Top 4 Favorite Gemstones in Native American Jewelry

Top Gemstones in Native American Jewelry

Jewelry has been made and worn in the Southwest since prehistoric times. For thousands of years, Native Southwestern people made mosaic inlay and beads of turquoise, shell, bone, or stone. Today, Native American artists draw upon both traditional and contemporary influences, and their shell, gemstone, and silver jewelry is prized and collected by people around the world.

Here are some of our favorite gemstones in Native American jewelry:



Native Americans of the Southwest were introduced to coral by the Spanish. For centuries, Native people had been fashioning beads from shells like spiny oyster, and the deep red Mediterranean coral quickly became a prized material. Santo Domingo Pueblo incorporated coral into heishi bead necklaces used for trade or adornment. Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo artists used the gem for adornment and in necklaces worn in ceremonial dances. Coral was first set in silver in the late 19th century after the Navajo, Zuni, and Pueblo people learned silversmithing. In the 1930s, traders encouraged its use by supplying it to Native artists, particularly the Zuni. Red is a sacred color for the Zuni, and they believe coral brings good luck and longevity to the wearer. Native Americans also consider the gem a sign of wealth and status because of its expense and rarity. Whether used alone or in combination with other valuable gems like turquoise, coral remains one of the iconic gemstones of Native American jewelry in the Southwest.

Native American Coral Jewelry



Turquoise beads have been made in the Southwest for thousands of years. The Ancestral Puebloan tribes, mined turquoise in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Chaco Canyon was at the center of turquoise trade routes stretching from the Pacific Northwest to Central America. Turquoise was not set in silver until the late 19th century after Navajo and Zuni artisans learned metalsmithing. The blue and green gem quickly became a favorite with Native American silversmiths, and was extremely popular with tourists visiting the Southwest in the early 20th century. Some Native Americans believe the gem was a gift from the spirits and call it the Sky Stone. Today, turquoise is one of the most iconic images of the Southwest and is still revered among Native American jewelry artists.

Native American Turquoise Jewelry


Spiny Oyster

While red oyster jewelry is stunning and regarded by collectors, spiny oysters can be a wide variety of colors, from vibrant orange to purple. The spiny oyster shell (Spondylus Princeps) is found in only one area in the Western Hemisphere- off the coast of Baja California. This shell has been found in abundance in archeological excavations of the Ancestral Pueblo (formerly referred to as Anasazi), Mogollon and Hohokam of the desert southwest. It has also been found in the same eastern mound excavations in which turquoise was also found. The versatility and range of colors make oyster shells popular with the Zuni, Navajo and Hopi tribes that skillfully carve and place shells into sterling silver.Native American Spiny Oyster JewelrySHOP SPINY OYSTER JEWELRY

Mother of Pearl

Many shells are used in Pueblo and Native jewelry, one popular variation is Mother of Pearl. Mother of Pearl, which is also known as nacre, is an iridescent layer of material that makes up the lining of many mollusks. The most common source of this material are abalone and pearl oysters.  Thought to stimulate intuition, and imagination and to bring balance to its wearer.   Its use honors the vast abundance and great gifts offered by the ocean.  A symbol of power and protection.   These shells have been important trade items in the Southwest for over 1,000 years.  A beautiful glow and iridescence, a perfect addition to your jewelry collection.Native American Mother of Pearl JewelrySHOP MOTHER OF PEARL JEWELRY

At Indian Pueblo Store, we guarantee that your purchase is an original and authentic work handcrafted by Native American artists as defined by the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. We ask our artists to complete an extensive certification process, providing a CIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood) card and other documentation of their Native American heritage. Our team of experts carefully inspects every product to guarantee it is handcrafted using traditional, sustainable processes, and natural materials of only the highest quality. We record the place and date of each purchase, and pride ourselves in paying a fair price that allows artists to make a living practicing their craft. Every work of handcrafted art comes with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by an artist or buyer. 

At a time when many commercially made products are being sold as handcrafted Native American art, our in-depth purchase process allows us to guarantee the authenticity of every unique piece of fine art we offer. For more than 45 years, we have made it a priority to visit artists in their studio or home to purchase their latest handcrafted pieces and learn about their work. We have developed lasting relationships with artists, as well as dealers and collectors, and we take pride in being a trusted destination for fine Native American art.

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1 comment

  • I like Bears I was told in Arizona that the bear is Mt totam. Every time I am out west I try to find a bear charm

    Jack Ponticelli

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