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The History of Turquoise Earrings

Earrings are one of the earliest forms of jewelry found in archaeological excavations in North America. The earliest form of turquoise earrings were a type of ear pendant with a wire or string through a pierced ear lobe. These earrings or ear pendants were made of bone, shell, beads, stone slabs or tabs, loops of shell and simple metal hoops.

Historically, earrings have been worn by both sexes among the southwest native peoples. Among the western Pueblo Indians, a style of turquoise mosaic inlay ear pendant, dating back to prehistoric times, appears to have been worn exclusively by women. These earrings were made from inlaying square bits of turquoise on a rectangular piece of shell or wood, often with a piece of shell in the center. This was said to appear like “blue corn stacked up”.  This style dates back to ancient times of the Zuni as found in their female burials. These earrings were commonly worn by the Hopi women in the late 1800’s and were called “tu oi naka” which refers to blue corn stacked up.

Another style of early Native ear pendant associated with women is the jackla or jacla that dates back to pre-European contact. This ear pendant of Pueblo origin, is a tapering loop made from ground and shaped turquoise heishi or beads. The center of each jacla is most often decorated with one or more contrasting tab shaped or colored bead sometimes referred to as “corn”. Early photos show men as well as women wearing this form of ear pendant but it is most often thought of as customary for the ears of young maidens. Upon marriage, these maidens would remove the jaclas from their ears and tie them to their bead necklace as pendants. Jaclas are a traditional form of early native earring and are not often made today by Native American jewelers. A similar style is the heishi loop earring made by the Santo Domingo.

With the introduction of silverwork with early European contact in the 19th century, our Native American Indians started developing metalworking techniques. They began making flat hoops with stamped designs, silver bead squash blossom earrings, stamped concha or Concho earrings, filigree and cluster work designs. Turquoise became the stone of choice in their work.

Native American earring styles have had a substantial influence on today’s contemporary designs with the introduction of silver feathers, animals, stamped silver hoops, turquoise drop earrings and turquoise set in posts and stud earrings.

Today, Navajo Indians make silver and turquoise earrings with filigree, stamp work and leaves and flowers. Most of their designs involve a stone cabochon setting surrounded by hand stamped designs or silver leaves, flowers and beads. Some of their popular designs are the turquoise feather earrings, turquoise dangle earrings and turquoise post earrings. Navajo create both blue Sleeping Beauty turquoise earrings and green turquoise earrings.

The Zuni Indians are known for their hand cut petite point, needlepoint and inlaid turquoise jewelry. Some of the most popular styles are their cluster design work with stones. Their work is often delicate with finely, hand cut small stones set in very small, hand saw cut bezel settings. One of our favorite design of earrings is their hand cut needle point work seen in their turquoise hoop earrings.

The Santo Domingo Indians hand-cut turquoise slab earrings, heishe and mosaic inlay earrings. Much of their work reflects earlier styles of earrings made by their ancestors with a simple turquoise drop, slab or tab. Their mosaic inlay earrings can be colorful patterns with different stones or shells.

Whether you choose traditional or modern styled earrings by the Navajo, a delicate hand cut turquoise stone earrings from the Zuni or a simple, earthy slab or heishi earring design by the Santo Domingo we are sure you will enjoy wearing a piece of jewelry or turquoise earrings with historical and cultural significance by our native people.

Southwest Silver Gallery offers the finest in turquoise jewelry. You will be pleased to wear our turquoise jewelry.  Visit our turquoise jewelry page to see our beautiful offerings!