The 1970s Native American Jewelry Boom

Did you ever wonder why there are so many Native American jewelry items from the late 1960s and early 1970s?

Those were the times of peace and love, alternative dress, hippies, movie stars going wild and a big publicity boost for Native American jewelry from Arizona Highways magazine and other publications.

Although many celebrities began wearing Native American jewelry in the late 60s and early 70s, perhaps two of the most influential were Jim Morrison of the Doors and Cher.


Jim Morrison of The Doors

During the late 1960s when the Doors were at the height of their fame, Jim Morrison bought a concho belt from Wayne and Irma Bailey when they were traveling in California.  Joe H. Quintana (1915-1991), a Cochiti Pueblo master silversmith was the maker of this famous belt.  Quintana likely made the belt in 1966 or 1967 when he worked for Irma Bailey’s Indian Art & Pawn on the Old Town Plaza in Albuquerque.


Cher wearing a squash blossom necklace and other turquoise jewelry

sonny cher turquoise

The Sonny and Cher Show

cher turquoise

Cher (Cherilyn Sarkisian of Armenian, Irish, German, English and Cherokee descent) has used Native American jewelry and accents throughout her career from 1965 and has had a dramatic influence on fashion. Her album Half Breed was release in 1973.

cher half breed album

As a result of such publicity, everyone wanted some of the action !!

One of the most popular items made in the 1970s were squash blossom necklaces. There was a huge demand for them. It is also one of the most common vintage items offered to us today. The retail price of a squash blossom necklace during the early 1970s boom was the same or higher than the same item today. And often they were full size, heavy and ornate, something that doesn’t sell well today because a good number of people would rather wear than collect Native American jewelry.

During the boom some beautiful items were made. However, to cash in on the demand, some shops and silversmiths cranked out the items, sometimes with inferior workmanship and maybe the work wasn’t even done by Native American artists.

One thing that wasn’t skimped on was the sterling silver. Silver was only  $1.29 per ounce when Jim Morrison’s belt was made in 1966. Today silver is trading at $27.27 per ounce.  Read more about silver prices here. How Silver Price Affects the Value of Native American Jewelry

Back in the late 1960s there was ample US mined turquoise around to fill needs but as demand rose, Persian turquoise began to be imported from Iran.  In the 1970s a one carat U.S. turquoise stone would be considered expensive at $1. Today some of the more sought-after U.S. turquoise can cost up to $100 per carat.


Because of the great demand, the 1970s experienced the first BIG influx of imported copies and reproductions which gave some people the idea that Native American jewelry was chintzy and poorly made.

The boom crashed about the mid seventies when the fashion cycle started changing and the silver price started rising, hitting an artificially inflated high near $50 per ounce in the late seventies.

16 thoughts on “The 1970s Native American Jewelry Boom

  1. Paula, I’m wondering how to quickly get to “new” items that you have for sale. I knew the procedure before, but now with the new format, I’m at a loss.

  2. Hi there are some of us though we may be grandma to great grandma that still love an d value our Squash Blossom necklace. I have little Native American heritage but will always love the people and jewelry. My family down to grandchildren love it as we’ll. I will have the joy of handing down my love.

  3. If everyone will click on the big photo of all the jewelry at the top of this page, all Paula’s cute little thingys will once again pop up on the right side of the page. 🙂

      • I’m serious, Paula. I wondered where the jewelry links went and just clicked on the big picture. All your links come up down the right side like they used to. It also shows “all” the blogs you have posted so far.

      • I saw all those lists and links. I thought you meant all those little pictures appeared like the “New Items” one I used to have on the old blog – there were about 5 of those there, one of a medicine bag, one of books,…….all those disappeared. I just recreated the New items one……… I guess I’ll have to redo all the others that slipped through the cracks when I clicked the button to change format ! EEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKK!

      • EEEKKKK, is right. I didn’t see all the old pictures, but I did see the “New Items” along with the other links. I have no idea why my computer showed them and yours didn’t…..EEEEKKKK again. But you are doing great and the new Blog looks wonderful!

      • Snow??? Yes, PP, please be careful!! It was 75 here today, but wait 5 minutes and it will be snowing and zero again!

  4. Pingback: What is this green necklace worth? | Native American Jewelry Tips

  5. Pingback: Native American Buttons and Button Covers | Native American Jewelry Tips

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