Zuni Indian Jewelry Development
Jewelers at the pueblo of Zuni in western New Mexico have been renowned for their stonework
for over a thousand years. Early pieces included laid animal pendants and wooden combs inlaid with
tiny pieces of turquoise and jet.
Above: Zuni Indian Woman Making a Basket Below Right: Zuni Indian Woman Weaving a Blanket.
Mosaic inlay features a wide array of stones and shells
which are obtained from around the world. The jewelry
artisan designs the overall piece then cuts individual
stones to fit tightly into the form to make a mosaic.
Zuni Mosaic Overlay Jewelry
There is another type of mosaic work called overlay
inlay which has two pieces of silver, one for a backing
and the other with a pattern cut from the silver and
soldered on top. Cut stones are then placed in the Zuni Indian Mosaic Jewelry Style
patten to form a mosaic design. A Hopi craftsman
would have left this silver backing empty.
Zuni channel inlay work is very popular and is made by creating silver compartments within the
backing. Cut stones, usually turquoise, are cut and fitted into the compartments creating geometric
or figurative designs with a thin piece of silver separating the stones.
Another type of Zuni work you are likely to see is carved stone jewelry, usually a necklace, which is
a combination of small animals carved from stone or shell interspersed with some type of
hand-made bead(s), commonly turquoise but with other stone accents.
Zuni Indians to learn to work Silver from the Navajo about 1872, and soon became expert at
making silver jewelry. But it was their stonework that made them stand out among the Southwest
Jewelry Makers. They are thought to be the first to insert turquoise stone into silver settings.
Below: Zuni Indian Silversmith Horace Iule, 1930.