Native American Beadwork
Jewelry with a long tradition
Today jewelry techniques and motifs with a tribal background or a long tradition are very popular and many people like ancient styles and symbols. Beadwork made by Native Americans is one of these old jewelry techniques that has been rediscovered in the last years...
Originally, Native American beads were carved from natural materials like shells, coral, turquoise and other stones, copper and silver, wood, amber, ivory, and animal bones, horns, and teeth. Glass beads were not used until the colonists brought them from Europe 500 years ago, but like horses, they quickly became part of American Indian culture. Today glass beads, particularly fine seed beads, are the primary materials for traditional beaders of many tribes.
There are as many different Native American beading traditions, designs, styles and stitches as there are tribes and nations. Plains Indian beadwork is best known, with its intricate peyote stitch beading and bone hairpipe chokers, but there are many kinds of beadwork traditions throughout North America, from the wampum belts of the eastern Indians to the dentalium strands of the west coast Indians, from the floral beadwork of the northern Indians to the shell and turquoise heishi beads of the southwest Indians, and everything in between. Beads were a common trade item since ancient times, so it wasn't surprising to see abalone shells from the west coast in Cherokee beadwork or quahog wampum from the east coast in Chippewa beadwork, even before the Europeans arrived and forced disparate tribes into closer contact with each other.
As a great generalization, native beadwork can be grouped into beaded leather (usually clothing, moccasins, or containers) and beaded strands (usually used for jewelry, but sometimes also as ornamental covering to wrap around a gourd or other ceremonial or art object) For beaded leather arts, Indian craftspeople sew the beads onto a leather backing (or cloth, today). Each bead may be sewn on individually, or they may be attached in loops or rows of beads (as in the classic Plains Indian "lazy stitch" style.) To make beaded strands, a craftsperson stitches the beads together into strings or a mesh using sinew, thread or wire. Normally this is done by hand, but some tribes used bow looms to make belts or rectangular strips of beadwork. Beading strands and beading onto leather are both very complicated, time-consuming and delicate tasks which require many years of practice to do well.
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How to make your own
Wire jewelry is easy and fun to create. With basic tools, assorted beads, and wire you can make everything from earrings and pins, to necklaces. Designs can be as simple or complex as you would like.
Jewelry signifies items of personal adornment, such as necklaces, rings, brooches, earrings and bracelets. Jewelry may be made from any material, such as gemstones, precious metals or shells, besides other materials, depending on cultural differences and availability of materials. Jewelry may be appreciated because of geometric or other patterns, or meaningful symbols. (Items such as belts and handbags etc. are considered to be accessories rather than jewelry.)
The word jewelry is derived from the word jewel, which was Anglicised from the Old French "jouel" circa the 13th century. Further tracing leads back to the Latin word "jocale", meaning plaything. Jewelry is one of the oldest forms of body adornment; recently found 100,000 year-old beads made from Nassarius shells, are thought to be the oldest known jewelry.
Contemporary Jewelry Design
Young ideas for modern people
In the course of the centuries the symbolism and value of jewelry has changed dramatically and nowadays many modern contemporary designs are not so much interesting because of the precious material they use but because of the new ideas they convey...
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