Modern Native American Jewelry: The Changing of Styles Over Time

Style is subjective. Each of us creates our own unique persona through choices that are based on a variety of factors. Generational changes, geographical locations and personal likes and dislikes all play into the choices we make. When it comes to jewelry, these factors combine to allow for more options in styles and creations in the market. With Native American jewelry, tradition and culture today are being expressed through new and interesting ways.

Traditional style Native American jewelry has certain elements that are mostly consistent throughout the various pieces and styles. Pieces tend to be larger and heavier, containing more elements such as stones, squash blossoms and other adornment. This is the style long associated with Native American jewelry and is still the preferred choice of baby boomers and older customers.

The world has changed, however, and the market for jewelry has changed with it. Ideas about what is appealing, or fashionable are no longer the same as they were in the past. Pieces that are sleeker and less bulky tend to be more in style these days. Many younger customers want the beauty of fine clean lines and minimalist decoration.

Yet Native artists still want to imbue their pieces with their culture. To meet the demands of a different market, they are combining their talent with their tradition to slim down the formerly heavy pieces and give a leaner, cleaner definition to their work.  There are traditional elements which remain, in terms of symbols and stones, but the pieces are not as large or heavy as the older styles. This difference attracts a younger customer who wants Native American jewelry but in a lighter weight, more minimalist style.

It’s important to keep in mind that Native American jewelry is an expression of culture, no matter the style. As there is not one single tribe with only one shared culture, Native American artists have a wealth of diverse elements that are part of their art. It’s that diversity, along with the unique talents of the artist, which makes each handcrafted piece a treasure for any collector.

The future may bring more changes to what is fashionable, or what is considered “in style”. Native American artists will continue to grow and evolve their art, but they will never lose that connection to their culture for it lives within them. The way they express it is the ongoing marvel that is Native American jewelry.