A Collector's Guide to Channel Inlay
The Indian Pueblo Store offers an unsurpassed collection of original, handcrafted artwork and jewelry from talented Native American artists. We work diligently to feature both traditional and contemporary work while connecting you to the art and artistry of both Pueblo artists and other tribes throughout the Southwest.
Jewelry has been made and worn in the Southwest since Pre-European Contact. For hundreds of years our ancestors have made mosaic inlay and beads of turquoise, shell, bone or stone. Amazingly, Chaco Canyon and other Ancestral Puebloans were at the center of major turquoise trade routes that ran from the Pacific Northwest to Central America.
Native Americans of the Southwest were introduced to metal by the Spanish. For years they acquired metal ornaments through trade, and it was not until the middle of the 19th century that Navajo and Zuni artisans learned metalwork from Mexican blacksmiths and silversmiths. As silversmithing spread across the Southwest, Native silversmiths began crafting the iconic styles that define Southwestern jewelry. By the turn of the century, Native artists were making more sophisticated pieces like concho belts, ketohs (which are men’s bow guards), manta pins, najas and squash blossom necklaces.
At Indian Pueblo Store, we pride ourselves on our connection to amazing artists, authentic artwork and our knowledgeable staff. We share this collector's guide on channel inlay technique to help connoisseurs and those new to American Indian art discover new meaning behind cherished pieces that showcase the artistry and excellence of Pueblo jewelers.
Channel inlay is a distinctive jewelry technique closely associated with Native American people of the Southwest, particularly jewelers of Zuni Pueblo, located 150 miles west of Albuquerque. When creating channel inlay jewelry, artists set precisely cut gemstones into pre-formed silver channels. The technique allows artists to use colorful combinations of gemstones in complex and creative patterns. Channel inlay requires masterful silversmithing and lapidary skills and is utilized by Native American jewelers to create symbolic and meaningful pieces recognized for their craftsmanship and artistic beauty.
The channel inlay technique allows artists to use colorful combinations of gemstones in intricate and creative patterns. Stones traditionally used in Zuni channel inlay are turquoise, red coral, black jet, and white mother of pearl. Red symbolizes Mother Earth and turquoise represents Father Sky. The black and white stone colors symbolize duality. Additional stones and shells are used to reflect the vibrant colors of the Southwestern landscape.
Native American artists continue to handcraft silver jewelry in the traditional styles of their Pueblo or tribe passing techniques through generations. In the last 50 years there has been an exciting period of innovation with artists drawing upon influences from other tribes as well as cultures around the world. Jewelry-making continues to play a central role in contemporary Southwestern life, and Native American shell, gemstone and silver jewelry are prized and collected by people around the world. Explore our stunning collection of channel inlay jewelry to find your next piece to treasure.