The distinctive artistic tradition of the Indians of the Pacific Northwest
has shown a continuing vitality despite the generally devastating effect of
the coming of the Europeans upon their culture. Today this tradition is flourishing
with younger artists both following and reinterpreting the traditions of the
older culture and responding to the newer forces of their present life. The
carvings, paintings, textiles and jewelry are finding an enthusiastic reception
not only within the tribal communities and with tourists, but in the artistic
world at large. We are pleased to offer you an extensive collection of Northwest
Coast Indian jewelry, all made in the USA or Canada.
Native Americans along the northwest coast of America from southeast Alaska
to southern British Columbia have a style of art which, although varying between
tribal groupings, is both unique and distinctive to the area. Native American
art here is bold, whether realistic or abstract, stylized yet innovative, and
adaptable to an exceptional degree to fill space or shape.
The most highly stylized work is done among the Haida and the Tsimshian, with
a gradual shift to greater realism towards the northern Tlingit in Alaska and
south to the Coast Salish in southern British Columbia. These Indians lived
along the sea shore and estuaries, and in the river valleys, where a mild climate
and an abundance of easily harvested food allowed them to form large settlements
and to devote much time to endeavors other than providing a basic existence,
such as art. With a social structure based on an intricate web of prestige and
privilege, the Native American art was devoted to affirming, reinforcing, and
displaying social status and privilege.
While fine basketry, weaving and painting were done, the principal focus was
on carving in wood, horn or other suitable materials, figures of men or totemic
animals, birds, or fish. By far the most significant material was the wood of
the cedar tree, that grows abundantly in this wet coastal environment. Wooden
masks were made for ceremonial use, and totem poles to witness status and privilege.
Relief carvings decorated boxes, and small items such as spoons, fish clubs,
and articles of personal adornment were all decorated with or carved into the
shape of chosen figures. With the coming of Europeans, and better access to
metals, the Native American art readily adapted to engraving silver bracelets
and other jewelry. With metal axes, adzes and other tools, the capacity to produce
wood carvings expanded greatly, particularly with respect to the larger carvings
as totem poles, potlach bowls and house posts.
One of the earliest trade items was the copper sheathing used on the ships to protect the wooden hulls from fouling and teredos. Extra sheathing was carried for repairs, and this sheet copper proved a popular trade item. Prior to this the Indians had used native copper, when they could find it, but the sheet copper enabled them to make bracelets in greater numbers, and the large shield-like plaques called “Coppers” that were symbols of wealth. Silver and gold coins were worked into jewelry, both silver and gold, taking over the market from copper over time.
Suppression of the Native American culture in the early to mid 1900's severely
diminished the need for art within the community, but in recent years with a
more favorable environment and a renewed self-respect among the people, Indian
art has had a resurgence, and has recaptured much of its old vitality, both
within the culture and for sale to a sophisticated art market.
In the early 1900's Mayer Brothers, a jewelry manufacturer in Seattle, set
up to produce silver bracelets to sell to the Indians up the coast, using designs
from Tlingit carvers. These trade bracelets became favored items to be given
away at potlaches. Production has continued to this day under a succession of
manufacturing companies, using both modern designs and the designs from the
early 1900's, with rings, earrings and pendants as well as the traditional bracelets
added to the line. The primary market continues to be in Alaska, and the jewelry
is sold to both Indians and tourists. The Indians buy mainly the traditional
designs, with the most popular bracelet still being the Lovebirds.
One of the earliest trade items between Europeans and the Pacific
Northwest Indians was the copper sheathing used on the ships to protect the wooden hulls
from fouling and teredos. Extra sheathing was carried for repairs, and this
sheet copper proved a popular trade item. Prior to this the Indians had used
native copper, when they could find it, but the sheet copper enabled them to
make bracelets in greater numbers, and the large shield-like plaques called "Coppers" that
were symbols of wealth. As part of our interest in the tradition and history
of the Northwest Coast Indian art, we are pleased to offer a selection of copper jewelry.
Copper NW Indian Jewelry
Sterling Silver Jewelry
Our sterling silver Northwest Indian jewelry is either lost wax castings or
stamped pieces made in the USA. The sterling silver pendants come with with
sterling silver chains. Most of our
sterling silver jewelry is available for
immediate delivery, and is shipped to you gift boxed with a card explaining
the background of the piece.
For more information ...
Please follow the links below to learn more about the Indian jewelry we offer
and other related items and information.
Northwest Coast Indian Art & Lore
Coast Indian Tribes and Their Art
Reproductions of Argillite Carvings & Collectibles
among the Northwest Coastal Indians
Shell Box, Detailed Views