Bracelets and armlets made from natural materials are one of the earliest types of jewelry made by Native Americans and found at archaeological sites. These were made from natural materials such as fibers and hide until the introduction of metalsmithing in the mid 18th century. By the mid-eighteenth century, with the introduction of European metalsmithing, the Native American bracelet making took on a whole new appearance. Natives wore bracelets made from brass, copper and prized silver that they had hammered or twisted into wire cuffs. These bracelets were made to their tribal tastes.
Early in the 20th century, Native Americans became aware of the European and American consumer tastes and began creating new and more elaborate forms of cuff bracelets. Beginning in the 1950's and 1960's, indian jewelry artists started making silver bangles or bangle bracelets, link bracelet and charm bracelets. In the mid 20th century, Native American jewelry artists began changing the bracelet into new forms with the Turquoise Watch Bracelet and Watch Bands.
Navajo bracelets and are traditionally made with cabochon turquoise settings and appliqué and hand stamped designs. Soldered designs of silver flowers, feathers, leaves and beads are popular designs seen in silver and turquoise cuff bracelets and Native American jewelry. The stones can either be set in a smooth bezel or saw tooth bezel. Quite a few Navajo silversmiths are now making turquoise inlay bracelets combined with other gemstones for colorful, contemporary designs. Navajo Jewelry artists also make turquoise bead bracelets and beaded Turquoise Jewelry. Some of our favorite Navajo cuff bracelets are the silver feather bracelet with turquoise set in the center with a feather at each side. Navajo Jewelry artists also create many different styles of turquoise bracelets for men, turquoise leather bracelet and turquoise bangles today. The turquoise bangle is a continuous circle bracelet that one slips over the hand instead of sliding over the wrist. Silver bracelets, stamped and set with turquoise gems are still one of the most popular Native American jewelry designs.
Zuni silversmiths are known for their lapidary work and fine stone cutting as seen in their petite point, needle point and turquoise inlay bracelets. The traditional inlay stone colors are turquoise, jet, mother of pearl and coral. Zuni jewelry artists often portray motifs of nature, animals and spiritual figures in their inlay bracelets. Zuni Indian jewelry artists are well known for their inlay, needlepoint and petite turquoise cluster bracelets.
Contemporary Indian jewelry artists have become innovative in their designs creating silver bracelets with added elements from nature or petroglyph motifs.