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.
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 (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.
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.