A Long Tradition

Part of the Totems to Turquoise exhibition.

Ancient Pueblo Artifacts from Pueblo Bonito

Native jewelry reveals cultural continuity from one generation to the next.

Native jewelry from both the Northwest Coast and the American Southwest draws on forms, styles and materials dating back many centuries. Knowledge is sometimes handed down directly, as when an elder teaches an age-old technique to a young artist. Yet jewelry makers also learn from the past on their own, studying the designs of older artworks on view in their communities, reproduced in books or displayed in museums.

Today's Native artists honor longstanding rules and traditions, even as they find ways to experiment and create new, individualized styles. The strength of the work in each region flows from the persistence of deeply held beliefs and a web of connections between the past and the present.