Traditions in Silver: Hopi Indian Jewelry
Hopi Indian jewelry makes a stylish accent to any outfit, casual or formal. From simple to intricate, the designs on overlay pieces of Hopi Indian jewelry are sure to get noticed. And while Hopi Indian jewelry is well known by modern collectors of American Southwest items and is certainly admired by anyone who appreciates craftsmanship, the distinctive designs and patterns of silver Hopi Indian jewelry was not established until the late 1800s.
History of Hopi Indian Jewelry
The Hopi Indians are a tribe of southwestern Native Americans currently living in northeastern Arizona. In the 1500s, Spanish explorers discovered the Hopi and Zuni tribes and later colonized near the Rio Grande River, leaving the Hopi to their own lands.
However, as Spanish missionaries began building churches and converting the native peoples, the Spanish occupiers abused the Hopi using them for forced labor and taking their crops. This led to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 where all the pueblo tribes (Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo) worked together to drive the Spanish out.
This early contact with European settlers didn’t end well but the Hopi Indian jewelry makers did learn the art of metal working which is reflected in their beautiful silver work, a trademark of Hopi Indian jewelry. In the late 1800s to early 1900s the overlay technique for creating intricate silver designs became the signature style for Hopi Indian jewelry.
Before learning metal working, Hopi Indian jewelry was similar to other tribes using turquoise, shell beads and other natural materials.
The overlay style of Hopi Indian jewelry is unique and reflects the skill of the Hopi Indian jewelry artists. To construct this type of Hopi Indian jewelry, a piece of silver is decorated with intricate cutout designs and laid over another piece of silver.
The designs of the Hopi Indian jewelry are meticulously cut using hand tools. The bottom piece is oxidized show black through the cutout and then the whole piece is either polished smoothed or given a matte finish using steel wool. The process is what makes Hopi Indian jewelry stand out from other Native American artists.
Before artists had access to flat sheets of silver, Hopi Indian jewelry often had a dome where a thicker piece covered the thinner bottom piece and the ends were flattened during the bonding process. With modern tools and techniques, Hopi Indian jewelry makers create items such as necklaces, pendants, watch bands, money clips, key fobs and more.