Symbols in Native American Jewelry

Native American jewelry is full of symbols and choosing well can make a gift special and incredibly meaningful. From Navajo expert silversmithing to Zuni intricate stone inlay, fetishes and petit point to Hopi stark sterling overlay to Apache or Cherokee bead work and more each piece is crafted with beauty and meaning. Squash blossoms are the symbol of courtship and love—a great Valentine or Wedding gift and the gift my husband gave me for our Anniversary. A lizard is symbolic of lovers coming together—a very romantic gift indeed. An arrowhead is the symbol for adventure, what an exciting thought when given as a gift to your significant other.

Feathers represent healing and the eagle is the carrier of prayers to heaven, items with these would be especially appropriate as a get well wish. A spiral shows the flight of the eagle—getting higher and stronger—a caring, thoughtful way to encourage someone going through a tough time.

Many Navajo pieces feature leaves with tendrils, the symbol of life and growth and small rounds of sterling for rain drops meaning prosperity. Using Coral and Turquoise together represent earth and sky—everything our world encompasses. So a colorful coral and turquoise ring with leaf and rain drop accent is a wish for a prosperous life and good fortune in everything you do—a great graduation or birthday gift.

A bear paw expresses inner strength and calling forth the power of the bear—so a belt buckle or bolo tie with this symbol fits someone starting a new job or other endeavor where courage will be required. A pinwheel represents the four stages of life—infancy, youth, middle age and elderly. A buffalo stands for protection and a zig zag pattern is the design for mountains and references abundance. A turtle represents being grounded and rooted at home—a great going away gift for someone who will be gone for a while. An owl, while sometimes a bad omen, also means insight and seeing what others don’t and in some cultures stands for departed loved ones—so a great memento piece.

A Kokopelli, the flute player, is a wish for fertility—you might want to consider this when using as a gift! A dream catcher is supposed to capture the bad dreams so that only the good ones get through. A repetitive border of steps or waves speaks of perpetual renewal and a cross is the symbol of crossing paths—a nice thought for a new friend or renewed relationship. The sun and sun rays are closely tied to The Creator and can represent a desire to be closer to God.

The man in the maze, a popular Hopi motif, represents an entire life and the choices we make. This is the gift I chose for my husband on our 30th Wedding Anniversary. A snake is considered a helper and represents wisdom while butterflies are said to carry wishes and promises.

The color of the piece is also significant and can remind the wearer of your feelings for them. Wearing the jewelry yourself can act as a “string around your finger” reminding you of who you want to be. An amethyst represents peace—perfect for someone with a hectic life! Malachite means loyalty; Jasper represents being an optimist; Lapis shows self assurance and Tiger Eye will remind you to be balanced in what you do.

There are many other symbols and meanings hidden in Native American designs. While I usually choose my pieces for their eye appeal and extraordinary workmanship, it is sometimes nice to investigate the special elements in a piece to bring a gift to a whole new level. Wearing these amazing works of art can help you to remember qualities you want to exhibit in your life.

Cindy Brown of Cinsababe’s on Ruby Lane and Quindy’s on Ruby Plaza