The Art and History of Cherokee Jewelry
The History of Cherokee Jewelry
Long before the Europeans arrived in Cherokee country, copper was important for trade. Cherokee villages were located near copper mines, and Cherokee people learned to work copper using a cold-hammer method. Copper was used to make more than just Cherokee jewelry; it was also used to create arrow points, tools, and cooking utensils. As Europeans began to spread across the new world they brought with them silver, iron, and steel, which they traded with Cherokee natives for copper. Native jewelry artists began to learn silver smithing and started to use beads from Europe to create jewelry, clothes, shoes, and accessories like handbags and satchels.
Common Materials Used in Traditional Cherokee Jewelry
Copper wasn’t the only material traditional jewelry the Cherokee Indians used. Jewelry was also made from gold, and eventually silver. Natural materials such as shells, nuts, and carved beads were also common. As Europeans began trading they brought brightly-colored seed beads, glass beads, fabrics, needles, and silk thread, all of which were used by the Cherokee to create gorgeous patterns. Cherokee beadwork became a favorite of many groups of people including other native tribes, Europeans, and Americans as time moved forward. Many of the beadwork designs were inspired by pottery, basketry, and other craft patterns. Unfortunately, Cherokee jewelry and beadwork stopped after many of the tribal members were removed from the Southeast and relocated to the Southwest on the Trail of Tears.
Cherokee Symbolism Found in Jewelry
Over thousands of years powerful symbols revered by Cherokee people have endured. Many of these symbols are reflected in the work of Cherokee jewelry makers. Cherokee legends include stories of spiders, ravens, water beetles, cougars, and wolves. In addition to animals, Cherokee rings, earrings, necklaces and other pieces also reflect other important cultural items including feathers, knives, bows, arrows, and corn. These items have all held meaning for the tribal members in the past and still do today.
Cherokee Jewelers in the Modern Age
Cherokee jewelry artists continue to have a strong presence and influence in Cherokee culture today. If you’re visiting Cherokee, NC, consider visiting Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc the nations oldest Native American Arts Cooperative. Many of the native jewelry makers create necklaces, bracelets, earrings, belt buckles, rings, and more. Handcrafted, custom-designed Cherokee jewelry is made in every shape, size, style, and material. If you are searching for a high quality, unique, unforgettable gift, consider native jewelry for your special someone.