A common thread in the vintage community is that we’re drawn to the garments because they tell a story: the silhouette, fabric, print, and embellishments are indicative of how people lived before us. Vintage clothing tells us about the ebb and flow of culture and politics, and how people desired to express themselves.
In the same vein, much of the vintage community is drawn to Native American jewelry. The pieces are hand-crafted by Native American artists for the purpose of adornment, ceremony, display, and trade. Historically, different Native American tribes used adornment as a mode of communication; while each tribe has an individual aesthetic, they have begun to borrow motifs from one another throughout the years.
The jewelry is crafted from natural materials such as gemstones, metal, bones, teeth, hide, and so on. Zuni fetish necklaces are hand-carved with the belief that the talismans have special power. For instance, an eagle fetish represents both integrity and divinity; a turtle is the oldest symbol of Mother Earth and inspires longevity; buffalo encourage bountiful game.
The Navajo squash blossom necklace is perhaps the most sought-after piece of Native American jewelry. The most common structure features a crescent-shaped pendant made of turquoise, but the general structure of the squash blossom necklace has evolved into grander and more adorned versions. Our example of a Navajo squash blossom necklace features large, natural turquoise pendants set in cast sterling silver and has bear claw accents.
All of this, though, is just scratching the surface. There’s a wealth of information out there about the history of Native American jewelry--a topic certainly worth spending some time reading about!
Here you will find a list of Zuni fetish talismans and their symbolic meaning: http://www.zunifetishesdirect.com/about.htm