Visitors to the American Southwest often marvel at the lovely turquoise and silver jewelry made by the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni people who live in the area now known as Arizona and New Mexico. Of course, before the invasion of the western hemisphere by Europeans, this was the realm of the native people who named it using words from their various languages.
Today, tourists, collectors and other shoppers enjoy going into trading posts, pawn shops, antique shops and fashionable jewelry boutiques hoping to uncover treasures of genuine native turquoise jewelry, in the form of necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, belt buckles and other articles. But these bangles were not always so desirable and expensive.
During the 1950s, when western style square dancing began to become popular in the United States, these native Indian fashions became incorporated into the wardrobe of the men and women square dancers who wore Stetson hats, cowboy boots, squaw dresses or crinoline skirts.
As time passed, traditional native American jewelry became trendy as artists, singers and movie stars were seen adorning their bodies with so-called “Indian” style jewelry crafted from turquoise, silver and coral.
Curiously, it is not only the native people of North America who make this kind of jewelry. If you travel to parts of India, Nepal and Tibet, you will also see very similar looking jewelry — rings and necklaces handcrafted from silver and inlaid with turquoise and coral stones.
Those who believe in the spiritual properties of gemstones say that turquoise may enhance the spiritual journeys and wisdom of one who wears it. According to some American native traditions, turquoise jewelry is worn because it is a power stone and it also helps to heal the spirit.
Research on the symbolic meaning of turquoise reveals that this stone has been used historically by traditional people in Europe and Asia for protection and also to attract love, money and happiness.
If you are fortunate enough to own some antique turquoise jewelry, remember this stone is much less hard than, for example, a diamond. Because it can be scratched more easily, you should store your precious turquoise necklace, earrings or other pieces in a soft cloth bag.
Many native American Indian groups incorporate turquoise into silver and even precious gold pieces. Owners of vintage turquoise and silver jewelry should resist the temptation to polish their items. This is because collectors prize old silver jewelry that has developed a patina over the years, and this is one of the marks they use to determine whether a piece is a genuine antique or merely a replica of a more valuable article.