyers.
How Southwest Turquoise Jewelry is Relevant Today
When looking through images of tribal chiefs and leaders, one can see the adornment of southwest turquoise jewelry on them, perhaps in black and white but we are familiar with the stone enough to imagine it. However, it is there, and in many cases, they are very adorned with it. In today’s modern culture, the use of southwest turquoise jewelry may not be more than at the least 30 years old when it was bought from different tourist shops. This is a specific generalization because much of the real southwest turquoise jewelry either is in museums or is hidden away within families that have had these pieces for a long period.
It should be mentioned that not all southwest turquoise jewelry has real value. Some of it is mass-produced as a novelty, so the recreation of turquoise is done using hard plastics or even glass to recreate the material. There are very few turquoise mines in the United States that are not already exhausted to get the material from. There is not very much demand for turquoise unless they are for something in the birthstone market, so this is where southwest turquoise jewelry has more of a place for a December birthstone.
For those existing pieces of southwest turquoise jewelry that are still made today, they are restricted to artists or special dealers that can do custom work. They can also be quite expensive depending on the purity of the elements. In the long term, southwest turquoise jewelry provides people with the symbolism of our valuable heritage.