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Native American Necklaces: Symbolism

Native American jewelry, including Native American necklaces, is very popular among both American Indians and non-natives alike. Generally featuring silver or copper, and often with turquoise, coral, shell, bone, or beading, traditional pieces are not only fashionable but also very meaningful. Traditional designs reflect the important symbols, motifs, and beliefs of the tribe by which they are crafted.

For many tribal peoples, including the Navajo, jewelry’s meaning can be spiritual, monetary, or aesthetic, or a combination of the three. It traditionally represented its wearer’s status. Designs have a special meaning too.

Some common Native American symbols used in jewelry and their meanings include:

  • Arrow: bow and arrow; protection and defense. A broken arrow represents peace between tribes.
  • Bear: a sacred sign of courage and physical power
  • Buffalo: humility and the sustaining of life
  • Butterfly: transformation, peace, a messenger from the Spirit world
  • Cactus: endurance and protection
  • Circle (sometimes with a cross): air, water, fire, earth; alternatively seasonal changes, death and rebirth, and mankind’s first four tribes
  • Coyote: ancestors, craftiness, intelligence
  • Crow: intelligence, fearlessness, creation
  • Dragonfly: resurrection, encouragement
  • Eagle: conquest, power, victory
  • Falcon: decisiveness, knowledge, vision
  • Feathers: trust, wisdom, strength, honor, freedom
  • Fire: renewal, cleansing, purification
  • Fox: cunning, responsiveness, cleverness
  • Horse: freedom, nobility, strength
  • Moon: protection, harvest, serenity
  • Rain: fertility, renewal, change
  • Raven: healing, medicine, self-transformation. Messages from the Spirit world.
  • Snake: healing, rebirth, good luck
  • Thunderbird: the iconic symbol representing power and warning
  • Turtle: Earth, health, longevity
  • Wolf: communication, loyalty, fierceness, compassion

Jewelry is meant to be worn and loved. Some believe that turquoise holds the life force of its previous wearer. This powerful stone is renowned in Navajo Jewelry, and if you are acquiring a piece that has been pre-loved, which is very meaningful, you may wish to “cleanse” your stone with white sage smudging or other crystal cleansing practices prior to donning it.

Owning and wearing authentic Native American necklaces and other traditional jewelry pieces gives the wearer access to unique cultural and spiritual designs. Native artisans work hard to create authentic pieces that reflect the beliefs and cultures of their people, and estate jewelry is that little bit even more special, having a one-of-a-kind history attached to each piece.

Find your perfect piece of Native American jewelry at Indian Traders today.