The Complete Guide to Southwestern Jewellery.

When you consider the Southwest, what comes to mind? perhaps cactus and desert. or a dry environment and high temperatures. The region is notable for more than just its warm climate and sand-covered surroundings, though. The unusual jewellery designs of the Southwest are also well known.

A Synopsis OfSouthwesternJewelry’s History

The history of southwestern jewellery as we know it now goes back thousands of years. Having said that, a lot of the jewellery and design elements that have been associated with the Southwest in recent centuries.

Long before ships from Spain and Mexico landed on their coastlines in the 1800s, Native Americans were extracting turquoise from nearby sources and forming the vivid stones into beads and pendants. The Navajo, Pueblo, and other local tribes started fusing the silversmithing styles of those newcomers with methods and supplies that had been handed down through the decades. As a result, a unique style emerged.

Materials Used In Jewellery Designed In The Southwest

Southwestern jewellery quickly springs to mind when you see leather that has been braided, metal that has been stamped, and large turquoise stones. These components represent the Southwest’s history and culture, and they still serve as an inspiration for contemporary jewellery makers. The materials worth highlighting are:


You probably know turquoise when you see it, even if you don’t have much experience with jewellery gems and stones. After all, it even has its own colour! You might not be aware, though, that the stone’s hues span from white to vivid blue, navy to lime green, and everything in between.

Additionally, it has the ability to alter colour. The porous stone turquoise contains copper and aluminium elements. Water and oil can seep into turquoise and oxidise the metal content if they come into touch with it. For instance, a piece of turquoise that is pale blue yet contains copper would eventually turn dark green. Because of this, most contemporary turquoise is treated to avoid unintended colour shift.


Since Europeans brought the material to the United States, deep red or orange coral has been used into south western jewellery designs. Because of coral’s exceptional beauty, craftsmen frequently paired it with turquoise to create brilliant, colourful patterns. Coral is not a stone; it is calcium. The Mediterranean Sea was where the vivid red variant was most commonly found in the 1800s. Red coral now primarily originates from Australia or Japan.

Oyster Shell with Spine

The scary, spiky shells of spiny oysters, which may be found off the shores of California and Mexico, are used to create this material. The shells are available in a variety of hues, such as red, brown, orange, yellow, and purple.

Orange spiny oysters are easier for divers to gather since they often inhabit shallower waters. Purple spiny oysters are a sought-after shell variety that are widely utilised in southwestern-inspired jewellery creations, although they are a little more difficult to find.

Leather Leather is yet another component that sets southwestern jewellery designs apart. Bracelets, belts, neckpieces, and other items are made, in particular, using complex braiding techniques. Leather cord can also be adorned with coral and turquoise stones by artisans.

Airbus Acoma

Acoma The term jet, or just jet, alludes to the material’s colour, which is jet black. It’s actually fossilised wood rather than a stone, mineral, or bone. For many years, southwest jewellery has been made using jet. It provides a dramatic contrast to patterns made of vibrant coral and turquoise, and it may be carved, inlaid, or set exactly like a gemstone.

Silver plated

The Southwest-inspired jewellery designs rely heavily on sterling silver. Even though gold is priceless and produces stunning jewellery, southwestern fashions stay with silver. Silver serves as the foundation, the primary metal, and the beginning point for all southwest designs, whether it is cast, hammered, or stamped.

Making Methods ForSouthwestern-Style Jewellery

The meticulous craftsmanship that gives South western jewellery both its distinctive design and high quality is highly regarded. These complicated processes call for a keen eye for detail and provide a particular quality in the jewellery of the Southwest. Among the essential methods of the fashion are:


The act of casting metal involves an artist pouring molten metal into a mould that has already been created. Although there have been various methods employed throughout history, casting is now rapid and simple thanks to contemporary gear. One of two casting techniques is commonly used to create traditional south western jewellery:

The earliest known casting technique is sand casting. Sandstone is cut with a pattern, and then molten metal is poured into the carved mould. Sand casting may be quite labor-intensive; carving sandstone can take a very long time, depending on the complexity of the design and the size of the item.

Sand casting is comparable to tufa casting, except craftsmen create the moulds from tufa rather than from sand. Volcanic ash is compacted to create tuff. Because it is softer than sandstone, the artist can meticulously carve incredibly delicate motifs. Additionally, because tufa is a more porous substance, each cast piece has a different texture.


A piece of jewellery is frequently subjected to further metalworking after it has been cast before it is deemed complete. Stamping is another element of southwestern design that is used at this point.

Although some jewellery employs ready-made stamps, artisans frequently create their own by hand. Each one has a special point that leaves a different mark, and they are used to create patterns and designs. Depending on how the artist chooses to employ the technique, stamping may offer background texture for dimension or it can take centre stage as the most interesting aspect of the painting.

Seating Work

Many silversmiths in the Southwest are also quite competent in bench work, which encompasses any of the intricate metalworking procedures that craftspeople usually execute at a jeweler’s bench.

  • Saw work: Southwestern patterns frequently feature intricate hand sawing. Saws can be used to place stones and cuts for inlays.
  • Filing: To give texture and dimension to jewellery made in the southwest style, artisans carefully remove metal using hand files. Jewellery may seem aged and worn after filing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.