Caring for Your Indian Jewelry
Sterling Silver is the primary metal used in Indian Jewelry. When used in sufficient volume it can be durable as well as beautiful. It will however, bend and when bent a sufficient number of times it may crystallize and break. The silver has no artificial coating to inhibit tarnishing. An occasional rub with a jeweler's cloth will maintain the vivid luster of the silver. Salt deposits (from perspiration) can be removed with fine steel wool.
Turquoise is the stone most often used in Indian Jewelry. It has some deficiencies, which make it precarious for this use. Turquoise is almost as hard as the metal in a good pocketknife, however it is much more brittle. It can be broken. Avoid striking or crushing your jewelry. If your jewelry is about to be twisted into a tight situation (rings in particular), it would be best to remove the jewelry. Shells, jet, coral and other stones, which are often combined in Indian Jewelry, are no denser than Turquoise and also subject to breakage. Dealers simply will NOT warranty stones from breakage. Be Cautious and you will experience few problems.
Turquoise is also a relatively Soft stone. It is not quite as solid as it appears and much of it had some degree of porosity. In time skin oils, perspiration, dirt, soaps and chemicals can soak into these small pores and alter its color to a greenish hue. Some Indian Tribes in the Southwest consider this change a sign of maturity and wisdom, but you might not have the same religious inclinations toward Turquoise. If you prefer the original color avoid the aforementioned situations.
Rings will require particular care on your part. Even when constructed with heavy amounts of silver, the Turquoise and other stones are still subject to breakage and loosening. Everyone works with his or her hands. Normal activity will often put rings into precarious situations. Exercise care and your jewelry will give you years of pleasure and service.
Band rings are particularly vulnerable. Because the stones and shells, which comprise the ring setting, encompass the entire finger, several are always in the palm area of the hand. This area is often subjected to stresses and strains, which seem simple to our hands but are fatal to stone settings. If you are going to do any lifting, squeezing or similar hand manipulations, it is advisable to Remove the ring from your finger. Should a stone loosen, you will have little trouble having it reset. If you should lose the stone, your dealer will invariably make a charge for stone replacement.
Stones are mounted into Indian Jewelry in a variety of fashions. Two of the most popular of which you should be aware are:
Bezels - A bezel is a silver ring which is hand fashioned around the stone and soldered to the baseplate. A soft base (sawdust, paper, etc.) is usually placed under the stone to provide a cushion in case you should inadvertently strike the stone. It is wise occasionally to check the Bezel on all your Indian Jewelry. If they are loose, tighten them down or a lost stone is sure to result.
Channel or Inlay - Silver channels are often created and the stones cut Mosaic-like and then set into the channels. Generally speaking, the better the stones fit the predetermined pattern, the better and more valuable the item. However, you should be aware that these stones and shells are set with an adhesive and are therefore subject to loosening under stress and strain. Also immersing inlayed stones and shells onto any liquid will invariable weaken or dissolve the adhesive and allow the sets to be easily dislodged. Please DO NOT immerse inlaid jewelry.
Avoiding problems with Bracelets can be a pleasant habit to form. There are some important pointers when mounting Indian handmade bracelets.
1. You should learn to Put Your Wrist Into The Bracelet as opposed to putting the bracelet on. There is a soft spot right above your wrist.
2. The stones in bracelets are set via the shape of the bracelet. Do Not under any circumstances bend or reshape your bracelet without proper guidance.
3. It is wise to occasionally check stones in your bracelet. Should they appear to be loose, tighten the Bezel sets or bring it to a jeweler for repair.
4. Under no circumstances should you bend the bracelet once it is on your wrist. This will cause dislodging of stones and often breakage of the silver.
5. It would be wise to give due consideration before allowing others to wear your fitted bracelets. They can often be misshaped enough to be uncomfortable for you to wear or losses stones.
Major Southwestern Indian Jewelry
Navajo - The major characteristic of Navajo Jewelry today is the emphasis on metal work. The Navajo Jewelry is designed to fit the stones. Stampwork, leaves and feathers fashioned of silver are used to accent Turquoise and other stones and shells.
Zuni - Zuni silversmiths are known for their lapidary skills. Both Channel Inlay (using precisely cut stones on silver to form figures and designs) and cluster and needlepoint & pettipoint (setting small, similarly cut stones in geometric patterns) are traditional Zuni styles.
Hopi - Hopi Jewelry is most often made without stones. They use a technique known as overlay. A design is cut out of one sheet of silver and then soldered to another sheet of silver and then soldered to another sheet as backing. The depressions create designs, which are darkened. The silver is then bent into the form of the piece of jewelry desired. The outer layer of the piece is then polished, leaving the design dark. Animals play a large part in the Hopi religion and animal-like designs and ancient pottery designs are typical themes in Hopi jewelry.
Santo Domingo - Santo Domingo Jewelry is characterized by the making of round beads from Turquoise, shell and other materials, which are strung together into strands for necklaces and earrings. The most common beads are called heishi (he-she). These are disks or tubes with a hole in the center. They are strung together to form a flexible strand and are often of graduated size. It is not uncommon to find pieces of coral or Turquoise nuggets strung with heishi, or simply strands of polished turquoise nuggets.