Nature Symbols in Native American Jewelry

Posted by Claudia on Dec 9th 2016

Native American art is known for showcasing many beautiful symbols of the natural world, and southwest Native American jewelry is no exception. Along with the Southwest Silver Gallery’s high-quality  turquoise jewelry and intricate silver work by skilled artisans, we are proud to offer a variety of jewelry featuring the symbols sacred to the Native Americans of the region. These images possess a beauty both delightful and awe-inspiring. You’ll love to wear jewelry featuring lovely symbols like these:

The Rainbow Man

The Rainbow Man

A symbol of both the natural and spirit world, the rainbow man is a guardian spirit of the Zuni Indians. The rainbow man was popularized in southwest Native American jewelry around the mid 20th century, with his image as the focus of many mosaic inlay pieces.

He is associated with the rainbow and the summer rains - precious and vital in the Zuni people’s desert home. The significance of the rain in Zuni life has awarded the rainbow man with even more importance in their culture. He has come to be a symbol of protection; in fact, his image is often featured on the tribe’s war shields.

The Sun Face

Like the rainbow man we previously mentioned, the sun face has it’s jewelry origins in the Zuni’s mosaic inlays. As the name suggests, this beautiful symbol is meant to pay homage to the sun, another one of the vital elements for the Zuni people’s way of life. The sun brought prosperity to the people and their agriculture. The sun brought warmth, happiness, and joy to every household.

The sun, and by extension the sun face, became a symbol of abundance, and so the Zuni sought to show their gratitude with beautiful art. A typical sun face piece will feature gemstones such as turquoise, mother-of-pearl, red coral and jet. The precision cuts required to fit these intricate mosaics together makes the sun face a particularly striking image in southwest Native American jewelry.

Animal Fetish Carvings

Animal Fetish Carvings

Across the Americas, native peoples have decorated their pottery, art, and jewelry with images of animals, flora, and fauna One such instance is the Zuni  fetish carvings, which the Native Americans carried for protection, power, or luck. These intricate carvings served ceremonial purposes for Zuni tribes, and are believed to have inherent power that the wearer can extract.

Often carved from turquoise, mother of pearl, or jet, each image carries its own significance; the hummingbird brings joy, the badger persistence, the squirrel foresight, and many more. Fetish carvings could sometimes take human shape as well - the corn maiden, for example, was a symbol of fertility. Fetish carvings hold a unique and beautiful place in southwest Native American jewelry. Some can be worn as necklaces while other carvings are meant to be carried with you, or kept in your home as a guardian.

Symbols of power, protection, and prosperity are in the world all around us. And now, with southwest Native American jewelry like these, these symbols can be a part of your everyday wardrobe, too! Visit  our shop to find your next piece of beautiful, authentic Native American art.