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Native American Culture

History of Navajo Pearls

Navajo Pearls are such a timeless and forever statement piece in the western fashion world. They are so chic, they complete an outfit whether you’re wearing something casual or dressy. You can find these handmade beads on Squash Blossom necklaces but they’re also found on single or multi-strand necklaces, earrings as well as bracelets. 

Photo Credit: Navajo Pearl Girls
Photo Credit: Navajo Pearl Girls

These beautiful Navajo pearls are sterling silver beads crafted by silversmiths from the largest Native American tribe. The pearls originate from the Navajo Nation and date back to the late 1500s. The Navajo were creating these extraordinary beads from the natural materials that were available to them.

Photo Credit: romaarellano
Photo Credit: Romaarellano

Time went on and new material became available with the introduction of silver by Spanish explorers. Navajo artists started to include the new material in their work. The creation of the Navajo Pearl is a lengthy process as each individual bead is made by hand. Each bead consists of silver that is melted, rolled, and cut. In the next step the holes are punched, rounded, then each bead is sanded and polished. The finished strands have a nice weight and solid feeling due to the heavy gauge silver of each genuine bead. If you were to examine each bead of a genuine Navajo Pearl, you’d see each bead being unique and not the exact same as the others within the strand, unlike machine-made beads. Machine-made beads will have perfect uniformity. That’s how you’ll be able to tell the difference when you’re out shopping for some genuine Navajo Pearls. 

Photo credit: Worth Point
Photo credit: Worth Point

There are several styles of traditional beads. You’ll discover beads with high silver polish, oxidation, embossing, and deep hand stamping. They’re made in a variety of shapes and sizes including round, melon, hogan, and fluted beads. Each finished bead is strung by hand. You’ll see Navajo Pearls sometimes adorned with stones precious to the Navajo such as turquoise and coral. These beads crafted by Navajo silversmiths are unique to each artist as the techniques and patterns used are often passed down from generation to generation.

Photo credit: Haloren Equestrian
Photo credit: Haloren Equestrian

The Navajo Nation is truly an extraordinary and breathtaking nation within a nation. It is over 27,000 miles and covers over four states: New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona. The Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department oversees all Navajo Tribal Parks on the largest sovereign nation in the United States. As a sovereign-autonomous tribal government, the Navajo Nation creates laws and governs its citizens – which means all non-Navajo travelers and visitors must comply with and abide by tribal regulations, policies, and laws. Their intent is the caretaking of Mother Earth, which Navajos respect at all times. Come experience the breathtaking views Navajo land has to offer.

Howdy, I'm Megan deFabry, I grew up in Reno, Nevada & I now live in Austin, Texas. I'm very passionate about digital marketing and journalism, especially within the western industry. I have a love for rodeos, country music, and maintaining the country way of life!

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