Art Jewelry in Southwest culture

Why is Art so important to our Southwest Culture? Indian Market

Art Jewelry connects people from all over the world 

Collectors of Art Jewelry, Native American jewelry, Folk Art jewelry or jewelry inspired by the crafts, culture and religion of the Spanish community. Heirloom, vintage jewelry lives on through generations, each collector expressing their individual passion for authentic, genuine wearable art. Artists of the Southwest continue this classic tradition through new interpretations of ancient traditions and beliefs. Sterling silver Native American inspired Squash Blossom necklaces and Najas and classic designs featuring conchas, Native Pearls, leaves, feathers and sacred animals, are as important today as they were hundreds of years ago. Check out our Blog about it here: Squash Blossom and Naja Necklaces ~ Legendary Southwestern Jewels – American West Jewelry. Turquoise has been adored around the world since ancient times, and has always been an icon of the Southwest.

Why is Art so important to our Southwest Culture? Folk Art

Silver working was adopted by native Southwest artists

Beginning in the 1850s, when Mexican silversmiths traded their silverwork for cattle from the Navajo. The Zuni admired the silver jewelry made by the Navajo people, so they began trading livestock for instruction in working silver. And by 1890, the Zuni had taught the Hopi how to make silver jewelry. Southwest silverwork includes designs of bold stones, channel inlay, stone clusters, mosaic inlay and silver overlay in materials of shell, gemstones and beads. While the Navajo favored the squash blossom necklace, they often also combined turquoise, coral and other semi-precious gemstones. Stones were set into silver scrolls, leaf patterns and strung on cord for necklaces.

Hopi are renowned for their overlay silver work, developed in the 1940s. Zuni artists are admired for their cluster work jewelry, showcasing turquoise designs, as well as their elaborate, pictorial stone inlay in silver. Santo Domingo artists are famous for their mosaic inlay and beaded jewelry. Check out our Blog about it here: Guide to Classic Southwestern Native Pearls – American West Jewelry

Why is Art so important to our Southwest Culture? Silver and Turquoise Jewelry

Art Jewelry is integral to the Southwest lifestyle, it is everywhere

Native American and Spanish art originated from a purpose of beauty, prayer, as well as function, and continues to serve the same important roles. 

Often, American Indian artwork was created to please a deity, guard against the evil spirits and honor the newly born or recently deceased. Through such means, Native Americans sought to create balance with nature and the spirit world.

Some specific articles were reserved solely for religious uses, and some were for practical needs alone. Many objects served a dual function: normally, they were used for everyday household purposes, yet under a different set of circumstances they could fulfill a religious function.

The people living in the Southwest pueblos produced some of the most successful artwork. They were masters of weaving, painting and particularly of pottery making. Their weaving techniques involved coloring native cotton dyes created from mineral and vegetable pigments. In the Southwest the arts flourished and are still active forces in the lives of the peoples who practice them. The early trade routes brought new ideas to the Pueblos, encouraging the development of new creations and the strengthening of new markets. Yet, Pueblo art, like the culture in which it thrives, remains closely related to its ancient traditions. Along the same trade routes came tribes from other regions, particularly the Navajo and Apache, who subsequently settled in the Southwest and embraced certain arts that they adopted and made their own, notably, silversmithing and weaving. 

With a need to be self-sufficient, many Hispanic people developed woodworking, weaving, tinsmithing, farming and leather work skills to create the furniture and furnishings for their homes. Tinware, likely introduced from Mexico and Spain, was used for religious adornments and household objects, such as sconces and mirrors and became increasingly popular in the mid-19th century.

Why is Art so important to our Southwest Culture? Tent Rocks

I am one of many who have found myself drawn to this amazing place 

When I took my first road trip through the Southwest, I was immediately entranced by the integral way art has shaped life throughout the centuries. A journey from Albuquerque, through Santa Fe, Bandelier National Monument, the Four Corners Monument of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Colorado, Mesa Verde, the Petroglyph National Forest and finally the Grand Canyon left me with an overwhelming sense of pride, awe and curiosity. I knew my spirit belonged here. Thirty-five years later, I have the fortune of hearing the stories of amazing people whose ancestors have inspired them to keep this vibrant, spirited culture alive. I have gained a deeper appreciation of the rich and dynamic stories behind the art I encounter.

Why is Art so important to our Southwest Culture? Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is in the heart of the Santa Fe Plaza.

Summer in Santa Fe is a celebration of art

The season begins with the International Folk Art Market in July, a lively gathering of artists and collectors from around the world. The bold, colorful, expressive art that fills the displays on Museum Hill represents cultures from thousands of miles away, yet it is meaningful and relevant to us all. Art brings us all together. There is magic involved when interacting with the artists and their handmade objects. 

In late July, the Santa Fe Plaza will come alive with the 70th Annual Traditional Spanish Market, the oldest and largest juried Spanish Market in the United States. The event features the intricate handmade processes and cultural traditions that span centuries and continue to inspire artists and collectors.

In August, the Southwestern Association for Indian Art is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Santa Fe Indian Market. Indian Market showcases the best of Native American art, with representation from tribes throughout the Americas. It is one of the most popular celebrations of traditional and contemporary Native Art in the world. I know it is one of my favorite events of the year. Some of my Native American artist friends call it the Superbowl of Indian Art, others the World’s Largest Family Reunion! The passion, camaraderie and support among the artists does feel familial. Everyone works so hard preparing for Indian Market, and there is a palpable buzz on the plaza as artists and art lovers arrive at sunrise. I love reuniting with dear friends while surrounded by amazing Native American artists and their absolute finest pieces of handmade art. Many of you have come to know and love two of our award winning Native American artists, Jody Naranjo and Fritz Casuse

American West Jewelry is honored to collaborate with Jody and Fritz, bringing Jody’s award winning pottery designs to life in wearable art, and Fritz’s award winning jewelry designs to life for our collectors who truly enjoy Southwest Art Jewelry.

Jody Naranjo Ceramist
Our jewelry is inspired by pottery from award-winning potter, Jody Naranjo.
Carolyn Pollack and Fritz Casuse and his son
Fritz Casuse, his son Mossimo and Carolyn at the Indian Market a few years ago!
Carolyn Pollack and the late Roderick Tenorio
Carolyn with the late Roderick Tenorio

We are so happy to have this Cross and more in our Native American Designer Collection:

Carolyn Pollack with Bill Pollack and Native American Dancer

When you come to Santa Fe, check out some of my personal favorites, including restaurants:
Café Pasqual’s
Coyote Café 


A weekend at La Fonda on the Plaza, will transport you back in time. The hotel is also celebrating its 100th Anniversary, but its history dates back 400 years. 

La Fonda on the Plaza
Indian Market on the Santa Fe Plaza.

I also recommend you visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum celebrating 25 years. The Museum of New Mexico History and all of the museums on Museum Hill

If you are in need of solitude, healing and pampering, visit Ojo Santa Fe: 


I am grateful to live in this beautiful land of enchantment. For the lessons I have learned, the wisdom bestowed upon me, and the soul and spirit expressed through the art of the extraordinary people I have come to know and love. It is a truly magical place, rooted in ancient traditions that continue to guide us. I would love to share the following prayer.

Native American Dancer

Walking in Beauty:
Closing Prayer from the Navajo Way Blessing Ceremony

In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again
Today I will walk out, today everything negative will leave me
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever, nothing will hinder me.
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
My words will be beautiful…

And, as my favorite Native American proverb reminds me…

The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.






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