Zuni Jewelry

Zuni Brooch with natural turquoise stones

Zuni Brooch with natural turquoise stones

Zuni jewelry-making dates back to Ancestral Pueblo prehistory. Early Zuni lapidaries used stone and antler tools, wooden drills with flake stone, or cactus spine drillbits, as well as abrading tools made of wood and stone, sand for smoothing, and fiber cords for stringing.

With the exception of silver jewelry, which was introduced to Zuni Pueblo in the 19th century, most of the materials commonly worked by Zuni jewelry makers in the 20th century have always been in use in the Zuni region. These include turquoise, jet, argillite, steatite, red shale, freshwater clam shell, abalone, and spiny oyster.

Since pre-contact times, Zuni carve stone and shell fetishes, which they trade with other tribes and even non-Natives. Fetishes are carved from turquoise, amber, shell, or onyx. Today, Zuni bird fetishes are often set with heishe beads in multi-strand necklaces.

Lanyade became the first Zuni silversmith in 1872 Kineshde, a Zuni smith of the late 1890s, is credited for first combining silver and turquoise in his jewelry. Zuni jewelers soon became known for their clusterwork.

Following the Sitgreaves Expedition in 1854, Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves illustrated a Zuni forge, which was still in use as late as the early part of the 20th century. The forge was made from adobe, with bellows handmade from animal skins. Silver was cast in sandstone molds, and finished by tooling – as opposed to engraving. Thin sheets of silver were cut with scissors and shears.

The establishment of the railroad, with the accompanying tourist trade and the advent of trading posts, heavily influenced Zuni and other Southwest tribes’ jewelry manufacturing techniques and materials. In the early 20th century, trader C.G. Wallace influenced the direction of Zuni silver and lapidary work to appeal to a non-Native audience. Wallace was aided by the proliferation of the automobile and interstate highways such as Route 66 and I-40, and promotion of tourism in Gallup and Zuni. Wallace employed local Zuni people as clerks, jewelry makers, and miners. He provided tools, equipment, and silversmithing supplies to the jewelers with whom he did business. Wallace influenced Zuni art by encouraging the use of specific materials that sold well at his posts – such as coral – and discouraging others such as tortoise shell.

Wallace provided large chunks of turquoise to Zuni artists, giving them the opportunity to carve figures in the round. Wallace also encouraged the increased production and improvement of small-stone techniques like needlepoint and petit point in the hope that these styles would thwart the production of machine-made jewelry. He also urged jewelers to experiment with silver construction to satisfy his customers’ preferences for lightweight jewelry.

Tucson Indian Jewelry offers a HUGE selection of Zuni Jewelry!

IMG_1933       IMG_1932

Zuni Needlepoint Earrings

Zuni Needlepoint Earrings

Zuni Needlepoint Earrings

Zuni Needlepoint Earrings

 

Information furnished by Wikipedia.org ©

628total visits,2visits today