The World in Miniature

Part of the Totems to Turquoise exhibition.

Native jewelry is portable symbolic art--a window into the culture of the artist.

Native jewelry, like other Native art forms, embodies symbols and motifs with deep cultural significance. Yet unlike totem poles, blankets and the large ceremonial mask displayed here, jewelry is small enough to be held in the hand. Still, this miniature artwork is powerful. The wearer of a sea creature pendant, for example, forges a personal connection with that supernatural creature and all that his image represents.

Artists in both regions have always made miniature objects with great significance, ranging from Zuni fetishes to Tlingit shaman's charms used in healing ceremonies. A new market for jewelry and other miniature objects opened up as outsiders sought to purchase portable versions of Native art.